Zylbert’s Super Bowl 53 Over/Under: Will This Game Stay On Script?
Robert Hanashiro, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh
Betting odds: New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams
- Over/Under: 56.5
- Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
- Channel: CBS
- Spread: Patriots -2.5
Regular Season: 9-8-2, Even
Postseason: 2-1, +0.7 units
Last Result: Patriots-Chiefs Over 55 (WIN)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit
Strap in, boys and girls, there’s a lot to uncork here when the Patriots and Rams meet in Atlanta for Super Bowl 53.
First, let’s get through the obvious. Tom Brady knows how to handle this kind of pressure. He is gunning for his sixth ring, while playing in the big game for the fourth time in the last five years.
Brady’s Super Bowl stats are the stuff of legend. He holds countless records and has compiled 2,576 yards across his eight Super Bowl starts (including a record 505 last year) — or 322 yards per game. He’s also amassed a brilliant 18-5 TD/INT ratio.
Brady has been consistent in these title affairs, and obviously, that’s something you have to weigh very heavily for this over/under wager, especially his usage.
“The GOAT” has averaged a whopping 44.6 pass attempts in his Super Bowl outings, including an absurd 160 throws totaled in the last three appearances.
But here’s the caveat that linesmakers aren’t factoring in as much as they should: The identity of this Brady-led bunch is considerably different from years’ past.
Sure, his main weapons, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan, have been here awhile. So, too, has James White, a frequent target out of the backfield. However, it’s the presence of the other feature back in this equation, rookie Sony Michel, that will have you shifting your thoughts to the under.
Led by the former Georgia Bulldog, the Patriots ground game garnered 31.1 rush attempts this season, a mark that ranked third in football and registered as the club’s most attempts since 2012. Michel was easily the biggest horse in this effort, even finishing 14th in the league with 209 totes despite missing three games.
New England has visibly continued this tendency into the postseason, carrying the rock 82 times in its two playoff games. That’s significant because it indicates Brady’s workload might be lesser compared to past Super Bowls, so if the Patriots keep it up, that can only be good for an under in terms of chewing through clock. And that’s invaluable for a total this high.
Meanwhile, guess which team finished one spot behind the Pats in rush attempts per game — that would be the Rams, clocking in with 29.6 carries on a weekly basis.
That’s not surprising considering Los Angeles boasts one of the best tailbacks around, Todd Gurley. Although the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year was barely involved in the NFC Championship triumph, I think head coach Sean McVay will make it a point of emphasis to feed him as much as possible, with this being the final game. Plus, Gurley should be fresher after another two weeks of rest from his lingering knee issue.
CJ Anderson has served admirably with his teammate limited, impressively racking up more than 120 yards in three of the last four games since he started receiving regular work. However, I simply don’t think that’s sustainable for a 27-year-old who is past his prime.
So, figure both running games will be considerably involved and that would work to dictate a pace that we’d gladly take for this under.
When the Rams are taking it to the air, that may not be so bad, either. Don’t get me wrong, Jared Goff had a fantastic 2018 but there’s also a good amount of evidence that suggests the 24-year-old won’t be at his best on Super Bowl Sunday.
One, Goff’s inexperience could work against him if history is any indication. The former No. 1 overall draft pick is the 10th quarterback in NFL history to be starting in a Super Bowl within the first three years of his career. In the 10 previous instances (Russell Wilson did it twice!) where this has occurred, here’s how those QBs fared collectively: 58.6% completion percentage, 197.2 yards per game, 10 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 79.2 passer rating.
Is that a fluky trend? Not when you bring in human psychology. Of course, the Super Bowl is the biggest game of the year in all of sports — not to mention the most-watched television event annually — so it’s reasonable to predict that a younger quarterback won’t be as sharp in the big game.
Something else to consider is how these historic offenses have performed when they made it all the way. The Rams are one of 27 teams ever to have scored more than 31 points per game in the Super Bowl Era. They’re also the 15th from that exclusive club to get to the big game, but you may be surprised at how the others fared.
In fact, those previous 14 teams that got to the Super Bowl wound up posting just 20 points on average — while going 4-10. Shockingly, all but four of them (!) scored no more than 17 points. I certainly don’t expect the Rams to fall short of that but any output close to the average would be very welcomed.
And for Goff, there are key situational splits that don’t work in his favor. As I highlighted in my AFC Championship Game article, the Patriots play more man coverage than anyone. It’s a style that can be very beneficial here, as Goff was less effective overall when squaring off with a defense that ranked in the top-12 in man-to-man usage, according to our own Ian Hartitz.
In fact, in his five games facing such defenses, Goff managed to string together only an 84.2 passer rating (53% passing, 259.2 yards per game, eight TDs and six interceptions).
His playoff splits aren’t flattering as well. It cannot be stressed enough that the playoffs (in any sport, for that matter) are a beast unlike anything else. Well, up to this point in three career postseason contests, Goff hasn’t shown much. Yes, he has gone 2-1, but while completing only 56.6% of his passes for 247.3 yards per game and a mere 6.6 yards per attempt. Only two touchdowns, too.
This New England D is also capable of neutralizing one of Goff’s main strengths: the screen pass. The Patriots yielded just 8.3 yards after catch on screen passes, the third-best mark in football. This is something the Rams actually led the league in as an offense.
Los Angeles can bring it on the other side of the ball, sporting some of the game’s finest defensive playmakers like Aaron Donald, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh. But the thing that appeals to me most about this unit is that it’s led by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has enjoyed recent success versus Brady.
Before coming to LA, Phillips spent two years on Denver’s coaching staff, where he faced Brady three times (including once in the postseason). The Broncos went 2-1 in those games, as the superstar signal-caller could only tally 58 points total on Phillips’ defense. In addition, Brady was held to just 50.8% passing in those meetings.
I’m sure at least some of this factored into the decision of lowering the total from its opening line. Hopefully you follow me on the app and thus saw me act when the line was 57.5 (bought 1.5 points to 59), but if you’re stuck with the current number, I still advise to buy the point and change for this bet.
It’s also worth noting that public bettors love to bet the over and there’s a chance this number creeps back up when people really start to bet this game. It’s a risk, but if you’re looking to bet the under it may be a good idea to wait and hope for a better number.
Play: UNDER 59 (-140)