Another Super Bowl and another chance for the bandwagon fans and neutrals either to cheer for or against Tom Brady. This will be his eighth Super Bowl start, three appearances more than any other QB in NFL history. It’s unlikely we will see anything like him again in the near future, and no matter how much you hate the Patriots and all their glory, it’s tough not to respect a man who is 60 minutes of football away from his sixth Super Bowl ring.
By contrast to the inevitability of the Patriots representing the AFC in the big clash, the NFC has given us much more variety, with the Seahawks being the only team from that conference who have appeared in the Super Bowl more than once since 2008. The Pats have been the favourite for Super Bowl LII from the moment James White scored that OT winner in Houston last February.
The Eagles, however, were as big as 40/1 in preseason to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy and as short as 5/1 in Week 14 – before Carson Wentz tore his ACL and their price ballooned out to 16/1. They have not been given too much respect in the betting markets since that fateful injury and were the first #1 seed in NFL History to be an underdog in the divisional round. This was something that did certainly not sit well with Lane Johnson and he let the world know when they toppled the Falcons at the start of January.
— Lane Johnson (@Lanejohnson65) January 14, 2018
As for the game itself, there is plenty of intrigue in this matchup. Foles’ QB play since slotting in as the signal-caller has had far too much variance and, in general, people’s opinions are coloured overly by his last game and not his entire body of work. Sure, he had a 141.4 QB Passer Rating against the stingy Vikings defence two weeks ago, but Xavier Rhodes and Andrew Sendejo were not on the field for a lot of that second half. It was a similar story with the Falcons game: 75+% completion rate and no picks.
But dig a little deeper and, as mentioned in our Conference Championships previews, he didn’t have one ball caught 10 yards downfield.
Consequently, I expect the Eagles to have a run-heavy game-plan with a dash of run-pass options (RPO’s) to keep the Pats linebacking unit honest. Despite the Pats’ poor run defence, they excel in drafting unique strategies week-to-week in order to limit their opponent’s strengths.
It’s hard to see Jay Ajayi or any other RB winning this game for the Eagles: their success relies solely on Foles moving the chains on 3rd-and-medium and finding the endzone. It’ll be a monumental effort from the Philly defence to hold Brady & Co. to ten or fewer points (even if they have not conceded more than 10 points in a game since December 17). This defensive prowess had allowed the Eagles offence to keep a very balanced game-plan for all four quarters (almost 50-50 run/pass). It’ll be interesting to see how Foles performs in the Pats go 2 scores in front early on.
As for the Patriots offence, they may completely abandon the run. This is something Belichick has done in the past – he trusts Brady’s arm to go for the entire game. When they faced the Titans in the divisional round (8th-best run D), Brady had 53 pass attempts and the Pats were never really chasing the game after rolling up 35 straight points when they went 7-0 down.
It’s even tougher sledding for Lewis, White and Burkhead between the tackles on Sunday as the Eagles have the #1 rated run defence. I expect Lewis and White to be in the backfield at the same time, plenty of short passes and screen routes to slow down the Eagles heavy pass rush. Additionally, Robinson at slot CB for the Eagles is going to have his work cut out for him as he will line up against Mr. January, Danny Amendola, who has recorded 18 catches for 196 yards and two TD’s in New England’s two playoff games.
This is the first matchup in a long time where the Eagles don’t hold a considerable coaching advantage and in showing no real flair I expect the Patriots to cover the -4.5 handicap. There has been Eagles money flowing in all week and I believe it’s best to be patient and wait until close to kickoff to get the best possible price on New England.
As with every Super Bowl, there are approximately a million prop bets on the PP site and, using the angles discussed above, here are a couple on which we think there may be an edge:
- First Half Under 23.5 Pts
- Tom Brady Over 26.5 Pass Completions
- Dion Lewis Under 51.5 Rush Yards
- James White Over 3.5 Receptions
- First Scoring Play – Pats Field Goal 10/3
Add in a couple of pennies on Stephen Gostkowski MVP @ 200/1. He probably has to go 5/5 or better kicking field goals but the Eagles Redzone Defence has been stifling over the last two months and will probably employ a ‘bend but don’t break’ philosophy to stop New England. No harm that this Super Bowl is indoors also!
Finally, here are some notes on what the punters have found amongst our prop offerings:
- We opened the touchdown scorer markets for the Super Bowl 30 minutes after the Conference championships game and it took no less than five minutes before one punter backed James White 3+ TD’s at 125/1, presumably hoping that he can replicate his Super Bowl LI performance.
- For the first time since the rule change, opening kickoff not to be a touchback is favoured at 4/5…
- Have we finally found the perfect National Anthem line? As of now – we have an identical number of bets on Over and Under 123.5 seconds.
- 20 punters are getting behind the Eagles to win to nil at 400/1
- Everyone loves the Gatorade colour market, and Orange at 6/1 has received seven times as many bets as any other selection in the book.