THE east coast of America may be gripped in a cold snap but it'll be Super Bowl LIII that grips the nation tomorrow as the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots go head-to-head.
I'm delighted to have drafted NFL expert @TouchdownTips to bring us a superb breakdown of the game, culminating in his preferred bets for the showcase match. Over to the man himself…
Hi, I'm Adam Walford, I have been running my own blog (www.tdtips.com) specialising in NFL tips for nearly 3 years now and recorded profit in all 3 years. I'm a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals and love talking and writing about the NFL.
You can find me @touchdowntips on twitter if you've got any questions about the NFL, both betting and in general.
Superbowl 53 – LA Rams (+2.5) v NE Patriots – Total: 56.5
It seems like just yesterday that all NFL fans were full of optimism for the chances of their team for the upcoming season, as a Bengals fan I was clutching my 80/1 Superbowl ticket despite them never winning playoff games, but the dream was over all too quickly as it was for most of the league.
And what a day it is for bettors of all shapes and sizes, you can bet on virtually anything you want at the Superbowl, starting with the coin toss and duration of National Anthem, and culminating in who/what the MVP will thank first (if it's Brady it'll be team mates). There's over 500 markets available at some books. It's really quite a thing to try and get your head around!
So how did we end up with this matchup in the big game?
The Rams started the season on fire reeling off 8 wins in a row before losing on the road to the Saints, a game which gave the Saints homefield throughout the playoffs, an advantage that many thought would prove essential and it probably should have done.
They dispatched the Cowboys with relative ease in the divisional game to set up their game in New Orleans, a game which caused considerable controversy for the way it regular time ended. The game tied at 20-20 with just over two minutes left, the Saints inexplicably throw the ball instead of running it and making the Rams use their time outs.
Eventually leading to a 3rd and 10 thrown out right to Tommylee Lewis who was smashed prior to the ball arriving by Robey-Coleman, one of the most blatant DPI calls of the season which the officials decided to let go, leading to a field goal for the Saints.
The game ended in a tie, the Saints had the chance to win it as they had the ball in overtime, but pressure on Brees caused an interception and a 57 yard FG for Greg “the leg” Zuerlin sealed the win for the Rams.
As always the Patriots did what they do, start slowly, figure out their defense as they go, walk through their division and start playing properly come January time.
They destroyed the Chargers at Foxborough in a game that many had a lot more competitive that it turned out, then went on the road to the upstart Chiefs and gave them a lesson for most of the game as well, 14-0 at half time, league MVP-in-waiting Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs on a comeback to take the game to overtime, but Brady and the Pats strolled down the field to settle the game on the first possession of OT to get them somewhat inevitably (in hindsight) to another Superbowl appearance, their 3rd in a row, and the 9th for the Brady/Belichick combination.
It should be a brilliant game and one that I'm finding very difficult to figure out, they're very evenly matched, from the special teams, all the way up to the coaching, which is something that you can rarely say when Bill Belichick is involved in a match. So I'm going to try and break it down a little differently to how I usually would.
Sean McVay is the hot young thing in the league, and at 33 is looking to become the youngest head coach to win a Superbowl. He's employed some excellent coaching to bring his team this far.
Most of their plays are from the same package making it difficult for the opposition to figure out what's going on, there's just a multitude of variations involved on each play and his team generally execute it very well.
Bill Belichick is twice the age of his counter-part and doesn't really need much introduction. He's the best there's been, he generally plans to take away what the opposition does best and go on from there.
That's just the head coaching, the co-ordinators on both teams do a remarkable job with what they've got and get the most out of the players they have available.
The Patriots win this one, but it's closer than it usually is when they play.
Not a tough one here, Jared Goff becomes the quickest 1st overall pick to make the Superbowl in his third season with the team.
I'm still not entirely convinced by him although the way he overcame a slow start and communication issues last time out was very impressive.
On the other side you have the GOAT, he doesn't have the arm strength of the younger guys, and it may be a lot of short passes to wide open players, but it's the little things.
The way he changes plays at the line of scrimmage, the slight movements in the pocket to avoid pressure, the overall accuracy and decision making which makes Brady still one of the best in the league at the age of 41.
Patriots win this as well.
Both teams have become increasingly run-orientated in the playoffs, the Rams have averaged 175 yards per game on the ground, and the Patriots are up at 166. It's safe to say it's probably going to be an important area of the game.
Todd Gurley has become an enigma since getting injured quite late in the regular season, he sat out the whole last month of the season to rest his knee, but was hugely under-utilised against the Saints.
In fairness he had 2 drops early on, one which resulted in a turnover, so it probably shouldn't be that surprising that he was largely used for blocking while CJ Anderson, a man who was literally on his couch in December after leaving the Carolina Panthers, got the bulk of the carries.
He probably deserves it for the performances he's put in and it leaves the Rams with a very good 1-2 punch. McVay has said during the week that he needs to use Gurley more so I believe we'll see him a lot in the passing game this week.
Sony Michel has been the main man for the Patriots with 5 TDs in the 2 playoff games as well as topping 100 yards in each of the games, he's been aided by James Develin who acts as his battering ram on most runs, and in the first game the blocking of Rob Gronkowski who it turns out is rather good as that facet of the game.
