SUPER BOWL LIII: New England Patriots -2.5 vs Los Angeles Ram
After 20 straight weeks of football and 266 games, the Super Bowl is finally here. We have had 11 days to absorb the craziness of the two overtime Conference Championship games. We all watched the games, so we all know what happened in each - no need to rehash each game. But I will take a quick review of the top storylines coming out of the Championship Games and leading into SB LIII.
The referees cost the Saints a spot in the Super Bowl with one of the worst non-calls in NFL history. Yes, this obviously was a missed call and the NFL has actually fined the Rams player for a helmet-to-helmet hit even though it wasn’t called. However, what the hell are the Saints doing passing here. The Saints had a first down at the Rams 13 with 1:58 to go. First down pass - incomplete. Second down run - no gain. Third down pass - incomplete (and the aforementioned missed PI call). Fourth down field goal - 1:41 to go, Saints 23-20. If they run the ball 3 times here, they still get the field goal and they give the ball back to the Rams with 15 or so seconds left. Instead, they left 1:41 and allowed the Rams to march right down the field for the game tying field goal. The call didn’t help, but it was the play calling that lost the game for the Saints.
ESPN tried very hard to start some controversy by reporting that 4 of the on-field officials in the Rams/Saints game had ties to Southern California insinuating that may have factored into the no-call. Good try ESPN, any one with ties to Southern California still thinks the Rams play in St. Louis.
Tom Brady got the ball to start OT and never gave it back - scoring a game winning TD on the first drive of OT. The surest bet in football was that the Pats would win the OT coin toss. They did and they scored, something the Saints could not do.
The Patriots have been trying to play themselves off as the underdog and that nobody believes in them. This is the Pats 9th Super Bowl appearance since 2002 and they have been in 4 of the last 5. Nobody is surprised.
The Pro Bowl happened last Sunday. Two key takeaways - Saquon Barkley is really good at dodgeball and given all the best players in the NFC - Jason Garrett’s play calling could only get 7 points on the board
ESPN has rolled out former QB Dan Orlovsky as it newest football analyst. Orlovsky has been on every ESPN show and podcast since the Champion Games. He’s not bad, but how can you take anything he says seriously after watching his most famous NFL highlight.
Moving on to the actual game. Vegas opened this game at Los Angeles -1 and over/under at 59. Immediately, both numbers were hit hard and the game moved line moved to New England -2 and over/under of 54. These are huge moves and they have since stabilized at New England -2.5 and 56.5 (as of Thursday 10 am ET). Bettors are all over the Patriots with 78% of bets and 77% of the money coming in on Patriots. I think this is a major overreaction. Yes, Tom Brady and the Pats are playing in their 9th Super Bowl since 2002 but don’t let that cloud your judgement. (Interesting note: the NFL Network has been on the air since 2003. The Patriots will have played in 8 of the 16 Super Bowls the NFL Network has covered since its inception).
2019 LIII Los Angeles Rams New England Patriots
2018 LII Philadelphia Eagles 41 New England Patriots 33
2017 LI New England Patriots 34 Atlanta Falcons 28
2015 XLIX New England Patriots 28 Seattle Seahawks 24
2012 XLVI New York Giants 21 New England Patriots 17
2008 XLII New York Giants 17 New England Patriots 14
2005 XXXIX New England 24 Philadelphia 21
2004 XXXVIII New England 32 Carolina 29
2002 XXXVI New England 20 St Louis 17
A couple of take-aways from this list":
1) New England is 5-3 in these 8 games (really should be 4-4 if not for Falcons epic collapse in 2017)
2) Every one of these games was a one score game - 4 of the wins were by 3 points or less
3) The New York Giants own Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl
So what will this year bring? Definitely a close game, we can be sure of that. Although each team finished 2nd in its respective conference and earned a first round playoff bye, they took very different paths to the get to this game.
NFC Division Championship - Cowboys @ Rams - Jason Garrett is still somehow the coach of the Cowboys so this game was never in question.
NFC Conference Championship - Rams @ Saints - Aside from the late missed call, the Rams were the better team in this game. The Rams overcame the super loud atmosphere of the Super Dome. Their ability to stay calm and not collapse under the pressure showed and they pulled out a victory (yes, aided by the missed call) by tying the game with a late FG, getting a key turnover in OT and hitting a clutch 57 yard FG for the win
AFC Division Championship - Chargers @ Pats - This was the second week in a row that the Chargers had to fly east for a 1 pm Sunday playoff game, the only west coast playoff team to have to do this. In a very cold Gillette stadium, Patriots jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Chargers and Philip Rivers self-destructed in the cold and pressure
AFC Conference Championship - Pats @ Chiefs - Super cold conditions in Arrowhead, Pats playing against the worst defense in the league. Chiefs defensive coordinator played a modified prevent defense all game keeping the safeties very deep. This protected against the deep ball which Brady can no longer accurately throw. If this was 2007 Tom Brady and Randy Moss was on the field, right defense. For 2019 Tom Brady and this Pats receiving core, wrong defense. The Chiefs DC was fired after the game for good reason
The Patriots are just as lucky to be in the game as the Rams are and they know. That is why they are trying to play the “Nobody Believes in Us Card”. It’s not going to work. The Rams, led by likely Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, have a much better defense than the Chiefs. Brady was not touched by the Chiefs last week and the clean pocket allowed him to pick apart the defense (Chiefs managed no sacks and 1 QB hit, Chargers managed no sacks and 2 QB hits). Donald and the Rams front will put a lot of pressure on Brady and will likely get some early hits on those old bones. In the Pats 3 Super Bowl loses - 2018 to the Eagles (1 sack, 9 QB hits), 2011 to the Giants (2 sacks, 8 QB hits) and 2007 to the Giants (5 sacks, 9 QB hits) - Brady took a beating. The Rams D line is good enough to get to Brady on Sunday and that will change the game.
With the Super Bowl’s corporate ambiance in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Jared Goff and the Rams offense will not have to deal with an over abundance of crowd noise. This should greatly benefit the play calling ability of Sean McVay. Todd Gurley has had a full two weeks to rest and get healthy (3 weeks if you count he’s no show in New Orleans). I expect Gurley to have a huge game. If you’re looking for props, bet any Gurley prop over as well as his MVP odds. The Patriots defense will not be able to stop him.
This should prove to be a very exciting game and it will likely be close. But in the end, the youth and hunger of the Rams will win out over the experience of the Patriots.
Rams +2.5 and +125 on money line