The Patriots are 6.5-point favorites as they travel to Tampa Bay in the third week of the preseason.
The Patriots are expected to use this matchup as their dress rehearsal for the regular season, and the Bucs should have a tough time slowing down New England’s offensive machine. The Bucs took a gigantic leap forward in 2010, but they took an equally bad fall back in 2011. Factoring in the adjustments they need to make to a new coaching regime, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to envision the Pats going up by 2+ scores in the first half with the starters seeing significant playing time. In terms of offensive production, this matchup should be an abundant feast for Brady, with all of the finest meats, cheeses and breakfast cereals in all the land.
While the matchup looks terrific on paper, a few factors make me pause in green-lighting the Pats here. For what it’s worth, I think the Bucs could be a sleeper team this year, and they will be motivated to put together a strong effort against the defending AFC Champs. Tampa Bay isn’t a juggernaut by any means, but they are not nearly as bad as their record last season would suggest. Also, the 6.5-point spread is enormous for a preseason game that will be settled by the backups in the second half. The Bucs have great depth at QB and could easily outscore the Pats in the second half. It’s not unusual to see teams that face off in joint practices play much closer than anticipated in the actual game, so they have that factor in their corner as well.
I haven’t back the Patriots in a single preseason game this season, and I’m getting anxious to punch that ticket. Of course, there will be plenty of time for that in the regular season when they face off against the Tebow-led Jets twice. I’m going to patient this week and take the Bucs and the points.