New England Patriots -.5 & Green Bay Packers +9
PatriotsHow important was Gronk to the Patriots? In a word, very. He's obviously unguardable and demands top priority from every defense that comes his way.
Having said that, I'm not worried about this offense in the slightest. It wasn't too long ago that the entire football world was writing Wes Welker off this team due to a contract dispute. Yet, he became the primary focus the last time New England switched to a three WR set. Along with Edelman and Hernandez, there will be more than enough opportunities to make plays. Tom Brady has made a living from making pass-catchers household names.
Now without a constant two tight end set, it will be a bit easier for the Jets D to scheme, so the run game might not be as effective. The problem is the Jets have been below average on defense ever since Revis went out. The Pats will get their points whether New York show up or not.
The bigger question for bettors is if the Pats defense can prevent the Jets from covering the number. New York had no problem putting up offense the last time they met, and New England's defense hasn't improved like I expected it to.
Are they as bad as last year? Not statistically, but they don't pass the eye-ball test on the field and continue to blow leads every other week. I really liked the addition of Talib though, but I'm not sure how long it's going to take him to get accostomed to the guys around him. The secondary is an area where continuity is important. For the most part, he's surrounded by scrubs. The Patriots defense is dead last on third down, which is a huge red flag. In a big game, I would have no faith in this unit whatsoever.
The best news is that we are talking about the Jets. I don't have to worry about the touchdown point spread when I tease them down to what is essentially a "pick em". All they have to do is win this game to give us the cover. The Pats not only have a huge edge offensively, but they do the little things better than NY as well - including average starting net field position, special teams, and turnover differential. That certainly hasn't always been the case when these teams have met.
NE -.5 & GB +9