Sunday's Super Bowl looks tricky to call but Jimmy McGinty looks at the specials markets and really likes Sony Michel in a number of markets.
LA Rams v New England Patriots
This is a really tough game to call. The best 4 sides made the Championship Finals and both LA and New England were able to go on the road and get a result in New Orleans and Kansas City respectively. Arguably both were fortunate but here they are, and they are very good sides who are incredibly hard to split. The NFC may have been the stronger, certainly deeper, division this season. Of these two the Rams had by far the more difficult schedule so perhaps they are a little underrated. But if the Patriots are the weaker side they more than make up for it with experience on the big stage. The Patriots also win some of the key matchups on both sides of the ball. Brady will be able to get the ball out quickly to neutralise the threat of sack leader Aaron Donald. James White will thrive as a receiver out of the backfield just like Kamara did against LA two weeks ago. The Pats strong running game will have regular success and the Pats cornerbacks should have a good hold on the Rams receivers. The Patriots as marginal favourites looks right to me. So how are we going to make money on this game…
The Running Game
The Pats have run the ball a lot this season especially in their recent playoff games. It keeps Brady safe and obviously allows the Pats to keep the ball controlling the clock – ideal against electric offenses like Chargers, Chiefs and now Rams. Being slightly more specific - the Pats have run up the middle a lot in the playoffs and this is something they should do again on Sunday. One way to nullify Aaron Donald is to run at him. Dominant in the pass-rush he’s nothing special against the run. Overall the Rams run defense ranked 28th during the regular season – they are not good and can’t afford to fully sell out to stop it or they’ll get beat by Brady, Gronk & Edelman. When the Patriots have faced weak running defences Sony Michel has averaged 24 carries for 104yds. The Rams fit this description and the game-plan suits so I’d expect Michel to reach 80+ yards.
The Pats run defense like to set the edge and force teams to run inside. This suits them as they lack a little pace. It also goes more into CJ Anderson than Todd Gurley territory. I’m not convinced that Gurley was injured against the Saints. I think Anderson, with the fresher legs, out played him and would expect both to be involved plenty here. Anderson had 123yds against the Cowboys despite Gurley playing well. He had 44yds against the Saints top ranked run defense. He can go over 50 yards.
4pts Most rushing yards – Sony Michel 5/4 Betway
1pt Sony Michel over 78.5 rushing yds 10/11 Paddy Power
0.5pt Sony Michel Super Bowl MVP 20/1 Betfair SB
2pt CJ Anderson over 46.5yds rushing yds
The Close Game
I already mentioned that I feel this is too tough to call and I think the 2.5pt point spread is fairly bang-on. Patriots have started slow in some of their recent Super Bowls as they feel out the opposition which, if repeated, will help the Rams get a foothold and then stay in the game. Another trend which if continued will help the Rams keep pace - the Pats redzone defense has been poor. Once Goff doesn’t have a mistake riddled game and Gurley/Anderson have their usual success I expect the Rams to score, even if the drives are long and slow. The Patriots put pressure on Mahomes to slow down the Chiefs but the Rams have a stellar offensive line – Goff should be fine. Good QBs, good coaches – these teams will turn up. It’ll be close.
2pt Winning Margin Patriots 1-6pts 7/2 Bet365
1.5pt Winning Margin Rams 1-6pts 15/4 Bet365
0.5pt Game to go to Overtime 9/1 – William Hill
The Passing Game
Gronk hasn’t had a productive season by his own high standards but that’s partially due to injury and being used sparingly. But when games have been close and in key games like the AFC Championship he has been busy. 11 targets against the Chiefs and averaging over 80yds in the close games the Pats have played suggests Brady will go back to his old favourite when he needs him. Having the week off before the Super Bowl will also be a big help as Gronk has struggled to stay healthy this season. And this is potentially his swansong with talks of retirement. Brady won’t have the time and comfort to wait for Hogan to get free and if Edelman sees some of Talib it’ll make Gronk the best target.
The Patriots cornerbacks are very good and will matchup well against Cooks, Reynolds and Woods. The corners and the receivers do tend to rotate a lot with Woods and McCourtny the duo likely to be lined up in the slot most often. Brandin Cooks is the one who the Patriots will be eager to shut down. Gilmore is quick and can rotate all over the field so he’ll probably get that job. All this should open a few lanes for the Rams tight-ends to make plays. McVay is traditionally an aggressive coach and he might be tempted into trying an early deep shot to an unlikely target especially if see the Pats deploy shallow safeties to avoid and deter play action which the Rams like to play and thrive with. Everett & Higbee combined for 6 catches, 75yds & a TD against the Saints. Their stats are quite similar both averaging 20yds per game this season – happy to back both to have a good game.
Despite backing all the tight-ends to go over their receiving totals, and expecting a run heavy game, I’m still going to back Julian Edelman to be the top receiver. He has been for the last five Patriots games. In the AFC Championship game, he looked to be playing at an immense level. Lining up in the slot he’ll avoid Aqib Talib most of the time. He’ll match up against Robey Coleman who hasn’t been great this season. Using Edelman regularly also ties into the Brady getting the ball out quickly to avoid getting pummelled by Donald. He’ll get open, he’ll be targeted, and I don’t think anyone else will go wild.
1pt J Edelman most receiving yards – 3/1 William Hill
1pt Gronkowski over 55.yds receiving yards (backing his receptions overs also appeals)
1pt Higbee over 20.5 receiving yards
1pt Everett over 22.5 receiving yards
0.5pt Everett anytime TD – 9/2 William Hill