Here we go, come Sunday two teams will have punched their tickets to Super Bowl 53. We have two matchups with all chalk as the top two seeds in each conference will square off for the rights to represent their league in Atlanta. Given the scoring rate in the NFL this season and the fact that the Final Four consist of the top 4 scoring offenses in the NFL, it should not be a surprise to see that these two over/under lines combine to be higher than any previous year has seen. As always, we are here to prepare you for all of your weekend action.
Super Bowl LIII
Another Super Bowl, another Patriots appearance. For the 3rd straight year and 9th time in 17 years, Tom Brady and Bill Belichik are back on the game's biggest stage. This time around, the Pats will face off against an upstart Los Angeles Rams club that went through much of the regular season being touted as the best team in the NFL. Who will walk away with the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday?
New England has been flat out scary in two games this postseason. They have averaged 511 yards of incredibly balanced offense, averaging 41 rushing attempts for 166 yards and 45 pass attempts for 346 yards. While last week was an expected shootout against the Chiefs exploitable defense, the divisional round win against the Chargers was an exhibition in dominance. As the Patriots proved last week after averaging only 3.7 YPC on 48 rushing attempts, they can be effective pounding the rock to create balance even if they are not picking up huge chunk yardage regularly. The key here is still to keep the defense honest which opens up passing lanes for the GOAT.
Defensively, New England was a "bend but don't break" type of unit this season finishing 21st in the NFL in yards allowed per game but 7th in points allowed per game. The defense has been especially effective in the first halves this postseason, allowing 7 combined points before halftime to the Chargers and Chiefs top tier offensive units. If the Patriots can continue that trend and get out ahead early, then this will likely be championship number 6 for Brady and Belichik as New England is 13-1 this season when tied or leading at halftime.
The Rams story has been an interesting one, as they were off to an 11-1 start (and 8-0 out of the gate) averaging 35 points per game before losing to the Bears and Eagles on back-to-back weeks on primetime. Despite closing out the season with two more wins and a 13-3 record, it seemed that the two losses in front of national audiences curbed the Rams' media hype train heading into the playoffs. Similar to the Patriots' playoff route, Los Angeles enjoyed a comfortable divisional round win over the Cowboys (not nearly as close as the 30-22 score would indicate) followed by a thrilling OT win in the conference championship.
Despite Saints fans (and others) everywhere outraged at the infamous no call in the waning minutes of regulation, good luck aside the Rams are still the team that Plan Z's A-Team projected as having the highest probability among all playoff teams to win the Super Bowl. It almost seems like this club is being overlooked due to how strong New England has looked recently, but it would be a mistake to assume that Sean McVay's club will shrink on this stage.
On offense, the question is can Todd Gurley get involved early and often? He was virtually invisible with 5 touches including a goal line TD carry and 2 drops while CJ Anderson carried the load with 17 touches, although the snap count difference was far smaller (37-32 in favor of Anderson). Moving the ball on the ground will be crucial, as the Rams passing attack behind Jared Goff has fallen off of the map down the stretch. The Rams averaged 310 passing yards per game through week 11, but only 227 in the 7 games since then including the playoffs. They have balanced that out by averaging 151 yards rushing in those games, which means expect a heavy dose of the Gurley-Anderson combo. But the key to victory for the Rams will be their defense. Despite being middle of the pack in rush defense during the regular season, the LA's defensive front owned the Cowboys' and Saints' rushing attacks to the tune of only 50 and 48 yards, respectively, at 2.3 YPC. The Pats want to run, but this will be tough sledding the way that the Rams D is playing.
Another week, another successful weekend of NFL picks last week going 3-1 on ATS and O/U picks. That puts us at 13-7 over the playoffs, with two bets left. We will possibly add some prop bet projections for those of you interested in that type of thing over the weekend. But enough patting our own motherboards, let's look at the Super Bowl picks. We kicked off the playoffs putting the Rams chances at winning the Super Bowl at 22.5%, highest among all teams, and the simulations are not backing off of that angle. In 10,000 Super Bowl simulations, we have Sean McVay hoisting the Lombardi Trophy almost 62% of the time with an average margin of victory at 3 points. We have the Rams picking up over 5.0 YPC and 300 yards passing to carry the offense. Needless to say, we will take the free points in picking the Rams to cover, while also predicting the under to come through in a game that should be right around 53-54 total points.
The Architect's Pick
It is too late to back off of my horse. I have thought that the Rams presented the best value of all playoff teams from the outset compared to where Vegas has their implied odds, and we see the same thing unfolding on Super Bowl wagers with the line pushing up to the Rams getting 2.5 (even 3.0 in some books). The Patriots are playing great, and they are who we think they are, so I would be lying if I said that I was not scared of the GOAT making me look like a fool here, but I still like the Rams to contain the Pats running attack just enough to make Tom Brady beat them... which he can absolutely do, but I like this one to hit the over with the Rams doing enough on offense to take down the crown 34-31.
Action Rob's Pick
The ultimate face-off of the #2 seeds from AFC and NFC, Super Bowl LIII is chock-full of story lines I love. Can youth and wunderkind coach trump wisdom and experience? Opening as the -1 point favorite, the Rams now find themselves as +2.5 point dogs against the most dominant team of the last two decades in the Patriots. Uncertainty and news revolving around NFL rushing TD leader Todd Gurley and kicker Greg Zuerlein have me worried that the Rams won’t be able to get it done. Tom Brady feels disrespected and the Patriots are playing super-dangerous. I expect this to be a close and exciting Super Bowl. I jumped on the total at first release to go under 58.5. It has now dropped to 56.5 and I see value on the over. Give me the Patriots fueled by angry Tom and mastermind Belichick winning this game outright 30-28. Rams cover the +2.5 in a loss with 58 total points scored to go over the current 56.5.