Early Lines Lookahead: Super Bowl
This article is designed to get you thinking about the weekend betting lines. We’ll review the big game, check in with some relevant stats, and especially take note of any inefficiencies to help guide your wallet. Later this week, check back for injury updates that affect betting odds, best bets, and prop bets we like for the weekend. All lines are from Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas and are current at the time of publication.
From Atlanta, GA — New England Patriots vs. LA Rams: Total 57.5, Patriots -2.5
It’s the biggest game of the year, but we are approaching it amidst controversy of key missed call(s) in the Rams victory over New Orleans, debate on the NFL’s current overtime system, and infinite eye rolls and/or yawns over ANOTHERTom Brady/Bill Belichick Super Bowl appearance. I don’t know whether the first two points will have the staying power to be relevant on February 3, 2019, but the last one definitely will. Good news for Super Bowl party hosts that bought the super-size Patriots paper plates and napkins set a couple decades ago, I guess. What about bettors?
Historically, favorites are 35-17 straight up and 28-20-2 ATS in the Super Bowl. The games have tipped slightly toward the over, with a 27-24 record on the over/under. The 2018 Patriots are 11-7 ATS, including winning the last three, while going 7-11 on the over/under, including over in their last two. The 2018 LA Rams are 9-7-2 ATS, including winning the last four, while going 9-9 on the over/under this season.
New England has the longer and more complicated Super Bowl history, so let’s start there. Since the 2001 season, Brady and Belichick have made eight Super Bowl appearances. They have won five of those, including three appearances and two wins in the last four years. If they win this year, they will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers with an NFL-leading six Super Bowl victories.
The Patriots have a mixed history with bettors. Only six times in the history of the Super Bowl (52 games) has the favored team won and not covered the spread. Two of those are Brady/Belichick Patriots teams. In 2004 they beat Carolina and in 2005 they beat Philadelphia, but in back-to-back seasons failed to cover a 7-point spread. Overwhelmingly, except where New England is concerned, you’ve really just had to pick the Super Bowl winner to beat the sportsbooks.
In their eight appearances since 2001, New England has been favored six times, going 3-3 ATS. The one time they were an underdog was their first, a 2001 victory over the St. Louis Rams who were favored by 14 points. The final betting line for Super Bowl XLIX was a pick ‘em, and New England beat the Seattle Seahawks by four points.
It’s hard to bet against New England, especially with this line. A field goal clears it for them. The experience, the depth, the coaching, the protection Tom Brady has…it all matters more than ever next weekend. The way New England has used Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead is impossible to prepare for. This three-headed monster might be known as a fantasy nightmare, but it’s been extremely effective in combination with Julian Edelman’s sure hands and the big play threat of Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan or even Cordarrelle Patterson. The Patriots have averaged more points than anyone in the playoffs (39 PPG) with Brady throwing for an average of 345 YPG. They rank second in rushing yards per game, with 165 YPG. Sony Michel is by far the post-season rushing leader. The Pats’ defense has stepped up a little, averaging three sacks per game rather than the 1.8 they averaged in the regular season, but instead of the 20 PPG they allowed in the regular season, they gave up around 30 PPG in the two post-season games they’ve played. Granted, the opposition is far better than the AFC East they faced six times in 2018.
The Rams ranked second in PPG in the regular season, and were third in rushing yards per game on the strength of Todd Gurley’s legs and their offensive line. Jared Goff actually averaged about 25 more passing yards per game than Brady in the regular season, as well as three more passing touchdowns. The Rams’ regular season defense was, like New England’s, nothing to write home about. They were right around league average in sacks, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed and points allowed. In the post-season, the Rams have relied heavily on C.J. Anderson and Gurley. Goff has just one passing touchdown in his two games.
The combination of Anderson and Gurley may be throwing some defenses off, as it’s been a very effective one-two punch. Gurley has been the more efficient back, but in four of the last five games Anderson has been terrific. Every running back struggles vs. the Saints, and Gurley has blamed his low usage on his early drops. The dynamic run game, combined with Goff’s arm and talented receivers, is why this spread is so narrow and why the total is so high. I, for one, feel like Sean McVey has been holding back the playbook. The Rams appear to be doing just enough to advance. They’re not giving much away, there’s nothing flashy, but they feel capable of more. I expect a great Super Bowl LIII, but I’m not betting against the Patriots this year…unless the line continues to move toward New England.
Early bet: Patriots -2.5 and the under
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