Which Team Will Have More Wins in 2020 -- Tampa Bay or New England?
The bet is a simple one -- will Tom Brady's current team or his former team win more games this upcoming season?
Both sides are listed at -110, and Brady must play all 16 games for this bet to process.
Let's see what each team has to offer.
The Case for the Pats
So far, New England's answer to Brady leaving has been to sign Brian Hoyer. Of course, the Pats could have more moves in store via the draft, trading or free agency, but as things stand, it appears Hoyer will either be the backup to or compete for the starting gig with Jarrett Stidham. That's probably not ideal. Stidham has thrown just four career passes, with his most notable being a pick-six.
But there was a lot of chatter last preseason about how much the Patriots liked Stidham, who they took in the fourth round. Plus, it's not like the Patriots' offense was a machine last season.
New England finished 12-4 with Brady under center in 2019, but defense carried the Pats for the most part as Brady had one of his worst offensive seasons in a long time. Brady had seven games with 250 or fewer passing yards, and the offense finished 15th in yards per game (354) and 7th in points per game (26.2).
The defense kept the Patriots in the elite echelon and held opponents to a league-best 275.9 total yards and franchise records of 14.1 points per game and 225 total points. With much of that defense coming back, the Pats should be superb defensively once again. If Stidham -- or whoever the Pats put under center -- can at least tread water, it's not hard to envision New England pushing for double-digit wins once again.
And there's always a chance that New England makes a move for Jameis Winston, Cam Newton or Andy Dalton, all of whom are either a free agent or available via trade. Or maybe the Pats make a splash in the draft by taking a signal caller.
One thing we know for sure is that the Patriots still get six games against the AFC East, though the rest of the division is catching up. After making the playoffs last year, the Buffalo Bills went out and got Stefon Diggs for Josh Allen. The New York Jets signed Breshad Perriman for Sam Darnold, and the Miami Dolphins -- who could end up with Tua Tagovailoa -- have been making big-money signings in free agency, including a couple of former Pats in Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy.
If the Patriots go out and get Cam Newton, Winston, or Andy Dalton, I think their side of the bet starts to look more appealing. That's a big if, though. It looks like 2020 will be a lot like 2019 for the Pats, with their defense shouldering a lot of the load.
The Case for Tampa Bay
On the surface, if the choice is betting on Brady or some combination of Stidham/Hoyer, it seems like a runaway for Tampa Bay. The Bucs lost six games by seven or fewer points last year en route to a 7-9 season and are adding one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
On the flip side, Brady will turn 43 in August and is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. And a year ago, the now-departed Jameis Winston threw for a career-high and NFL-best 5,109 yards while tossing the second-most touchdowns (33). Of course, Winston also led the league in interceptions with 30.
Tampa Bay's defense last season was terrific in some areas and poor in others, but some of that was impacted WInston. The Bucs' defense finished fifth in turnovers created (28), but their offense the ball away an NFL-worst 41 times.
The D ranked first in rushing yards allowed per game (73.8) but finished 15th in total yards allowed per game (343.9), giving up 270.1 passing yards per game, which ranked 30th. Tampa Bay finished 29th in points per game to opponents with 28.1, while the offense semi-enjoyed the franchise's most points scored in a single season (458) and franchise-record 28.6 points per game. Overall, the defense was the league's fourth-best unit in 2019, per our schedule-adjusted metrics.
Offensively, Brady will be getting an upgrade in weapons with his move to the Bucs. The main targets will be Mike Evans, possibly the most physically gifted wideout Brady has had since Randy Moss, and Chris Godwin. Among all wideouts a year ago, Godwin finished third in yards (1,333) and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns (9). Tampa Bay also has O.J. Howard, who oozes potential but has yet to make it happen.
Tampa Bay could make some more waves this offseason as the Bucs are reportedly getting the "LeBron James-effect" from signing Brady for what's likely the last two years of his legendary career. Free agents have been contacting the Bucs, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and expressing interest to play with Brady in Florida, where there's no income tax, which is a huge selling point for players. Of note so far this offseason, Tampa Bay has resigned Ndamukong Suh, Kevin Minter, Andrew Adams, and Jason Pierre-Paul, and franchise tagged the NFL's 2019 sack leader, Shaquil Barrett -- all moves on the defensive side of the ball.
For what it's worth, Brady owns a career winning percentage of 81% against the NFC South. The division is now pretty loaded at quarterback with Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Teddy Bridgewater. While we know New Orleans will be one of the league's best teams, the rest of the division doesn't look so hot as the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers combined for only 12 wins (one fewer than the Saints had).
With Winston out of town, turnovers should be a thing of the past for Tampa. Brady tossed eight picks last season and has thrown single-digit interceptions in nine of his last 13 seasons for the Patriots. If Tampa Bay could average 28.6 points per game with all of Winston's turnovers, the Bucs should remain a very productive offense with Brady under center. Defensively, the Bucs were good last year and should be stout once again in 2020.
My Pick: Tampa Bay
Ultimately, the Patriots have to make a move at quarterback for me to side with them here. Maybe Stidham will ball out, but I'm not going to bet on it.
FanDuel Sportsbook seems to agree with me. They have Tampa Bay at +1700 to win the Super Bowl while New England is +2200. The line for the win total for each team is at nine wins, with Tampa getting a little juice (-115) on the over.
And we shouldn't overlook the schedule. Per 2019 records, the Pats have the league's toughest schedule in 2020, while Tampa Bay's schedule is about average (15th toughest). The Patriots road schedule in particular is much tougher than Tampa's and could be the difference in this bet. New England will face Kansas City, Houston, Seattle, the Rams and the Chargers on the road as their non-division opponents; that's compared to Denver, Las Vegas, Arizona, Baltimore, and San Francisco at home.
With all that being said, give me Tampa Bay to edge the Patriots in wins in 2020. After the draft, this could be worth a revisit as New England might have something up their sleeve for the quarterback position.