Prophet Margin: Patriots defense helps out ‘over’ bettors

The gambling world is different from the real world. Even if there are major issues with your team, they can be used to your advantage at the gambling window.

Case in point: the Patriots defense. Or lack thereof.

Last week, the advice in this space was to take the over in yesterday’s clash between the Patriots and Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium. The total opened at 471⁄2 and finished at 491⁄2, and as I mentioned, “the safer play is to bet on points until the (Pats) defense proves it can stymie an opponent.”

The defense didn’t stymie anything, except maybe the team’s hopes for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It was an ugly afternoon full of wide-open Panthers receivers, missed tackles, no pressure on Cam Newton and brutal penalties, none bigger than the illegal use of hands call on Stephon Gilmore and the defensive holding call on Patrick Chung on the final drive of Carolina’s 33-30 victory.

Even with Dont’a Hightower back in the lineup, the defense was a hot mess. The Panthers had been awful on offense in their first three games. Yesterday they looked like the Greatest Show on Turf.

The over was the correct call for the third time in four Patriots games this season. If you bet them to cover, you were extremely disappointed. They were favored by 9 points and never really threatened that mark, falling to 1-3 against the number.

So where do we go from here? The offense is its usual, efficient self. But the poor defense cancels out so many of the good things done by Tom Brady and his array of weapons.

Now they have a short week to prepare for a Thursday night matchup against the Buccaneers in Tampa. Quarterback Jameis Winston will look for 6-foot-5 receiver Mike Evans early and often, and the Bucs will get a boost from the return of running back Doug Martin, whose three-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs is finished.

The Patriots certainly will be favored, and they should win the game, especially when you consider the success Brady and coach Bill Belichick have had the week after a loss.

But with the defense struggling so badly, you just can’t trust it with your money. And you never should bet against a streak, which means the proper bet is to take the over and bank on another shootout like the past two weeks.

Let’s hope Brady actually gets the ball for a final drive to right all the defense’s wrongs.

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