We all expected the Patriots to be Super Bowl favourites a fortnight ago, right?
Though they opened as 1.5 point underdogs, the Pats have switched spots with the Rams in punters’ affections thanks to their January jumpstart. Throughout the regular season, it looked like the only thing keeping the Pats in Super Bowl contention was the curse placed on the three other teams in their division since Bill Belichick arrived in Foxboro.
They won all their home games this season, but were 3-5 on their travels and lost to some very bad teams – the Lions, the Dolphins? Please.
But, like New Year’s resolutions, doubts about the five-time champs have disappeared by late January.
At least according to the betting markets. But are they right?
Here are our three best bets for the Super Bowl.
Really, what the swing on the handicap confirms is that a very close game should be on the cards. The Pats were deserved underdogs going to Kansas City in the conference finals, and their impressive upset of Pat Mahomes catapulted them in front of LA, but the NFC title they ground out in New Orleans was as unexpected.
Both teams will want to run the ball a lot here. Todd Gurley should be fired up and ready to roll all over New England’s defensive front. He was a bystander in New Orleans, but has had two weeks to deal with whatever was ailing him, and CJ Anderson offers plenty of support too. The Patriots have a more useful backs than the Pharoah’s pyramid construction company – and have made good use of them in both playoff games so far.
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Belichick has seen his team dominate time of possession thanks to the constellation of Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead, while Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman have found their playoff toughness to make big plays when needed and keep the clock ticking.
All of which means this should be a nip-and-tuck battle between two sides scrapping for every inch. I’d look at the Tri-bet 2 option of Either Team by 3 or Less at 11/4 if you want a bigger price – I think the game will be that tight – but either side by seven should be nailed on at 5/6.
A likely predominance of the rush should bring down expectations for a shootout too. The Rams’ rollicking Mexico City rendezvous with the Chiefs back in Week 11 feels like a lifetime ago right now. They split 105 points and looked to be lining up for a similarly explosive rematch in the Super Bowl, and the Rams have still managed to average over 30 points per game through the regular season, but this is the Super Bowl, and the Patriots aren’t going to ship points.
Plus, however radical Sean McVay might be, he managing the game situation will kick in at some point. He’s shown previously that the image of the carefree young play-caller isn’t quite accurate – he just makes calculated risks – and he’ll be happy to win this game any way he can. Jared Goff still doesn’t convince entirely either at quarterback, and I’ll be impressed if he handles the nerves and the ball without issue on Sunday.
They’ve gone to eight Super Bowls, won five, and the first three of those were all won by a field goal margin. Only the Eagles loss last year had a margin greater than a touchdown of all the Brady-Belichick Super Bowls.
If this game goes as expected, there’s every chance the 41-year-old five-time champ is forcing his team to line up and to spike the ball in the Rams half for a Stephen Gostkowski kick to win ring number six.
It’s the nightmare ending of every true Patriots hater, and a very plausible scenario, so if you’re looking for insurance against the dreadful vision of Bill Belichick creasing his face into an almost-smile, you have to take the Patriots to win it on a kick at 7/2.
- Tri-bet: Either team by 7 or less – 5/6
- Total Points: Under 56.5 – 20/23
- Last Scoring Play: New England Patriots Field Goal – 7/2
*All odds correct at time of posting