Do not bet against the Patriots after a home loss — even with their lousy defense

The New England Patriots have accrued many an impressive statistic over the course of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady being part of the organization. None is more impressive than five: the number of Super Bowls won by the duo since Brady took over as starting quarterback in 2001. 

But titles are meaningless on Thursday Night Football, when the 2-2 Patriots limp down to Tampa for a matchup against the Buccaneers in what serves as a fairly pivotal spot for New England on the schedule. The Patriots defense has been downright horrid, giving up more than 456.8 yards per game, over 60 yards more than the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL

Describing the Pats defense sounds like a Dr. Seuss book. They will give up yards at home. They will give up yards on the road. They will give up yards to Andy Reid. They will give up yards to a rookie QB. They will give up yards here, they will give up yards there. They will give up yards anywhere. 

The Patriots actually rank “only” 31st in points, but they are only ahead of the Colts, so, um, yay. 

There is some good news here, however, should you be a) hoping the Patriots will win on Thursday night or b) hoping the Patriots will win by a certain amount on Thursday night.

For starters, it occurred to me that the Pats are generally — at least from an anecdotal standpoint — good after a loss. The Pats are 38-11 after a loss, winning nearly 78 percent of their games

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But I was even more curious about how the Patriots fare after a home loss, which they suffered to the Panthers in Week 4. And, even more specifically, how the Patriots play on the road after a home loss and how they tend to do against the spread. You can say that trends like that don’t matter, but for all the many variables that come into play with a football game or football games, there are two constants here: Brady and Belichick. It’s hard to get a sample size in football, but we have more than 15 years of data to look at. 

So I dove into the game logs for the Pats and the numbers are pretty astounding. Since the 2001 season, following a home loss, the Patriots are 20-2 the following game. This includes two playoff games, one in which there was a bye involved (when they beat the Ravens in the infamous formation game) and one in which they beat the Jaguars the week immediately following Week 17. Take those out if you want because Week 17 can produce weird results. 18-2 is still very good. 

Now let’s look at just road games following a loss at home. Since Brady took over in 2001, the Patriots are an astounding 15-0 in games on the road following a home loss. They’ve never lost! They are 13-2 against the spread on the road following a home loss, which might be even more impressive. 

And one of the times they didn’t cover was in 2008, when Matt Cassel was the quarterback, after Brady blew out his ACL in the Week 1 game against the Chiefs. With Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots are 12-0 straight up on the road after a home loss and a stunning 11-1 against the spread on the road following a home loss.

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Worth noting here as well, just for posterity’s sake, is that the Patriots have six seasons without a home loss. That’s just … incredible. 

But wait, there’s more! ESPN’s Bill Barnwell appeared on Scott Van Pelt’s SportsCenter on Wednesday night and provided some helpful information about the Patriots that applies to the Bucs game.

“Look at them in short weeks, when they don’t have as much time to rest and the other team doesn’t have as much time to rest. So Thursday games and those Saturday games,” Barnwell pointed out. “Since Brady and Belichick have gotten there, they’re 13-0. Not just 13-0 like winning close games. They’re 13-0 and outscoring the opposition by 16 points per contest.”

The Patriots are 5-point favorites against the Buccaneers, which is tough to stomach considering how bad the defense is. But consider that even just in the last two years, according to the NFL Handicapping Database, the Patriots are 8-0 as road favorites and 7-1 against the spread. The only time they didn’t cover was a late November 22-17 win over the Jets in 2016.

In that same stretch, the Patriots are 6-1 against the spread as a favorite of 5.5 points or more. Taking New England, with its no-good defense as a pretty heavy road chalk favorite, feels like the wrong play. The public is all over the Patriots in this spot, with 68 percent of the bets coming in on the Pats according to Sports Insights

But history says there is good reason to like the Patriots in this spot. It can’t be a perfect storm with that defense going up against Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. But it can be a good spot to take the Patriots. 

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Which is, by the by, exactly what I’m doing. The Pats are one of my best bets this week for the Super Contest and I’m putting it down on record here in the event that my best bets (which usually come out on Friday) aren’t up on the old internet by the time the game kicks off on Thursday night.