Tom Brady will make his return to Foxborough on Sunday Night Football to take on the team he led to six Super Bowl titles.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coming off their first loss of the season, enter the primetime game as 7-point betting favorites after opening at -5.5. All the money has been coming in on the Bucs, who will be without another longtime Pat in Rob Gronkowski when they take on the New England Patriots.
Will Brady work his magic and help the Bucs cover the TD spread at the place where it all started?
Find out with our free NFL picks and predictions for the Buccaneers vs. Patriots on October 3.
Buccaneers vs Patriots odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
Bookies opened Tampa Bay as a 5.5-point road favorite and that spread didn’t make it more than 12 hours before it jumped to -6, then -6.5 and now -7 as of Friday evening. The total for this non-conference clash hit the board at 49 points and has stayed steady as of Friday evening, though action on the Over has pushed it to 49.5 at some books.
Buccaneers vs Patriots picks
Picks made on 9/28/2021 at 11:45 a.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Buccaneers vs Patriots game info
• Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
• Date: Sunday, October 3, 2021
• Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
• TV: NBC
Buccaneers at Patriots betting preview
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our NFL weather info.
Buccaneers: Jason Pierre-Paul DE (Out), Rob Gronkowski TE (Out), Jamal Dean CB (Out), Gio Bernard RB (Out), Scotty Miller WR (Out), Sean Murphy-Bunting CB (Out). Jaelon Darden WR (Out), Nick Leverett OL (Out), Kyle Trask QB (Out).
Patriots: Jawhaun Bentley LB (Out), Trent Brown T (Out), James White RB (Out), Devin Asiasi TE (Out), Ronnie Perkins DE (Out), Rhamondre Stevenson RB (Out), Shaun Wade CB (Out), Joejuan Williams S (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.
Betting trend to know
“Tampa Bay has made the most of non-conference clashes in recent years, with the Bucs going 5-2-2 ATS versus AFC opponents in two seasons under head coach Bruce Arians. Looking back, this franchise has held its own in those non-conference clashes, with a 24-18-3 ATS count versus the AFC since 2010.
Shrink that scope to just non-conference road games and the Buccaneers are 14-7-1 ATS (66%) in the past 11 seasons, with Arians upholding that tradition with a 3-1 ATS count when visiting AFC foes since 2019.”
Find more NFL betting trends for Buccaneers vs. Patriots.
Buccaneers vs Patriots predictions
Tampa Bay -6.5 (-115)
Does Brady really need the motivation to go into Foxborough and take a win from his former team? Doesn’t a Super Bowl ring with the Bucs take some of the sting out of his parting with the Patriots?
The fact that Tampa Bay was embarrassed in L.A. in Week 3 holds more weight with me heading into this non-conference contest. The Bucs were dropped 34-24 by the Rams in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.
Tampa Bay has a lot of work to do on defense, sitting dead last in passing yards allowed and giving up more than 29 points per outing through three weeks. Granted, those tallies came against some strong veteran quarterbacks: Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, and Matt Stafford.
The Bucs won’t face the same threat under center in Week 4, with New England rookie QB Mac Jones coming off his worst outing of 2021 in a home loss to New Orleans on Sunday. On the flip side, the Patriots defense has yet to face a passer as prime as Brady, which is why it ranks No. 2 in yards allowed against the likes of Tua Tagovailoa, Zach Wilson and Jameis Winston.
Brady compiled 432 passing yards on 74.6 percent completions against Los Angeles last weekend – the first time in his career he’s thrown for 400 yards or more and not come away with the regular-season victory. New England is stingy with the deep shots – allowing only 189 air yards so far in 2021 (and ranking fourth in air yards allowed in 2020) – but again, has faced passing attacks ranked 18th, 31st and 32nd.
Even with the move through six, there’s still value to grabbing Brady and Bucs under a touchdown. With Tampa Bay in bounce-back mode and the public buying into a “revenge” game for No. 12, this spread will flirt with a touchdown or more by kickoff Sunday night.
Under 49 (-110)
The Patriots’ defense is going to need a little help from the offense if they’re going to weather the storm on Sunday Night Football. New England’s attack is a plodding push up field, with Jones averaging just over six yards per attempt and a tempo ranked Bottom 12 in terms of seconds per snap on the season.
The Bucs aren’t letting anyone run right now, which is fine for New England OC Josh McDaniels, who is handing off on only 36 percent of snaps, but is master of replacing those runs with short, snappy passes. Tampa Bay’s D is slamming the door for just 3.2 yards per carry but giving up 6.2 yards per reception to running backs. That will help the Pats pick up first downs and milk the TOP.
The defending champs have been susceptible to the long ball, allowing a league-worst 16 passing plays of 20 yards or more through three outings, but won’t have to worry about that with Jones almost scared to go deep – especially after throwing three interceptions to New Orleans in Week 3. He’s posting just 5.4 intended air yards per pass attempt, which is fourth-lowest among starting QBs.
The Bucs have been very aggressive, bringing the blitz on more than 42 percent of their opponents’ dropbacks. That strategy hasn’t returned the results DC Todd Bowles would like, but has come against some savvy QBs. Jones is not as composed as those prior passers faced. He’s been pressured on only 16.3 percent of his pass attempts in 2021 but has been sacked six times with an average of 1.5 seconds in the pocket.
First quarter Under 10 points (-134)
I’d be naïve to think this game meant nothing to either side and while the media will overhype this matchup like a Jake Paul fight, tensions will be high to start Sunday night’s contest.
Much like betting first-quarter Unders in big games like the Super Bowl, the defenses will be amped up and Brady could possibly get caught pressing for some wayward balls. Receivers have also been known to have the “dropsies” early on in these high-pressure games, which can lead to missed gains.
Tampa Bay’s first quarters have been a little slow to start 2021, with an average of just seven total points scored in those opening frames. New England’s first 15 minutes have produced an average of eight collective points and the Patriots will be protecting against a quick start from Brady & Co., which would flush their game plan down the crapper.