Rams +3 (5u)
Rams +3 over Patriots
It goes without saying the Patriots are the most impressive dynasty in all of sports history playing in their third straight Super Bowl and ninth of all time. Brady and Belichick are the best quarterback / coach duo of all time and it is nothing short of incredible what this franchise has accomplished with these two at the helm.
That said, I have yet to hear sound reasoning for backing the Patriots in this game other than “I just cannot put my money going against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick”. I get it and it is certainly a very reasonable case to make. Betting against B&B over the years has been another “B&B” — a bankroll buster. Against all odds they find ways to make you pay when you bet against them and I was certainly guilty of this doubting them in the divisional and championship rounds when they destroyed the seemingly uprising Chargers before heading on the road and upsetting the top seeded Chiefs for the second time this season. They had the inferior overall team in both of those games but Belichick coached circles around the Chargers in the divisional round and then Brady did what he does leading two incredible drives for the ages against the Chiefs to win that game in overtime and get them to this game.
To dismiss the Patriots would be a mistake but if you are trying to make a case for New England personnel wise, it’s difficult to do. The case to be made for the Patriots is yes, they’ve been here before and they have the coach and have the quarterback. They have the experience edge as well as they have 38 players on their roster who have played in the Super Bowl compared to just four guys for the Rams. The Super Bowl is unlike any other NFL game with all of the bells and whistles that surround it. It’s a unique game with an extended half time and teams who have experience playing under these circumstances previously certainly have an edge over a team who is experiencing it for the first time. Those are very reasonable cases to make for New England but that’s the only case I can make for them.
Everyone looks at Brady and Belichick as Gods but they are human. Yes, they are the best at what they do but they are far from infallible in the Big Game. They have lost Super Bowls before and since their 3-0 start they have lost more Super Bowls than they have won. Despite all of their Super Bowl success they have only ever covered one time as a favorite and that was in a game they needed to rally from a 28-3 deficit and overtime to cover. The Pats didn’t win that game the Falcons lost it, the Pats were not the right side in that Super Bowl even though they cashed the ticket and any reasonable person would agree. Even though they have the allure of being this juggernaut Super Bowl team the fact remains they are one game over .500 in Super Bowls and are 2-5 ATS when favored and would be 1-6 ATS if the Seahawks had just given Marshawn Lynch the ball at the goal line. Recency bias is real and the last thing on everyone’s mind is Brady orchestrating two amazing drives to force the game to OT then the masterpiece in overtime to beat the Chiefs. Even though that was one of the most amazing things we will ever witness on a football field let’s not forget the Pats were badly outplayed in the Super Bowl two years ago, rallied back and won and were badly outplayed last year and got crushed. My point is, yes Brady and Belichick have the intangibles and that cannot be overlooked but that reason alone is just not a good reason to blindly back the Pats in this football game today.
Personal wise the Rams are the far superior team in this matchup. Yes, the Chargers and Chiefs were also the “superior” teams as well but Belichick was able to put together schemes which made that irrelevant. That will not be the case today as Belichick for the first time this postseason will not have the tremendous coaching advantage over his opposition. McVay is a genius in his own right and he will be able to go toe to toe with Belichick — the Pats will not win this game on the grounds of Belichick outsmarting the other coach like they did against the Chargers and Chiefs.
Offensively, the Patriots have some matchups they should be able to take advantage of on this side of the ball. The Rams defense has struggled against two things all year: defending the run on the edge and stopping pass catching running backs out of the backfield. Alvin Kamara had a huge game as a receiver out of the backfield in the NFC Championship and I can see James White hauling in double digit receptions in this one. The Rams were terrible against interior runs for a large part of the regular season but they really clamped down in that regard in the playoffs. During the regular season they allowed 4.8 yards per carry inside the tackles (3rd worst in the NFL) but in the playoffs they’ve given up only 3.0 yards per carry on interior carries which was lower than any team allowed during the regular season. Yes, it is a small sample size but Donald and Suh have really improved at squeezing the holes at the line of scrimmage in the playoffs and that will be key against the Pats who have really turned to a run first offense in the playoffs. In the playoffs against the Cowboys and Saints who were top 5 in rushing in the regular season the Rams have allowed just 49 yards per game at a minuscule 2.3 yards per carry. I really don’t see Michel having much success against this front which is going to force Brady to make plays with his arm. Obviously he is fully capable of doing just that but Brady is at his best when he is attacking a zone defense. This is why the Pats would always destroy the Steelers in the playoffs and Brady threw all over the Chargers zone defense in the divisional round. But the Rams don’t play a zone. The Rams play man to man press coverage which is going to disrupt Brady’s preferred quick passing attack.
After the Charger’s game Joey Bosa said he was getting off the line in two seconds but Brady was throwing the ball out in one second. If the receivers are getting pressed at the line they won’t have the clean release to get open quickly on the short passing routes which is going to force Brady to hold onto the ball longer than he would like. The man to man press coverage leaves you susceptible to the deep pass on double moves but no one in New England’s receiving corps can get open reliably other than Julian Edelman and they no longer have a deep threat with Gordon no longer on the team so this should be a very effective strategy at disrupting the Pats devastating quick passing attack. Brady’s kryptonite is getting pressure without the defense blitzing and that was the Giants key to beating them in both of their Super Bowls, being able to generate a pass rush without blitzing. The Rams interior is the best in the business and Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh should be able to generate plenty of pressure on Brady up the middle — they were the #1 defense in getting sacks from the interior during the regular season. Quarterbacks, especially immobile ones like Brady absolutely hate interior pressure, and we all know what happens to Brady when he starts getting hit. If Donald and Suh can rack up multiple sacks and force Brady into some hurried throws this game could get out of hand in a hurry.
