Are the New England Patriots the 11th-best team in the AFC?
This conversation exploded on social media Wednesday when I posted a quote from a professional oddsmaker who told NESN that he has 10 teams power rated higher than the Pats in the conference.
There is, however, a difference between oddsmaking and bookmaking. An oddsmaker makes numbers, while a bookmaker balances money and liability behind the counter. Bookmakers take those numbers and massage them into shape before posting the lines for customers to bet.
One veteran Las Vegas bookmaker was adamant that it doesn’t matter where you rate these teams in late March. After all, there’s plenty that can change with the NFL draft, free agency and trades. The top of the AFC is also crowded as hell and there’s not a gaping difference between the team on the three-line and the team on the 11-line.
Odds to win the AFC at SuperBook
“If you take the Jets, Steelers, Texans, Jaguars and Raiders and stick them aside, that’s the bottom five in the AFC,” Westgate SuperBook vice president of risk management Ed Salmons told NESN. “So, then you’ve got the Top 11 teams and there’s not a great separation between No. 1 and No. 11. They’re all really bunched together.
“The offseason isn’t complete yet, either,” Salmons continued. “You’ve still got the draft and all that heading into training camp. It’s difficult to make a judgment this early. But there’s always a trust factor with the Patriots as long as Bill Belichick is there. He clearly knows what he’s doing.
“They obviously turn over players faster than other organizations and they’re not going to spend a billion dollars on a cornerback or tackle. That’s just their style. The one thing we know is that the Patriots’ defense is going to be really solid. And they always run the ball well. Add those two things together and they can literally be in every game they play.
“The Patriots obviously need a playmaker on offense. They need to do something to boost the talent on that side of the ball. But I’m not going to get too carried away. We have New England and Miami at the same power rating.”
Speaking of power ratings — and the tightness in the AFC — I asked Salmons about the hypothetical spread if Buffalo faced New England on a neutral field. An oddsmaker would probably say that Buffalo is 5.5 points better, but there’s no way you could open up Buffalo -5.5 because professional money would hammer New England +5.5.
So you’ve got to open lower. But Buffalo -3 is too low. That line would immediately get blasted the other way with educated bettors pushing each other out of the way to lay a field goal with Josh Allen and Co.
“You?re in the ballpark there,” Salmons said.
“Buffalo is the consensus No. 1 in the AFC. Kansas City would be No. 2, although the Tyreek Hill trade was bold. The Chiefs’ offense got stale last season and something needed to change. Teams played the two high safety and started to figure it out. They got a ton back for Hill and they can turn that into assets.
“Kansas City is a shaky two. Then there’s everybody else.”