NFL Football Preseason - New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2, 34) 7:30 PM ET
Oddsmakers apparently set the opening line based upon regular season figures, installing the Patriots as a 2-point road favorite. Since then, the line has swung a full five points.
The unusual nature of the line movement has many handicappers dumbfounded. According to the Betting Trend figures at sportsbook.com, nearly 75% of the action for this game is backing the Patriots.
On top of that, New England comes in as one of the best performing preseason teams in the NFL during the Bill Belichick era. In fact, in their first exhibition game of the season, the decade's dominant Super Bowl team is on a run of 7-0-1 ATS.
Despite all of this, the pointspread has moved rapidly to Tampa Bay. At this point, anyone who plays trends or line movements has to be thoroughly confused.
A disciple of preseason guru Bill Parcells, Belichick has also been known to try and establish a pattern of winning from day one in training camp.
While many coaches hope their team both looks sharp and avoids injury, Belichick adds the simple fundamental of winning to the recipe.
Who can argue with the results either? In search of their fourth title since the turn of the century, this franchise is obviously doing something right.
New England is bolstered by expectations of title or bust, having come off an offseason judged a winner by most experts. This team has completely retooled its offensive weapons and seems to be as talented their now as they've ever been.
Laurence Maroney takes over the full-time running back duties from Corey Dillon, and newly acquired wide receivers Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth figure to step into the starting roles. Unfortunately, as usual, Belichick has been mum on how many minutes, if any, the aforementioned stars will play.
In Tampa Bay, the expectations aren't nearly as optimistic. The Bucs come off a miserable 4-12 season in which they struggled horribly on offense, scoring just 13.2 PPG. Quarterbacking was a major concern, particularly after Chris Simms went down with the abdomen injury.
Simms has recovered from that but won't play Friday. The starter will be newly acquired Jeff Garcia, who enjoyed a fantastic campaign in relief for Philadelphia last year. He will be backed up by Bruce Gradkowski.
Elsewhere, there are roster questions abound: "We don't have a depth chart that's concrete," HC John Gruden said. "That depth chart was released two days ago, and that's ancient history right now.
As far as I know, we'll announce who's starting Friday night at the game. We're competing right now. We'll find out who to keep and who to start, and that's a long way from being decided. Our depth chart, the one that was released the other day, is changing daily."
From a trend standpoint, the majority of the top information for Friday's contest seems to revolve around the total, the UNDER to be specific. The posted number for this game has moved from 35 to 33.5.
* TAMPA BAY is 11-2 UNDER (+8.8 Units) in home games against AFC East division opponents since 1993. The average score was TAMPA BAY 16.9, OPPONENT 11.2 - (Rating = 1*)
* TAMPA BAY is 19-6 UNDER (+12.4 Units) as a home favorite of 7 points or less since 1993. The average score was TAMPA BAY 17.4, OPPONENT 13.1 - (Rating = 1*)
This is the seventh time the Patriots and Buccaneers have met in the preseason, the first time in a preseason opener. The Buccaneers hold a 5-1 lead in the preseason series, including five consecutive preseason victories dating back to 1983.
With the unusual line situation accompanying this game, it almost feels like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of wagering opportunity.
On one end, the Patriots would seem to be the obviously play based upon recent history and the fact that they're the underdog. On the other hand, what are oddsmakers trying to pull here?
All the money coming in on New England, yet the line is moving the other way, almost as if the bait has been cast for suckers to line up with Brady, Belichick & Co.
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