Is Tom Brady Over the Hill?

by Kelso Sturgeon
Contributing Sportsbook Editor

Most of you probably know that the 2014 NFL Preseason begins this Sunday August 3 in the Hall of Fame game when the Buffalo Bills take on the New York Giants. But, I'm betting that very few of you note something else that's important about that date. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady turns 37 years old!

That's right. Tom Brady will be 37 this season when he's running the apparently fading Patriots offense. One of the most important questions that smart handicappers (which includes all of you regular readers of my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping) will have to answer this season is the question in my headline. Is Tom Brady over the hill?

  • New England is a heavy favorite to win the AFC East this season. But, if he has another lackluster season...or, heaven forbid...a WORSE season than 2013, then the divisional race is thrown wide open. The Patriots aren't that much better than everyone else in their grouping if Brady is just another guy.

  • New England is in the discussion to win the AFC once again this year, though I think Vegas odds are greatly overestimating their true chances. Oddsmakers are in the habit of making the Patriots a favorite or co-favorite. Last year's 12-4 record was a lucky mark for a team that really only played at a 10-6 or even 9-7 level much of the season. If Brady's fading, then the AFC race becomes even more AFC-West heavy than it already is (Denver, Kansas City, San Diego).

  • New England is always high priced on a game-by-game basis because the public loves betting on Tom Brady. That made squares RICH in some seasons because the Patriots can name the score whenever things are going well...and oddsmakers rarely move NFL lines high enough in those situations. But, if those situations are no longer in play...then smart handicappers could make a killing this year with Pats' opponents.

    The New England offense drifted back to a TD/INT ratio of 25/11 last season. That's still pretty good by AFC standards. Denver (a team with its own old quarterback) was off the charts at 55/10. The other playoff contenders were similar to New England. No need to list them all because the numbers are basically interchangeable. What's important for handicappers to note is that Brady's production is now interchangeable with other playoff caliber teams...rather than being way ahead of the non-Manning field. And, again, it's trending in the wrong direction for a player approaching 40 years old.

    I understand that the Patriots had a lot of injury issues last season. Please don't any of you Tom Brady fans flood me with letters about how it wasn't Brady's fault. Look, at least SOME of it had to be Brady's fault...and, if you were closely watching the games...MORE of it was Brady's fault than the media was letting on. I'm not suggesting he should retire today. My point today is that Brady may well be trending toward being a money-burner rather than a money-maker in Las Vegas terms.

    And, THAT brings us to today's class assignment. Take time in the next few days if possible, and certainly sometime in the month of August, to evaluate the quarterback position for all 32 teams. Who are the likely money-makers in terms of production AND Las Vegas perceptions? Who are the likely money-burners because of relative incompetence or the tendency of oddsmakers to overrate the wrong kinds of things?

    Honestly, Brady could be a money-burner in a DIVISION of money-burners the way the AFC East is shaping up. That could soften the blow of any continuing fade. If you're convinced he's still got it, then you may see the current 4/13 odds to win the division as a steal. Do the work and bet the value you find.

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