Where to Watch: ESPN, 7 Mate, or NFL Game Pass, Monday 10:30 am
Another exciting NFL season will draw to a close in Atlanta this Monday as the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams do battle for the Lombardi Trophy. Both of these sides were the #2 seed in their respective conferences, winning the Championship game on the road to reach this point. Tom Brady will be battling for his 6th Super Bowl ring, whilst most of the Rams players are making their first Super Bowl appearance. In our biggest individual match preview of the season, we’ll comprehensively analyse both sides and provide our 7 best bets on the match.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams offence has been their calling card all season long. They scored an impressive 527 points on the season, an average of over 32 per game. Despite missing some time recently, RB Todd Gurley was their standout player all year. He went for over 1800 yards and 21 touchdowns despite missing 2 full games. Jared Goff also had a career year from the QB position, throwing for over 4600 yards and 32 touchdowns. In Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, the Rams also have one of the league’s premier receiving duos.
Last week, the Rams offence did just enough to emerge victorious. Jared Goff had one of his better performances in recent weeks, throwing for 297 yards and a touchdown. His lone turnover was the result of an unfortunate drop. Receiver Brandin Cooks put in a phenomenal performance against his former side, going for 7 catches and 107 yards. Despite an excellent performance in the divisional round, both C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley were kept quiet, going for a combined 54 yards on 20 carries.
Despite the immense amount of talent the Rams have on defence, they were a mixed bag for most of this season. Part of this is due to playing in a lot of shootouts given the amount of points the offence puts up. Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald was the defensive MVP this season, registering an impressive 20.5 sacks from the interior. Linebacker Cory Littleton also impressed, putting up 125 tackles, 4 sacks, and 3 interceptions on the season.
After going 14-0 down early last week, the Rams defence did a phenomenal job containing an explosive Saints offence. They held Drew Brees to a mere 6.1 yards per attempt and forced him into a horiffic interception in Overtime. The Saints usually dynamic rushing attack was also shut down, managing just 48 yards all afternoon. Cornerback Aqib Talib put in a fantastic performance, limiting Michael Thomas to just 36 yards receiving. With offensive line being a question mark for the Patriots, LA will need Donald and Ndamukong Suh to win the battle upfront.
New England Patriots
Offensively, the Pats have been a solid yet unspectacular unit throughout the 2018 season. Tom Brady had another formidable campaign, throwing for 4300 yards and 29 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions. The rushing attack also enjoyed strong levels of success, going over 2000 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year. Julian Edelman remains a consistent clutch performer, leading the team with 850 receiving yards this season. After Josh Gordon’s release, the main weakness in this offence is the lack of a consistent downfield threat.
Last week, you could argue that the Pats delivered their best offensive display of the year. Tom Brady was in control from start to finish, throwing for 346 yards and a touchdown. Edelman and Gronkowski were doing the bulk of the work, combining for 16 catches and 175 yards. Dual-threat RB James White also deserves some credit, going for 72 combined yards. The rushing attack was also particularly dominant, going for 176 yards and 4 touchdowns on the evening.
Defensively, the Patriots secondary has been a standout unit all season. CB Stephon Gilmore was recognised for his excellent season with an All-Pro appearance. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon also make for an excellent trio of Safeties. Up front, Kyle Van Noy registered an impressive 92 tackles and 3.5 sacks, whilst DE Trey Flowers led the side with 7.5 sacks on the year. Against a dynamic Rams offence, they’ll definitely need to be at their best here.
Despite conceding 31 points last week, the Pats defence did one of the better jobs of shutting down his strong Kansas City offence. They held Kansas City scoreless throughout the 1st half, allowing them to control the game from start to finish. The rushing attack was completely limited, as the Chiefs managed just 41 yards on the ground all afternoon. The pass rush was also in full force, managing 4 crucial sacks on Patrick Mahomes that resulted in 46 lost yards and missed field goal opportunities.
Whilst the Patriots have been getting a lot of love so far, I’m going to go against the public and take the underdog Rams here. Despite consecutive excellent performances, the Rams defence is a significant step up on what the Patriots have played of late. In Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers, the Rams have a trio of excellent defensive linemen that can really disrupt the Pats offence.
On the other side of the ball, I think the Rams rushing attack can really get going against this Pats defence. Especially if Todd Gurley can get back to form, he and C.J Anderson form one of the league’s premier rushing duos. This will open up the deep ball for Jared Goff and his myriad of solid receivers. I love this play at +3, but 2.5 is still solid enough.
Despite how well these offences have played of late, I can’t help but feel as though this total is somewhat overvalued. Especially in recent weeks, both of these sides have shown a willingness to control the clock in the run game. I expect more of the same in this one, which should result in less possessions and total points.
Lost in the performances of these solid offences has also been the improved display from both defences. The Rams did an excellent job against the Saints from the second quarter onward and are particularly adept in pass defence. Similarly, the Pats shut down the Chiefs for a full half last week and are firing on all cylinders right now. Particularly at the key number of 57, I like the under here.
1st Quarter Under 10.5 Points
Only once in the Patriots 8 Super Bowl appearances has the total gone over this number. That was last year against Philadelphia with a total of 12 points. In high-scoring affairs against Seattle and Atlanta in recent years, both games ended the first quarter with 0 total points. This can largely be attributable to nerves, especially in the case of the Rams with minimal Super Bowl experience. Through the key number of 10, I like this under here.
Brandin Cooks Under 72.5 Receiving Yards
This is a play primarily based on the excellent coaching of Bill Belichick. He got to watch Cooks all last year as a member of the Patriots and knows his game inside and out. Former Patriots DC Matt Patricia held Cooks under this total as the Lions coach earlier this season. Especially if All-Pro CB Stephon Gilmore spends the game guarding him, I don’t expect a big day for Cooks in this one.
James White Over 5.5 Receptions
Having become one of the league’s premier backfield receivers, I expect another big Super Bowl from James White. He has gone over this number 8 times this season but has been a key fixture in the bigger games. As a case in point, he had 10 catches against the Colts, 8 against the Bears, 7 against the Vikings, and 15 against the Chargers. Having had success in the Super Bowl previously, expect White to be a key component of the Belichick game plan.
2 Point Conversion Attempt: Yes at $2.50
Both of these coaches are on the more ambitious side of things and could definitely opt for a 2-point conversion in this one. With 11% of touchdowns resulting in 2-point conversion attempts, the odds for an attempt in this matchup should actually be around even. At $2.50, I think there is immense value in this prop. You aren’t rewarded in the Super Bowl without taking at least some risks, so don’t be surprised if we see a 2-point conversion or two.
Super Bowl MVP: Jared Goff $2.75
Tying in with my Rams to win and cover bet, I have to back Jared Goff for MVP at $2.75. He has put in consecutive calm and composed performances to guide the Rams to this point. The Patriots defence is solid yet unspectacular and can be attacked in the offense friendly Atlanta dome. As in most cases, as long as the QB has a solid performance, he is almost a lock for MVP. I can easily see a scenario where Goff throws for 250+ yards and 2 touchdowns en route to a Rams win, almost always resulting in the MVP award.
Score Prediction: Los Angeles Rams 27-24 New England Patriots