Tom Brady’s great and all. Good family. Generally stays out of trouble, except for maybe some under-inflated footballs a few years ago. Has enough conference championship and Super Bowl rings to open a shop on Jewelers’ Row.
But how has he fared against the spread in the postseason? Overall, mediocre. Lately, terrific.
Brady and the Buccaneers opened as 7-point favorites against the Eagles at FanDuel, a number that was quickly bet up to as high as 9.5. It’s settled in at 8.5 at most sportsbooks.
Brady covered six of his last eight playoff games. The exceptions were his final game in New England, when he lost outright to Tennessee, and last year’s wild-card game win over Washington, when the Bucs were laying 10 and won 31-23.
Brady has played in 45 postseason games, one fewer than the Eagles have as a franchise – and this is a club that debuted right after FDR became president in 1933. Brady is 24-20-1 against the number in the postseason, a 54.4 cover rate that won’t buy a BMW but will cover a Happy Meal.
His teams are 6-5 ATS when favored by 7.5 points or higher at kickoff. All of those games were at home and with New England, except when the Bucs visited Washington last year.
“[The Eagles] definitely are coming on late in the season, and the Bucs have looked more vulnerable,” said Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading at Caesars, which opened Tampa Bay at minus-9.5. “There are some questions on offense for Tampa — their receiver situation without [Chris] Godwin and [Antonio] Brown, will [Leonard] Fournette come back?”
Note: Yes, Fournette will play.
“A lot of dogs have been barking this year,” Pullen continued, “and with this line being over a touchdown, maybe people are just playing that angle.”
The heavy money of course will come in during the weekend. The Borgata opened with a limit of $20,000 (on sides). Thursday it was bumped to $75,000 and Friday it will be $100,000.
» READ MORE: Eagles beat writers make their predictions
“On game day,” said Tom Gable, the Borgata’s sportsbook director, “bet as much as you can carry to the counter.”
This week’s ref
This will be the first Eagles game this season for referee Craig Wrolstad. The Birds are 4-3 since he became a lead official in 2015, but they covered the last six. This also will be the first playoff game they’ve had with Wrolstad wearing the white hat.
Wrolstad was the lead ref when the Eagles beat the Rams in 2017, a game noted for the transition from injured quarterback Carson Wentz to backup Nick Foles.
Tampa Bay won both its games with Wrolstad, who will be calling a postseason game for the first time in five years. Since playoff games are assigned based on regular-season merit, that five-year gap is a little concerning.
List of the week
FanDuel’s Week 1 odds to win the Super Bowl vs. today:
Odds have gone up
Tampa Bay from +650 to +750
Cincinnati from +1200 to +1700
San Francisco from +1400 to +2100
Pittsburgh from +4400 to +9000
Odds have gone down
Green Bay from +1200 to +380
Kansas City from +500 to +450
Buffalo from +1200 to +750
Tennessee from +2500 to +850
L.A. Rams from +1500 to +1000
Dallas from +2900 to +1200
New England from +3700 to +2200
Arizona from +4800 to +2200
Las Vegas from +7500 to +6000
Eagles from +9000 to +6000
Las Vegas (49) at Cincinnati (-5.5), 4:30 p.m.: The Bengals covered their last four, including Sunday’s meaningless 21-16 loss at Cleveland as 6.5-point underdogs. … The Raiders are the best story in the playoffs given all they went through this season, losing their coach because of racist emails and one of their wide receivers’ involvement in a fatal alleged DUI crash. … Cincinnati’s passing game gets the ink, but it was running back Joe Mixon (123 yards, two TDs) who led the way in the Bengals’ win over the Raiders in Week 11 in Las Vegas.
The pick: Derek Carr has held the Raiders together. Can see him trying to make some plays with his legs. He hasn’t run the ball much lately, but over 5.5 rushing yards (-115 odds at BetMGM) is our play.
New England (44) at Buffalo (-4), 8:15 p.m.: These teams split two meetings in the regular season, with New England winning at windy Buffalo despite attempting only three passes. The Patriots lost three of their final four after that win. .. Since their bye in Week 14, New England gave up 27 (to Indianapolis), 33 (Buffalo), 10 (Jacksonville), and 33 (Miami). The over/under of 44 for this game is the lowest of the weekend. … Buffalo clinched the division – and the right to host this game – on Sunday with a win over the hapless Jets in 30-mph winds. Forecast was for temps in the single digits with winds around 5-10 mph.
The pick: Buffalo laying 4.
Eagles (46) at Tampa Bay (-8.5), 1 p.m.: This line opened at Tampa -7 before quickly moving up. Some places had Tampa -9. … This one will be a little personal for Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. Even though many of the Eagles players, and just about all of the coaches, have moved on, he still bristles at losing to the Eagles in Super Bowl 52. Brady is 14-2 in the playoffs since the 2016 season. His only other loss was to Tennessee in 2019, his final game with New England. … The Buccaneers closed on a 6-1 run against the spread at home, the only loss was that head-scratching 9-0 loss to New Orleans in Week 15.
