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For The Win: Super Bowl LII

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here I am again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season I will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but I will try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. I tend to rate games that I like (and some extras like Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight my best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars I don't truly like one way or the other, but will select to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season. 

Here I am again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season I will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but I will try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. I tend to rate games that I like (and some extras like Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight my best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars I don't truly like one way or the other, but will select to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season.

So close to a perfect week – just one point kept me from nailing every pick.  The Eagles scoring 38 points was unexpected for me, and that pushed the NFC Championship total points to 45 – or just one point more than a win on the Under teaser of 44.5 points.  Oh well.  I got one of two games right and the Super Bowl matchup I expected, and went 10.4-5 for the week including 3-2 in Picks of the Week and the “For the Win” on the Eagles.  Not bad on a tough two-game slate.  Now we move on to Super Bowl LII, a rematch of 13 years ago between the Eagles and the Patriots.  Could this be the year for Philadelphia?  We shall see on Sunday.  For now, here is my breakdown of the big game along with some Super Bowl proposition bets that I also like.  Here we go:

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.

 

SUPER BOWL LII

(Sunday, 6;25PM Eastern, NBC)  PHILADELPHIA (+4-4.5) vs. NEW ENGLAND (Over/Under 48-48.5)

Everything points to this Super Bowl being a great matchup. Two number one seeds are squaring off, which has happened quite often in recent history:

  • This is a matchup of the two #1 seeds, which is starting to become a thing again. The 1993 Bills/Cowboys was the last matchup of #1 seeds in the Super Bowl for a long time, until the 2009 Colts/Saints game. From ’94 to ’12, that was the only matchup of #1 seeds in the Super Bowl, but since then, it happened in 2013 (Seahawks over Broncos), 2014 (Patriots over Seahawks), 2015 (Broncos over Panthers) and now 2017.

I could go into the details and matchups between the Patriots and the Eagles, but at its core both teams are very solid, but not quite dominant.  Tom Brady is the top quarterback for sure in both experience and overall likelihood to perform well in the big game, but Nick Foles just had a fantastic performance against the Vikings.  As I said last week, defense wins championships, and the Eagles’ defense held the Vikings to a meager seven points last week and scored a Pick-6 touchdown themselves to turn the game in Philadelphia’s favor on the way to a blowout 38-7 victory. 

Both teams are going to try and do similar things – establish the run game (or at least yardage via their running backs), get their star tight ends plenty of receptions, and look to play stellar defense.  I give the edge in the first category to the Eagles, who have been at or near the top of the rushing defensive rankings all season.  A valid argument can be made that Philadelphia’s defense has risen to the occasion after Carson Wentz went down and carried the team to the Super Bowl – but then again, you have to give the Eagles respect for scoring 31 offensive points against a good Minnesota defense.  New England has also been strong on defense, but they did just give up 20 points to a Jacksonville offense that has been average at best this season. 

So it comes down to a few key things for me in making a call for this contest.  The two best players in this game are Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, but Philadelphia looks way more like a better team from top to bottom.  Both sides know that Zach Ertz and Rob Gronkowski are going to be featured and that the run games for both sides will be given plenty of chances on offense to move the ball both between the tackles and also outside on screens or runs around the end to move the chains and the clock.  Establishing the run game will be key to keep the other offense on the sideline, and both teams are capable of accomplishing their goals.  The tiebreakers for me are (1) the Philadelphia defense looks stronger and more opportunistic than New England and (2) the Eagles are getting a 4.5-point head start.  Both teams are clearly good enough to win this contest, and I would tend to say that if they both played each other 10 times, Philadelphia would win 4-5 of those contests.  A 45% likelihood to win for an underdog team that has embraced that role in the postseason is more than enough reason for me to side with the Eagles.  Philadelphia not only plays well as an underdog but they have embraced that role this playoff season.  Rocky Balboa would be proud.  Eagles 24, Patriots 20.  PICK:  Eagles    

BEST BETS

Once again this year I will give not only the "Best Bets" but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 "Star" scale. The more stars, the more I like that side of the game.