That said, the Pats always have good offensive game plans and I have no doubt Brady will be able to engineer drives to get points, their offense won’t be the problem in this game. Their defense is the major concern I have with them. They have a defensive line which struggles to get pressure on the opposing quarterback and will be facing the best offensive line they have seen all year in the Rams front. Their defense did improve as the season went on and they were good at “bending not breaking” but the fact remains this is a defense which is susceptible to giving up up lots of big plays and points in a hurry as we saw two weeks ago when the Chiefs scored 31 points in second half alone. Their major flaw is stopping the run when the opposing offense aligns in 11 personnel which is with one running back, one tight end and three receivers. This season the Pats against 11 personnel allowed 6.8 yards per carry which was the worst in the NFL. 11 personnel is the alignment which the Rams run over 90% of their runs out of so I see them having a ton of success offensively this game. In the Super Bowl last year the Eagles ran the ball down the Pats throat and many of those runs were also out of the 11 personnel where they averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Obviously the big X factor in this game who no one knows the true status of is Todd Gurley. He looked fine to me in the few carries he had against the Cowboys and going into that game the practice reports said he looked as good in practice that week as he did all season. Strangely he didn’t get many carries against the Saints but he dropped two passes out of the backfield and after that Anderson got the majority of the reps. If Gurley is healthy and effective there is no doubt in my mind the Rams are going to be able to win this game pretty easily. The Pats major weakness defensively is stopping running backs out of the backfield and we have seen running backs much less talented than Gurley terrorize them in the passing game. Even in the AFC Championship Damian Williams repeatedly torched them for big gainers through the air. I look for Gurley to have a big impact in the passing game and if he is healthy which I imagine he will be with two weeks to recover from whatever was keeping him limited he should have plenty of success running the football as well. The Rams have an extremely balanced offense and when the running game is working, the play action works and they are almost impossible to stop. With the offense moving the chains the defense will get plenty of time to rest. We all know Belichick’s schtick is to take away your right hand and force you to beat him with your left, but that is going to be hard to do against the Rams who have so many different ways to beat you. Even if he focusing on neutralizing Cooks which is what I see him doing the Rams still have plenty of other offensive talent to beat you with and McVay the offensive genius is going to have lots of great schemes. My only worry in this game is Jared Goff making the start in the biggest game of his life but I actually think he will rise to the occasion. I wasn’t a huge Goff fan but he really impressed me last game in the comeback against the Saints in an extremely hostile environment where he was able to calmly engineer a big comeback. Everyone seems to forget that the Rams were the best team in the NFL for the majority of the season with the most potent offense, but they will be reminded of it today. I see the Rams scoring in the 30’s or beyond in this game and it will be up to the Pats to keep up.
To close, I love the Rams in this game and think the wrong team is favored. In the beginning of the year I took two futures, one on the Saints and one on the Rams. I am not surprised at all to see the Rams in this game and am very confident they win this game outright, I will not be hedging my future in fact I am doubling down. We won’t get into what transpired at the NFC Championship game to get the Rams here, the bottom line is they are here and they are deserving. The only reason that the Pats are now favored is because the the market moved it — it doesn’t mean the Pats should be favored. Everyone saw the Patriots in the late game, they were up 14-0, they had the more dominating impressive performance where they got up early and held on while the Rams had to rally from a deficit after looking bad early. It was very telling that Vegas opened this line at Rams -1, this is what I had the line at and Vegas opened it at Rams -1 knowing full well they would get flooded with Patriots money and they were very comfortable with that. This game reminds me a lot of the Panthers-Broncos Super Bowl from the 2015 NFL season. The Broncos had the far better roster outside of quarterback but everyone assumed that the Panthers were going to demolish the Broncos. The public heavily backed the favored Panthers. Does any of this sound familiar?
The Rams were my #1 rated team for the majority of the year and I have this game as Rams -1, so getting the 3 points (buy the hook if you have to) is a ton of value. Everyone is chomping at the bit to bet on Brady and the Pats, the same Brady who is 41 years old and threw 3 picks last week. The same Pats who at no point last year in the Super Bowl were ever the right side, who’s defense couldn’t get stops and didn’t get stops and Philly was the better team from the get go. They trailed wire to wire and were never in position to win the game. The Rams have the better offense, the better defense, and I really think the coaching is wash. This game is being played in doors, on turf, on a fast track. This favors the younger team with speed. Not the Patriots. Rams can get pressure on Brady without blitzing in the interior which has always been his kryptonite. Maybe Brady orchestrates another epic game winning drive for the ages and makes me look foolish for the third time this playoffs but I can’t see it. I find it far more likely this game is already decided in the fourth quarter. Anything can happen over 60 minutes but the value side is 100% the Rams in this game. Rams 34, Pats 27
Super Bowl 52 Prop Bets
Gronk Over 4 Receptions +110 (1u)
Will Todd Gurley Score a TD, Yes -130 (1u)
Rams TT 27.5 -110 (2u)
No Score in the first 5.5 Minutes -110 (1u)
Pats over 5.5 Third Down Conversions -150 (1u)
Shortest TD Under 1.5 Yards -160 (1u)
Over 2.5 Players With A Pass Attempt -120 (1u)
More Points Scored In Second Half Than First Half -150 (1u)
First Player To Score TD – Chris Hogan +1800 (.25u)
MVP Jared Goff +200 (.5u)
MVP Todd Gurley +800 (.5u)