The Thursday Night game this week sees the suddenly concerning New England Patriots get on the road to Tampa Bay. Could they really drop under .500 through five games? Neil Monnery previews the match-up...
"One thing that isn't an issue is Tom Brady. He might be 40 but with ten TDs and no interceptions so far this season, the problem with team is not about their future Hall of Fame Quarterback."
New England Patriots @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Start-time: Friday 6 October, 01:25 BST
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action & Main Event
For the Patriots...
What is going on in New England?
Before the season, some pundits were giving serious air time to the possibility that the Pats were going to go 19-0. Four weeks in and they are 2-2 with both those loses coming at home.
One thing that isn't an issue is Tom Brady. He might be 40 but with ten TDs and no interceptions so far this season, the future Hall of Fame Quarterback is not the reason they've dropped two games.
The stats and the eye test show they have a couple of significant weaknesses, first of all their offensive line. They aren't creating holes for any type of efficient rushing attack. They've yet to have a 100 yard rusher and only twice have they gone for three figures on the ground. Brady is great but they need to at least have some sort of threat to run the ball.
Defensively though, it has been nothing short of a mess. When you are giving up an average of 32 points a game then you are going to struggle. Matt Patricia has put together some great D's in his time in Foxboro' but I'm not sure this group of players have the skill levels required.
For the Buccs...
Tampa Bay have only played three times due to Hurricane Irma but have picked up two victories at home to a couple of pretty lousy teams. The only time they've faced someone half decent (Minnesota in Week Three) they lost 17-34.
What they do have though is a Quarterback who is coming into his prime. Jameis Winston has a 9:3 TD/Int ratio with all of those picks coming on the road in the Twin Cities. Last time out he went for 332 in the air and a trio of scores. I like this kid a lot.
This year he also has a plethora of targets. With Adam Humphries and Mike Evans already in situ, they added DeSean Jackson in the off season. At TE they have OJ Howard, a rookie out of Alabama who has the potential to be a superstar in this league. Expect plenty of passing yards for Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
Rushing wise I do have some concerns, Jacquizz Rodgers is a serviceable back but he won't gash the opposition. However Doug Martin returns from suspension tonight and he could very well be the difference maker.
In the past three years of previewing NFL games here, I have only done one New England game where I didn't pick them and that was in the AFC Championship Game at Denver. Recently, you haven't gotten get rich by picking against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
That being said though, I don't think we've seen a more porous defense in the Bill Belichick era. The Buccs are huge underdogs and they shouldn't be.
Tampa Bay to win a high scoring and entertaining encounter straight up at [3.2] on the Exchange is how I'm playing it.
Points wise, this is the highest line set in a game I've previewed this season at 55. I'm still going over at [1.92]
Side market wise I'll dabble in the first TD scorer market where I think Doug Martin is overpriced at 14/1. If it was assured he would be the featured RB, I'd expect him to be around 8/1. All the talk coming out of Tampa Bay is that he'll see significant time tonight.