Super Bowl LII: Shut up and bet on the Patriots

Thursday, February 1, 2018 10:05 PM

Sexy hot New England Patriots fanAren’t we all overcompensating a little here? If so, we can blame it on those damn New England Patriots.

Sure, prior to the millennium we’d seen Super Bowl upsets before, though hardly of the mind-blowing sort we’d get courtesy of Brady’s bunch: The 6½-point underdog New York Giants surprised *those* Buffalo Bills, winning an awesome Super Bowl XXV straight-up, 20-19.

John Elway and the Denver Broncos finally winning their first Super Bowl by taking XXXIII despite going in as 11-point underdogs. The 1998 game may have represented something of a wakeup call but those watching (and betting) the NFL’s biggest draw but was nothing to how the Patriots (sigh) changed the dominant paradigm in Super Bowl betting in XXXVI. That was of course the game in which (cough, cough, Spygate, cough, splutter, hack) Belichick’s boys bet a 14-point spread and the daunted Greatest Show on Turf SU, 20-17.

And just six years later, shoe on other foot, the machine-like, undefeated, 12½-point favored Patriots were rather easily handled by the again-plucky New York Giants, 17-14. (Incidentally, the Giants’ subsequent win over the Patriots in XLVI gives the Giants three Super Bowl upset wins as a franchise – a record that will stand for some time yet.)

So now, NFL bettors are gun shy. The sportsbook took one look at the results of the Belichick/Brady ventures into the Super Bowl (3, 3, 3, -3, -4, 4, 6 in OT) and set the point spread of this game at 5½ to 6. Bettors believing in another FG-slim Patriots victory stomped that down to 4 by Friday before (on game day, it’s back up to 4½), and just imagine if we’d been told two months ago that Nick Foles would be gaining 1½ points from bettors in the leadup to a Super Bowl against the Patriots.

That’s what NFLbets means by overthinking. Every pundit and dude-with-online-voice wants to be praised for cleverness by predicting the Eagles upset. Hell, this yahoo over at CBS Sports online picked Philly to win by 11.

But we’re thinking the would-be Nostradami out there aren’t actually gambling – unless by “gambling” we mean “gambling that no one will remember my idiot pick on Monday, o thank you, 21st-century attention spans.” Guys like this are playing the prediction game for clicks, not money. You are, we assume, playing for money.

So take the Patriots straight up and/or to cover the point spread. Sure, that advice sounds weird coming from NFLbets, who took the Eagles to cover a +3 halftime pointspread, but we’re putting much emphasis on the Patriots’ second-half adjustments; 100 of the 169 (or 59.2%) points scored by Belichick and Brady’s Patriots have come in the second half. What else have we got?

•  The Patriots can stop the run. The stats say that the Patriots were 30th “best” against the run in 2017 – and this despite six games against AFC East opponents. Yet Belichick’s ability to remove the opposition’s biggest weapon is taken for granted. Combine this trend with the two-week lead time and certainly the Patriots will be prepped to stuff Jay Ajayi to have Foles throwing long by the end of quarter one.

•  Brady doesn’t *need* to see a pass rush, does he? We all know how masterful Brady is against the blitz, particularly since it’s become a part of officially-sponsored NFL dogma. We also know that the Eagles’ top-10 pass defense is predicated not so much on blitzing but on applying steady pressure at the line.

And…? Just because Brady is capable of ridiculous stats against the blitz – as such packages simply leave too many WRs uncovered and too much Gronk in single coverage – doesn’t mean he can’t throw without it for the gods’ sake! Sure, say Tom throws for a 138.3 QB rating against blitz packages; that means he’s still good for 100.0+ in all other situations. NFLbets says this Eagles defense is, like that o-so-daunting Jacksonville Jaguars D of two weeks ago, just another front for Josh McDaniels’s schemes.

•  The Patriots offensive line is brilliant again: no. 1 in pass protection, no. 3 in allowing stuffing of the run, etc. As long as this quintet doesn’t pull a 2007 on us, Brady will be picking his spots and the running game could well produce its first Super Bowl touchdown since the days of Laurence Maroney.

•  Rob Gronkowski. We all seemingly accept the fact that this dude is unstoppable, with many believing he could well be the greatest tight end ever to play the game. In the process of overcompensating for previous Super Bowl upsets, the prevailing mindset presumes that the Eagles’ll simply double-cover Gronk on obvious passing downs, case closed.

This supposedly unstoppable defense plus the concussion suffered in the Jaguars game ostensibly makes Gronkowski a non-factor, if anything a reminder that the Patriots are so great that they don’t even need the GOAT TE to score.

But wait, there’s more: Gronkowski avoided injury throughout the regular season and again topped 1,000 yards receiving. His 15.7 YAC average was the NFL’s 12th best (just 0.1 behind Tyreek Hill) and his 8 receiving TDs were topped by only seven others. These are stats that indicate the dominance of a guy overcoming constant double-teams and continual hits at the knees.

Further, consider the greater narrative for Gronk. At 28, he’s taken three season-ending injuries and the concussion. Certain aspects of his behavior, i.e. the utterly senseless after-the-play hit on the Buffalo Bills’ Tre’Davious White, are un-Patriotesque under the Belichick Regime and the man’s eccentricities are clearly accepted due only to his benefit to the team.

And look at how Gronk’s been used in 2017-18: Namely, sparingly. When needed to take over a game, Gronk gets his switch flipped by the playcaller. Review the Bills game of week 13, the game at Pittsburgh in week 15, the first half of the wild-card game against the Titans … you can see where this is going.

Visualize Belichick and McDaniels dusting off those pages of the playbook they’ve mothballed for a couple seasons, waiting to throw a wrinkle at a side who foolishly believes a force of nature can be tamed. Imagine Belichick, knowing in the back of his mind that Gronk’s days with the Patriots are dwindling and that he’ll make a perfect sell-high candidate this offseason. Can you say “full exploitation of a resource”? Hell, if Gronk catches his first two targets for double-digit yardage, he might lead this game in receptions.

And as the confetti’s falling, you’ll be wanting to take the NO on your given sportsbook’s “Will Rob Gronkowski be with the New England Patriots in 2018?” prop bet.

– written by Os Davis