After absorbing their first loss of the young season, suffering a rare home shutout at the hands of Rex Ryan’s rejuvenated Buffalo Bills (2-2), the New England Patriots (3-1) may just be approaching Week 5 as their true season-opener.
And for good reason. This Sunday’s road contest against the woeful Cleveland Browns (0-4) marks the first time legendary quarterback Tom Brady will suit up for the Pats all year, following his renewed four-game suspension for the Deflategate controversy.
Head coach Bill Belichick has kept New England’s well-oiled machine humming without his superstar passer, and the team currently leads the AFC East by a full game over the aforementioned Bills. Accordingly, after entering the season with +600 odds to win the Super Bowl, the Patriots have actually increased their equity in that regard, moving to +400 to become the clear favorites over the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) at +700.
Hitting the road to take on the Browns, a team which appears absolutely allergic to winning through the first four games, Brady and the Pats have been installed as big 11-point favorites by online sportsbook Bovada. The football world isn’t quite sure what Brady will bring to the table after a month spent sequestered from all football activities.
But even with wide receiver Julian Edelman taking the snaps, these Patriots deserve to be favored by double-digits on the road against these Browns, a team which blew a 20-point lead in Week 2, missed an easy game-winning field goal attempt in Week 3, and fumbled twice to cut consecutive 4th-quarter comeback drives short last week.
Another high-flying team finds themselves playing as road favorites in the early slate of games, when the Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) travel to Motown for a tilt against the Detroit Lions (1-3) as 3-point favorites at Bovada.
With rookie quarterback Carson Wentz living up to expectations as the second overall pick in last year’s draft, the Eagles’ offense has garnered headlines, but the real story is Philly’s stingy defense. The Eagles have surrendered just 9 points per game through three weeks, making life extremely difficult for opposing offenses.
Another undefeated NFC team – and one of three remaining unbeaten in the NFL – are the Minnesota Vikings (4-0), who host the Houston Texans (3-1).
Both teams have exceeded expectations with new quarterbacks at the helm, with the Vikes relying on Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater’s preseason injury, and the Texans elevating former Broncos backup Brock Osweiler to the starting spot.
But even as Houston has taken a two-game lead over the rest of the AFC South field, the team finds itself as consensus 6-point underdogs against Minnesota. That’s because the Texans’ offense hasn’t done all that much thus far, while the Vikings’ defense has been dominant, not yet allowing an opposing offense to put up more than 16 points in a game.
The late schedule features a few intriguing matchups, including the defending champion Denver Broncos (4-0) taking their elite defensive front up against the Atlanta Falcons (3-1) and their modern-day “Greatest Show on Turf.”
The Broncos are giving up just 16 points per game, while the Falcons are soaring with the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection lighting up the scoreboard for an absurd 38-point average. Something’s got to give, and Bovada bookmakers believe it will be Atlanta’s aerial assault, as Denver has been tabbed as 6-point home favorites.
The Dallas Cowboys (3-1) haven’t missed injured quarterback Tony Romo as of yet, but they face their biggest test so far with a home date against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2). The ‘Boys have the benefit of home field advantage, and the better record, but Bovada isn’t a believer yet, so Dallas will enjoy a 1.5-point cushion.