If you fancy yourself a betting man or woman, by now youre well aware that the Patriots are 14-point favorites in Sundays home opener against the Cardinals. In the same breath, youre also well aware that, by any measure of NFL gambling, this qualifies as an enormous spread.
In fact, according to Covers.com, the Pats have been favored by MORE than Sundays 14-point spread only three times since Super Bowl XLII:
1. In Week 1 of 2008, when they were 16-point favorites against Lucipher Pollard and the Chiefs. Final Score: Pats 17, Chiefs 10
2. In Week 7 of 2009, when they were 15.5-point favorites against the Buccaneers in London. Final Score: Pats 35, Bucs 7. (In the under card, Brandon Meriweather defeated the Big Bang Clock by a split decision.)
3. And finally, in Week 13 of last season, when they were 20.5-point favorites over the Suck for Luck Colts. Final Score: Pats 31, Colts 24.
Anyway, like I was saying. Its a big spread on Sunday, and much like they did on the aforementioned three occasions, the Pats will probably win. They should win. But theres one little twist on this Cardinals game that deserves at least a few minutes of our attention
Its a classic trap.
Just to refresh, there are two defining characteristic of a trap game.
1. Its a game against a team that you should most definitely beat. Where youre heavily favored. Or just enough to let your guard down.
Arizona at New England (-14): Check!
2. Its a game thats scheduled the week before a wildly important game against a bona fide rival. Where theres every reason for the favored team to look beyond the task at hand.
Next week, the Pats are in Baltimore for an AFC Championship rematch, and what will likely be the biggest test and most telling game of the entire season: Check!
You can argue both sides of whether a game is more trappy when the favored team is on the road (where the underdog is more pumped and ready to play) or at home (where the favorite is a little more comfortable, relaxed and ripe for the picking), but either way, this Sunday qualifies as a trap game. Its the very definition.
So, heres my question: Why isnt anyone worried?
Answer: Because history has shown these Patriots to be essentially trap proof. In fact, by my count, the Pats have fallen victim to only one trap game in the last five years. And since I have the space and time, I might as well elaborate.
First of all, in 2007, the Pats didnt lose any trap games because they didnt lose any games. In a sense, I guess Super Bowl XLII qualifies as the trappiest game of all time, but that was a very different set of circumstances. We cant compare the Super Bowl to Week 2 against the Cardinals.
In 2008, the Pats didnt lose any trap games because when your quarterback is a former seventh round pick who hasnt started a game since high school, youre never quite comfortable enough to be trapped. And anyway, the Pats five losses that season came against the eventual division-winning Dolphins, at the Chargers, at the Colts, in overtime to the Jets and at home to the Steelers.
In 2009, with Tom Brady back in the pocket, the Pats lost six games: At the Jets, at the Broncos, at the Saints, at the Colts (You see a pattern here?), at the Dolphins and at the Texans.
Of the six, the only two that the Pats should have won were the Dolphins game which doesnt qualify as a trap because the 5-7 Panthers were up next and the Texans game which doesnt count because it was Week 17 and lets all go throw rocks at Bernard Pollards house.
Moving on, in 2010 the Pats only lost two games. The first one came in Week 2 at the then-mighty Jets not a trap. And the second one . . . well come back to that in a second.
And finally, last year, the Pats went 13-3. Loss No. 1 came against Buffalo in a game that could have qualified if not for a mere date with the lowly Raiders looming on the other side. Loss No. 2 came at Pittsburgh not a trap. Loss No. 3 came at home against the Giants, in a game that they should have won, with a huge date with the Jets on the horizon BUT . . . no way that counts as a trap. Regardless of anything else, there was way too much hype around the long awaited Super Bowl rematch. Trapless, I say!
That brings us back to present time.
But first a quick trip back to Week 7 of 2010.
The Pats are riding high off a huge Week 6 win over old friend Randy Moss and the Vikings. They have an enormous Week 8 date against the Steelers in the on-deck circle. But first, a pit stop in Cleveland to deliver a beat down on the Browns.
Or, the exact opposite.
Yeah, that loss to the Browns (how many TDs did Peyton Hillis have? 10? 12?) was as ugly as they come, and the very definition of a team falling face first into a trap.
But hey, one every five years isnt bad. And theres no reason to believe that the one trap for the next five years is in the cards on Sunday against the Cards.
Give me the Pats and the points.