LAS VEGAS — It’s foolish to say Tom Brady’s first season in Tampa Bay has been a disappointment. The Buccaneers have won 11 games and are favored in a playoff game this weekend, yet if there’s a lingering sense Brady has not lived up to preseason hype, it’s only because some expectations were unrealistic.
By the numbers, the reality is Brady has been a big hit. He finished the regular season tied for second in the NFL in touchdown passes (40) and ranked third in passing yards (4,633). The Buccaneers topped their season win total (9.5) set by oddsmakers and went 9-7 against the spread. Still, his season will be defined by what happens next.
Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion, is about to take the stage for Super Wild-Card Weekend, a six-game lineup that promises to be a betting blockbuster.
“What jumps out to me is we have three games Saturday and three games Sunday, which I think is fabulous,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said.
As a bonus, the college national championship on Monday, with Alabama favored by 7.5 points against Ohio State, is expected to attract a larger wagering handle than a majority of the NFL wild-card games.
“I’m expecting that to be a huge betting game,” Avello said. “I know we seem to say this a lot now, but this is going to be the biggest-bet college football game of all time.”
This could be the last time we see some of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks in action. Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger are nearing the end of their careers, but each has a shot to make another postseason run, beginning this weekend.
The Buccaneers are 8-point point favorites at Washington, which won the NFC East with a 7-9 record. At age 43, Brady’s weakness is his lack of mobility when faced with pass-rush pressure, and that could make Washington a live ’dog Saturday night.
“Washington has the makeup with that defensive front to give Brady some trouble,” said Michael Lombardi, a VSiN analyst and former NFL general manager. “Potentially, you always see upsets. This is typically the round where the teams are so even.”
This has been a season to take the points. Underdogs went 9-7 ATS on Sunday to finish 137-111-3 (55.2 percent) — with five games closing pick ’em — but favorites went 14-2 straight up in Week 17 to deal bookmakers a beating.
“It was our worst Sunday of the season,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “We got crushed. We took so many moneyline parlays and teasers with all of the favorites together, and Washington added to it.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson did not win any bookmakers as friends Sunday night when he pulled quarterback Jalen Hurts, who had two early touchdown runs, in the fourth quarter of a close game. Pederson was accused of tanking by opting to play third-stringer Nate Sudfeld, whose mistakes helped Washington escape with a 20-14 win.
“Pederson threw in the towel,” said Vinny Magliulo, a Las Vegas bookmaker and VSiN oddsmaker. “If there were fans at the game, there might have been a riot in Philadelphia. Moneyline favorites were golden, and almost everything went to Washington. It was definitely one of the better days for the bettors.”
The only underdogs to win outright Sunday were the Giants and Bills.
“We got waxed pretty good and it was a rough Week 17, but we had it coming,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “It wasn’t the end of the world.”
Win or lose in this postseason, it’s probably not the end for Brady. But this could be the last run for Colts quarterback Philip Rivers. The playoffs kick off Saturday with Indianapolis as a 7-point underdog at Buffalo, the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Rivers is opposing Bills quarterback Josh Allen, a young gun who lost his only playoff start last year.
In the second game, Seattle is a 4.5-point home favorite over the Rams, who are uncertain if quarterback Jared Goff can play with a thumb injury.
The Buccaneers, seeded No. 5 in the NFC, and Ravens, seeded No. 5 in the AFC, are the only road favorites in the wild-card round.
“The bettors believed in Brady from the beginning,” Avello said. “The Bucs have been playing a lot better and scoring a lot of points. The Ravens are playing really well right now.”
Baltimore is laying 3.5 points at Tennessee on Sunday in a rematch of a playoff game the Titans won 28-12 as road underdogs last year. Derrick Henry, who rushed for 195 yards in the playoff upset at Baltimore, finished this season as the league rushing champion with 2,027 yards. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is winless in two playoff starts.
Brees and the Saints, the No. 2 seed in the NFC, are 10-point favorites over the Bears, who overcame a six-game midseason losing streak to finish 8-8.
“It’s absolutely insane that the Bears get in the playoffs,” Avello said.
In Sunday’s finale, the Steelers are 4-point home favorites against the Browns. Roethlisberger needs an impressive showing to avoid hitting the end of the road.