*ONE STAR*

  • 6-POINT TEASER:  PHILADELPHIA (+10.5) vs. NEW ENGLAND (Over 42)
  • 6-POINT TEASER:  PHILADELPHIA (+10.5) vs. NEW ENGLAND (Under 54.5)

**TWO STARS**

  • PHILADELPHIA (+4.5) vs. NEW ENGLAND  
  • PHILADELPHIA “FOR THE WIN” (+165) vs. NEW ENGLAND

***THREE STARS***

  • None this week.

PROP BETS

Specialty bets on certain propositions (commonly called “prop” bets) are very popular for the big game.  There are literally thousands of them out there, and you can shop around to get the best odds on anything from MVP to the coin toss to the length of the anthem all the way to the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach.  Sites such as Oddsshark and Bovada have several of them, but if you Google “Super Bowl prop bets” you will find all you can possibly want.

Here are some of my favorites this year, based on Westgate Las Vegas Superbook:

Note – all props are one star unless otherwise noted.

Kicking Category:

If there is one category where I made a name for myself this year on the Footballguys’ Power Grid, it would have to be my coverage of the kicking game.  Believe it or not, it is not as random as you think.  Because of this, I think the following prop bets are strong options for Super Bowl LII:

Will the first kickoff by Jake Elliott (PHI) result in a touchback?  (No = +220) (TWO STARS)

Elliott had 84 kickoffs this season, and 42 of them – exactly 50% - went for a touchback.  With “No touchback” getting more than 2-1 odds, I will take that one all day long.

Will the first kickoff by Stephen Gostkowksi (NE) result in a touchback?  (No = +120)  

Gostkowksi had an even lower touchback rate than Jake Elliott.  Only 40 of his 99 kickoffs (40%) went for touchbacks.  

Shortest made Field Goal of game (Under 26.5 yards = -110)

Considering how often both teams go for it on fourth down and how critical touchdowns will be, I do not expect the Eagles or Patriots to settle for a field goal inside the 10-yard line.

Will Tom Brady throw an interception?  (Yes = +115)

Based on our projections, Brady has an 80% chance of at least one interception, and Philadelphia has been good at forcing turnovers this year. 

Total interceptions, both teams: (Over 1.5 +120)

I think there will be plenty of passing in this game, and with 60+ attempts likely combined, at least two picks sounds about right to me.

Will there be overtime?  (Yes = +600)

It happened last year for the first time ever in the Super Bowl, and overtime is always a fun option. 

Will there be a safety in the game?  Yes (+600)

Two of the past six years have had a safety, and Bill Belichick has been known to take one on purpose now and then.  Strange things can and do happen in Super Bowls.

Will LeGarrette Blount score a touchdown?  (Yes = +190)  

Last touchdown scorer:  LeGarrette Blount (+1200)

Blount would love nothing more than to stick it to his former team (again).  Blount closing the game with a rushing touchdown would be a fitting end to his season – and possibly his career.

Total receptions by Zach Ertz?  (Over 5, -110)

Total receiving yards by Zach Ertz?  (Over 58.5, -110)

Will Zach Ertz score a touchdown?  (Yes = +170)

Zach Ertz is a favorite target of Nick Foles, and Ertz would love to outshine Rob Gronkowski.  I expect a big game for him come Sunday.

Also, for fun on Sunday, here are some other prop bets that are a bit more entertaining.

Lastly, print this out and hand it out to your Super Bowl party guests.  There’s even an answer key available once the game is over.

Enjoy Super Bowl Sunday, and I’ll see you in the fall!

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 1-1 (50%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 10.4-5 (67.5%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 3-2 (60%)

Playoffs

  • OVERALL: 4-6 (40%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 32.4-48 (40.3%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 8-9 (47.1%)

Regular Season

  • OVERALL: 127-124-5 (50.6%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 172.65-213-3 (44.8%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 58-60-1 (49.2%)

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.

Follow @JeffPasquino