There’s a severe misconception in sport. They say that getting to a final and losing is the worst fate you can embrace.
That might be true in some cases, but to get to Super Bowl weekend at all is to taste the nectar of the sporting Gods. So many players will spend their careers thinking about what it feels like to be part of the build-up, the hype and the associated fame.
Handicap betting (-7/5): Packers 10/11 | 49ers 10/11
Losing a conference title game is to be teased with a life-changing experience and have it ripped away, told you’re not good enough – and have everyone forget who you were in the first place. Green Bay and San Francisco are two of the big hitters historically. In a new age of the NFL, it’s nice to see the old school franchises making a comeback – and it’s even nicer than they won’t have to get over the psychological block of playing New England.
Matt LeFleur’s offence has revitalised Aaron Rodgers’ career.
Well, up to a point.
What was once a spectacle of improvisation is now a calculated, measured dissection of NFL defences – a formula that comes planned, rather than in-game gut.
Kyle Shanahan, on the other hand, is a marvel to behold and, in retrospect, the fact he got Atlanta to that Super Bowl at all is somewhat of a miracle.
He’s taken on his head coaching job and worked wonders for the Niners – and there’s next to no improvisation allowed, let alone encouraged.
This is going to be a game of schemes. Green Bay play a lot of Cover 2, while San Francisco under Robert Saleh are a strict, disciplined cover 3 team who roll into man coverage when personnel dictates it.
The only stumbling blocks for this Packers offence to date has been playing Cover 3 systems. The flailing Los Angeles Chargers are a prime example. They won just five games this year – and one of them was a blowout against the Pack.
With that in mind, I have some bets I really like here.
First Touchdown Scorer – Kendrick Bourne (13/1)
Bourne is a sub-standard player in this league, but San Francisco, on third down near the end zone, always design to get their lesser receivers open. George Kittle gets double covered, while the running back pulls a linebacker.
Emmanuel Sanders runs an underneath route to make safeties step up while Bourne will run some form of a deep dig route and catch the ball under the goal posts.
If this touchdown isn’t a massive run-after-catch to Kittle or a running back, it’ll come via a small-time playmaker. Bourne is that exact player.
Winning Margin: San Francisco 13-18 (5/1)
There’s a real chance this one gets away from the Packers early. Their previous meeting in the regular season ended with the Niners winning by 29 points.
Yes – 29. There won’t be that desire to put up those numbers again, as the Niners would likely run the clock out late in the fourth, so landing here seems a good place to be at a price.
Green Bay might have a great script to start the game, but LaFleur is a poor in-game adjustor. And his opponent? The best in the league.
San Francisco to Score Every Quarter – Yes (5/4)
This isn’t a common market, but it should be.
Teams that have elite special teams units are the key here, because they offer field position. By default, you start at the 25.
But with a good return unit, you end up on halfway. You’re 15 yards from a score.
Then you factor in an elite offence in both the pass and run games and well – it just seems more likely than not – and at odds-against, I had to throw it in.
*All odds correct at time of publicationHandicap betting (-7/5): Packers 10/11 | 49ers 10/11