ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Sportsbooks say Sunday's showdown between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is shaping up to be the most heavily bet on NFL game of the regular season.
Brady, the six-time Super Bowl champion, returns to Gillette Stadium for the first time as a member of the visiting team, leading his defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the New England Patriots.
And people are falling all over themselves to bet on it.
“We expect this game to be the biggest game of the season,” said FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessy. “Tom Brady has always been popular with FanDuel customers. The Patriots were always a popular team for betting, and a lot of that has transferred to the Bucs.”
FanDuel, which is the official odds provider for The Associated Press, says 95% of bets are on Tampa Bay to cover the 7-point spread. Other sportsbooks report similarly lopsided betting action on Brady and the Bucs, and they expect a cascade of cash in the final hour before kickoff Sunday night.
“It's safe to say the book will be pulling for the Patriots on Sunday,” said Wyatt Yearout, a spokesman for PointsBet. “It is on track to be the biggest regular-season NFL game ever at PointsBet, and it’s not even close. It is the most heavily bet game by far and we haven’t even entered the weekend yet, when a majority of the action normally comes.”
At BetMGM on Friday, 92% of the money was on Tampa Bay to cover; at Caesars Sportsbook, it was 97%.
Brady played quarterback for the Patriots for his first 20 seasons before leaving last year to lead Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl victory. Sunday night's game is his first against his old team and coach.
The revenge angle — on both sides — is an appealing one to gamblers.
“Brady wants to show, ‘Is it you, coach Belichick, that made this team great for so many years, or was it me?’” said Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook for DraftKings. “There's a lot of motivation for Brady. But there's also motivation on the other side. (New England rookie quarterback) Mac Jones wants to show he belongs, and say, ‘Move over, Brady, it’s a new era.'”
“Bettors are also looking to bet alternate spreads, thinking that Brady will blow his former team out and run the score up on Belichick,” said Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading at Caesars Sportsbook.
Colin Lynch, a longtime Patriots fan from New Hampshire who now lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, says the Brady-Belichick angle is intriguing. He's putting several hundred dollars on New England, and will follow closely in-game betting opportunities on an even larger spread.
“I just hope the course of the game gives us a chance to see the chess match we’d all love to see between these two,” he said. “Ideally, we get a close game with pressure situations and critical decisions to be made on both sides.”
There are also a number of proposition bets — known as “props” that try to predict individual player performance — that are being bet heavily in the game:
— How many touchdown passes Brady will throw.
— Whether his longtime teammate tight end Rob Gronkowski will catch the pass that puts Brady over the top in breaking the NFL record for passing yardage. He needs 68 to surpass Drew Brees.
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