The pick: The total opened at 49, so the time to take the under was early. The Eagles’ strength is running the ball, and stopping the run is what the Bucs do best. Tease the Bucs down to -2.5.
San Francisco (51) at Dallas (-3) , 4:30 p.m.: This is the only game of the weekend between teams that did not face one another during the regular season. … In the last seven games, 49ers’ Swiss-Army knife Deebo Samuel scored seven touchdowns, made 23 receptions, and had 48 rushing attempts. He threw the first touchdown pass of his career last week. … At least one oddsmaker is expecting San Fran to be popular this week. “I would definitely say the Niners will be the biggest public underdog this week,” predicted Adam Pullen, of Caesars.
The pick: Close that teaser with the 49ers and take them up to +9.
Pittsburgh (46) at Kansas City (12.5), 8:15 p.m.: KC was 7-2 at home this season, but just 4-5 against the spread. … Lots of questions about the Chiefs defense, but that shouldn’t be a problem here. Pittsburgh’s offense has scored more than two touchdowns in a game once since Thanksgiving. … Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, 39, has all but said he is retiring after this season. His counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, was in third grade when Roethlisberger made his postseason debut in a divisional round win over the Jets following the 2004 season.
The pick: Kansas City bit us last week with a mediocre performance at Denver. But the Chiefs covered their last four at home allowing 9, 9, 9, and 10 points. Can’t see the Steelers scoring much. KC laying 12.5.
Arizona (49.5) at L.A. Rams (-4), 8:15 p.m.: Arizona was an impressive 8-1 on the road both straight-up and against the spread. The Cardinals won at L.A. 37-20, but that was back in Week 4. … Cooper Kupp, easily the best receiver in the NFL this season, had a season-low five catches against Arizona in their first meeting, and a season-high 13 receptions in the rematch in Week 14. Kupp joined Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992), and Steve Smith (2005) as the only players ever to lead the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947), and receiving TDs (16). … The Rams were 1-3 at home against playoff teams. The win was in Week 3 against Tampa Bay.
The pick: Arizona tight end Zach Ertz was targeted 43 times in the last four games and averaged 63.3 yards. His over/under at DraftKings is 51.5 at -115. With DeAndre Hopkins (torn MCL) out again, we like Ertz to go over 51.5 yards.
Last week: 3-1. Season: 20-7.
This & That
NBA: Three Pennsylvania customers at FanDuel hit an insane parlay on six different players to score the first basket in six different NBA games on Wednesday. The bet itself was nuts – Gordon Hayward, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Evan Fournier, Christian Wood, Lauri Markkanen, and LeBron James. But the stake was 50 cents, and it paid $130,284, which still seems small. Odds for each player to score first: James (+370), Wood (+450), Fournier (+700), Hayward (+900), Bogdanovic (+950), and Markkanen (+1100).
CFB: Shortly after Georgia won the title on Monday, Caesars’ opened Alabama and Georgia as co-favorites at +325 to win next year’s championship. Enough action poured in on the Crimson Tide that Alabama was +200 on Thursday afternoon. UGA still was +325. Penn State is 75-1. Temple is 2500-1. Not a lot of Owls action, for whatever reason.
NHL: Edmonton, which (fingers crossed) will end an 11-day layoff when it hosts Ottawa on Saturday, was still tied for fourth entering Thursday in first- period goals with 37 in 34 games. They’ve also given up 37 goals, which is tied for sixth most. Ottawa played Calgary on Thursday, ending a 12-day layoff of its own.
NBA: The Nets’ 26-point win over Chicago on Wednesday was the first time in Kyrie Irving’s three games that they covered. Brooklyn starts a four-game road trip Monday, which will be the first extended run of games Irving will be allowed to play.
The talk of the sports-betting world was the controversy involving Draymond Green on Sunday.
To recap, Green made a ceremonious appearance in the starting lineup as Klay Thompson returned from a nearly three-year absence because of injuries. Green himself hadn’t played since Jan. 5 because of a calf injury. But he wanted to be there for Thompson, his teammate for 10 years and three championships. Golden State’s opponent, Cleveland, was aware that Green would commit a quick foul and leave the game for the night.
When bettors figured out that Green was going to be in the game for only a few seconds, they began to hammer away at his under props. Parlays involving points, rebounds, assists, and whatever else they could find. Sportsbooks were slow to react and estimates say it cost them millions of dollars. The parlays did the majority of damage.
It took some houses a couple of days – and some (ahem) prompting from regulators, but eventually they paid up. Many even were nice enough to void bets on Green’s over props. But now many of the bettors who took advantage of the situation are claiming to be severely limited on how much they can wager on subsequent events.
Sportsbooks don’t get a lot of sympathy. Sports betting can be treacherous. Every once in a while, it happens to those on the other side of the window.