It’s not often the New England Patriots get outcoached on Sundays.
Preparation has always been a calling card for Bill Belichick-coached teams and it’s extremely rare that the Patriots are put in positions to fail. Look no further than rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe’s NFL debut last weekend at Lambeau Field. It would have been a disaster for many first-year quarterbacks, but Belichick and his staff made life easy on Zappe by calling conservative plays and minimizing risk.
The Green Bay Packers got the W, but it was a lot closer than anybody expected.
New England hosts the Detroit Lions this Sunday and after opening -2 in Las Vegas, the Patriots have been bet up to -3 and -3.5 in the market. The Lions are still pretty hobbled with top running back D’Andre Swift likely out and star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown’s status up in the air. Either way, Detroit’s run defense (third-worst in the NFL) should struggle against a Pats’ running game that’s one of the best in football.
And don’t think for one second that Belichick vs. Dan Campbell isn’t baked into the betting line.
“Coaching is always very important, but of course it’s considered in the number,” WynnBET vice president of trading Alan Berg told NESN. “A perfect example is Super Bowl LIII between the Patriots and Rams. (Sean) McVay is a great football mind and he had the better team, but Belichick coached circles around him in that game.”
Belichick has fared well against Lions quarterback Jared Goff, too.
In three career meetings, Goff has completed 50% of his passes, thrown two touchdowns to four interceptions and taken nine sacks. Obviously, three games isn’t a big sample size, but I don’t expect much to change. Strangely enough, this will be the first game Detroit’s vaunted offense will play in the elements.
The Lions have played all four regular-season games in a dome — three at home, one at Minnesota — and now they’ve got to face Belichick and Co. in 55-degree weather with 10 to 15 mph winds at Gillette Stadium.
It’s very fair to expect some offensive adversity against a Patriots defense that still brings it.
Conventional wisdom says the Patriots will run the ball at will against a Detroit defense that’s been shredded for 662 rushing yards in four games. Why would Belichick put Zappe in vulnerable situations when he can hand the rock off to Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson all afternoon long? New England’s offensive line should dominate the line of scrimmage and Belichick will pull no punches if he’s getting three to four yards per carry.
If the game plan ain’t broken, Belichick won’t fix it. That’s what separates him from most coaches, even at age 70.
“How can you give Campbell any edge based on what we’ve seen so far?” Berg cracked. “Coaching can only cover up a lack of talent so much. Campbell can’t wave a wand and get a new defense. Just like Belichick can’t do the same to replace the greatest quarterback of all time.”