Few, if any, would have believed when the 2021 NFL season began that the New England Patriots would be in the running for the league’s best record.
The Patriots admittedly are entering the teeth of their schedule, beginning with a pivotal “Monday Night Football” clash with the Buffalo Bills in Week 13. On tap after that is a showdown with the Indianapolis Colts. Both games are vital when it comes to not only securing a playoff spot for the 8-4 Patriots but also jockeying for position in the AFC playoff field.
Behind Bill Belichick’s in-season adjustments, a defense that’s among the NFL’s best and increasingly encouraging play from rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the Patriots are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Just five teams have better Super Bowl odds at FanDuel Sportsbook than New England, which currently checks in at 11-1.
There’s not exactly a ton of value in that bet given the history with rookie quarterbacks and the Super Bowl — which is to say there is none. However, there still might be some value on a different season-long Patriots prop bet.
Here are the current FanDuel Sportsbook odds for “Team with best regular-season record” for this season:
Arizona Cardinals (+250)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+300)
Green Bay Packers (+350)
Baltimore Ravens (+1200)
Tennessee Titans (+1400)
Buffalo Bills (+1600)
Kansas City Chiefs (+1600)
Dallas Cowboys (+2000)
New England Patriots (+2000)
Here’s a quick refresher of the standings through 12 weeks:
The Patriots’ six-game winning streak has set them up to at least return to the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight.com has their current playoff odds at 91%. The New York Times’ playoff machine gives them a 94% chance. Each has New England with a roughly 25% chance to clinch the AFC’s top seed, a distinction that obviously doesn’t guarantee the best record but certainly gets them closer.
As such, New England is +350 to earn the AFC’s top seed at FanDuel.
For now, New England certainly is positioned well to have the NFL’s best record. The Patriots’ eight wins trail only Arizona and Green Bay, of course. However, two of the other eight-win teams have yet to have their bye weeks, so they have a game in hand.
It can’t be stated enough how important the next three games will be for the Patriots. The Monday night tilt is in Buffalo. They then hit the bye week before renewing their rivalry with the Colts on the road in Indianapolis. And they’re not out of the woods after that, as they’ll finish the season series with the Bills.
Obviously, going 3-0 through that stretch would be extremely difficult. If the Patriots did, however, they’d be far better positioned to have the NFL’s best record — and the odds would reflect as much.
Consider this: The Patriots were 40-1 to have the NFL’s top mark a week ago, which speaks to how much changed with their blowout of the Titans — a team currently with better best-record odds.
The Patriots, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, have had the third-easiest schedule until this point. Their “future schedule,” as Football Outsiders calls it, ranks seventh-hardest in the entire league. Of all the teams listed above in the running for the best record, that’s the most difficult. The two easiest, by the way? Tennessee and Tampa Bay, which are almost certainly factored into the odds in some way.
From a pure odds standpoint, betting some pizza money on Belichick and the Patriots to continue playing their best football in December, with a get-healthy bye week mixed in, is tempting. That’s especially true when you consider they play Jacksonville and Miami in Weeks 17 and 18.
That the Patriots are even in the discussion, however, can be viewed as the latest bit of evidence for just how impressive their work has been in 2021.