When things aren't working with him they turn to James White who comes alive in January football, he's had 19 receptions and 146 yards catching out of the backfield and if they Rams formidable interior managed to stuff the middle of the field I can see that number rising this weekend. You can also mix in Rex Burkhead who's an in-betweener, good in the run game and through the air, he adds a slightly different element to their game.
This is a tough call which depends on Todd Gurley and how they use him, he was the best RB in the league for 12 weeks, with him it's arugably even, the way he's been in recent weeks; I've got to go for the Patriots again.
Wide Receiver & Tight End
The Rams have stuggled to adapt since losing Cooper Kupp halfway through the season, he was Goffs favourite target and they just haven't been the same without him, it was his loss, I believe, that led them to becoming more run heavy.
However they still generally use the same 3 receiver sets with Brandin Cooks (the speedy one), Robert Woods (the reliable slot one) and Josh Reynolds (the inbetweener) and it's still worked pretty well.
I think it's Cooks who Belichick will scheme to take away this week as they did with Tyreek Hill in their game against the Chiefs.
So I'm not too bullish on him having a huge game despite the talent he has and in fairness even 2 catches for him could turn into 100 yards and 2 Tds, he's an explosive player.
Woods will likely finish on 7 catches for 75 yards, mostly in the middle of the field although if they double team Cooks he could find himself being covered by Stephon Gilmore who is the best cornerback the Patriots have, and all of this leaves Josh Reynolds probably having the best matchup of the game for the Rams.
They have two adequate tight ends in Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee who are both capable when needed but not oft utilised, the had the same amount of targets last week, Everett did the most with them taking advantage of gaps in coverage in the middle of the field. The Patriots don't have quite as many options.
Julian Edelman should become the 2nd all time in post-season receiving yards behind only Jerry Rice at some point in the game, and much like James White is another who comes alive when needed for his team, he's had nearly 250 yards in the 2 playoff games so far and is THE key player in the passing game playing out of the slot for the Patriots, he should avoid the 2 best cornerbacks for the Rams in Talib and Peters as well.
Other than him it's a big drop down to Chris Hogan and Philip Dorsett who would be completely irrelevant players in most teams in the league.
I actually like Hogan, although he's not had the best of seasons he was targeted on the game-winning drive against the Chiefs and Brady does trust him, just not quite as much as Edelman and White.
Dorsett is priced fairly well for an anytime TD and pops up with a score on the odd occasion. Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end of his generation, there's no denying that but injuries have taken their toll on him and I think this may well be the game he bows out. He always steps up in Superbowls though and is a physical freak so despite losing a step or two he's still incredibly difficult to stop when he's targeted.
The Rams win this one for me, but again it's a close call.
The Rams boast the best defensive (and some would say best overall) player in the league in Aaron Donald, the reigning and soon to be 2-time winner of the DPOY has been a beast this year with 20.5 sacks despite going up against double teams in most of his matches as he will probably face in this contest.
That has allowed Ndamukong Suh to get pressure up the middle on opposing QBs, something that he's done increasingly well during the playoffs.
Dante Fowler and Michael Brockers have both benefit from the elite talent alongside them as well, and Fowler could be a standout player in this game now that he's settled in the Rams system, he had QB hits in his regular season game vs the Patriots while at Jacksonville.
The Patriots defense doesn't boast the same talent as the Rams but they're more than the sum of their parts.
Trey Flowers isn't a genuine pass rusher but usually manages to get pressure on opposing Qbs, Dont'a Hightower is a very good linebacker and Stephon Gilmore has stepped up to become one of the better corners in the league but they're not household names like the Rams.
I think this is another lean to the Rams, they have the talent and the coaching to be a slightly better unit than the Patriots.
This game has probably the two best kickers in the league.
Greg Zuerlin nailed a 57 yarder last week that would have been good from 70 if he needed, and Stephen Gostkowski is incredibly reliable and accurate for the Patriots too. The Rams also boast a top 3 punter in Jonny Hekker.
I lean to the Rams on this one too.
Frankly, even breaking it down into units doesn't help me too much in coming to a decision on who will win this game! It's fine margins all around, and personally I won't be backing either team on the spread or the total but I think I've got to side with the experience of the Patriots in what should be an incredibly entertaining game all round.
I would expect the total to go over as both teams are capable of putting up at least 30 points each.
If the Patriots win then I'd expect Tom Brady to be named MVP as he has been in 4 of his 5 Superbowl wins (the outlier was Deion Branch 14 years ago) – In fact if you think the Patriots will win you're probably better off backing Brady to win MVP than taking them on the spread or moneyline.
As I won't be targeting the main markets I will be looking to the many, many prop markets available, and I'll stick to some that are widely available.
- 1st TD scorer – Sony Michel 7/1 (Various)
- Josh Reynolds over 47.5 receiving yards 5/6 (Bet365, 888Sport, Betfred)
- Tom Brady over 25.5 pass completions 4/5 (Bet365)
- James White o5.5 receptions 4/5 (Bet365)
- Todd Gurley o3.5 receptions 5/4 (Bet365)
I think that's about it, thanks for reading, I hope if you're up to watch it you were sensible enough to get the Monday off work, it should be one hell of a game!