NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Bad is Good
by Dennis Ranahan

No team in football over the past two decades has been better at avenging a loss than the New England Patriots. Since the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era began in 2001, the Patriots have followed up a loss with a victory at a higher percentage than any team in football.

The Patriots have lost 49 times and the following week they have won 40 times. Against the spread, a bankroll growing record of 35-14. As a road favorite, 14 and 4.

Tonight, they are a road favorite following a loss when they meet the Detroit Lions in a Sunday Night Football primetime matchup. The Lions haven’t won this year, and the Patriots win at better than an 80% clip straight-up, and 77% in the spot they are in tonight, favored in Detroit.

By many handicapping schemes, the search for a winner in tonight’s game would end with the percentage play on the Patriots. Why would anyone want to bet into a situation that on face value is nearly an 80% play?

Because, sometimes, the best play is not couched in a high percentage situation, but rather has unique elements that make it extraordinary. A flower in a barren desert.

That is the case tonight, when the Lions host the Patriots.

New England is coming off a loss and confident of a win. With most teams, that is a prelude to certain doom. But, for this New England team, history has seen their talent and preparation overcome any motivational advantage their opponents may possess. Which brings us to tonight, where from a pure talent standpoint the Patriots dominance over the Lions seems obvious, but in fact, it is not as wide as public perception.

The Patriots are in a terrible season-to-season flow pattern following a Super Bowl win and Super Bowl loss in back-to-back seasons. This is unquestionably fertile ground for a down year, and as amazing as the Patriots have been, everything has a point where it sours. This year, appears a perfect time for New England to have an uncharacteristic season, which in their case would be missing the playoffs.

This may be a spot the Patriots have succeeded in the past, but it is fraught with peril for Brady and Company tonight. They are meeting a Lions team prepped for a big home effort based on getting blown out on their home field in their opener, 48-17, by the New York Jets. The Jets, behind rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, have not won a game since, but they had their way with the Lions which means at least one of two things.

First, the Lions are really, really bad, or, motivation can have a bad team enjoy a spiked performance based on the situation.

I’m not sure if Matt Patricia is going to be successful in his first year as head coach in Detroit, but he does have an advantage against the team he served as defensive coordinator the past six seasons. He knows the Patriots personnel, their strengths and weaknesses, and this gives him an edge over his former mentor, Belichick.

And, motivation can level better talent any day of the week.

Detroit has got off to a rocky start, blown out at home and defeated on the road by the San Francisco 49ers last week, two teams that haven’t beaten any other team except the Lions. Does that mean the Lions are the worst team in the NFL?

If they are, they could lose tonight. But, if they are just bad, they can both cover this spread and upset their visitors.

Qoxhi Picks: Detroit Lions (+6½) over New England Patriots