The culmination of 266 games between 32 teams is here, and the two remaining teams give us a rematch of Superbowl 39, a game which the Patriots won 24-21, with of course Brady and Belichick leading them to that victory back in 2004. It was the 3rd win for them in 4 years a feat which they look to emulate this week in Minneapolis.
This matchup provides the top seeds of each division, both teams finishing with a 13-3 record in the regular season. It will be the 13th time the top seeds have faced each other in the title game since seeding was introduced in 1975.
Thanks to Gordon Currie for the Superbowl poster on this post @ScottishHawks12 on twitter, great work!
By all right the Eagles shouldn’t have made it this far, they got to the record they had during the regular season largely because of a potential MVP campaign from Carson Wentz in his second year in the league. He took a huge step forward this season and his athleticism was a huge asset for the team for much of the season. Realistically the ACL injury that put him out for the season and probably most of the off-season should have ended their season. BUT they have stepped up in his absence with both lines proving they were indeed Superbowl calibre.
I have quoted to the yards available when I wrote this (26/1/18) as the lowest available as most of us generally choose to go over. If you check oddschecker you may be able to find different lines if you want to go under on any of them.
Even Nick Foles (currently set at 240.5 passing yards) finally proved his worth in the Championship game last week. His story is a weird one! He’s thrown 7 TDs in a game, he’s had a 13 game season of 27:2 TD:INT so he’s obviously got the abilities and his stats from last week were, frankly, ridiculous though, 26 from 33 attempts gave a 78.8% completion rate, and a pass rating of a near perfect 141.4 his downfield passing was hugely improved over the game against the Falcons and playing in the dome in Minnesota should help him greatly. Those ratings were, in fact better than Wentz put up in any single game this season. He threw for 3 TDs in that game, a 53 yarder, a 41 yarder and then finished with a 5 yard pass for Alshon Jefferys second. I wouldn’t normally concentrate so much on one previous match but the way the game unfolded was significant and in particular the downfield passing of Foles is worthy of note, especially as that game was against one of the best secondaries in the league. Also with the lack of much else to judge Foles from I guess the most recent makes the most sense. He wasn’t great before that game though, the game against the Falcons was pretty awful but we can attribute at least a little of that to the weather, it was cold and windy. It will be neither of those things in the the dome this week. So which Foles do we think will turn up? I doubt he will reach the heights of last week, but he should be better than his season up to that point. I think he’ll be serviceable, the Pats won’t be an easy out for him though, the Pats will have seen that film and they won’t make it easy for players to get free downfield as they did last week. They should be able to protect him though, the Pats don’t have the best pass rush and the Eagles offensive line is one of the best in the league.
The best running back they have is LONDON BORN Jay Ajayi (65.5 rush yards – 9/4 TD) and 16.5 attempts on PP, a line that I think he’ll be under, Britain’s very own… He was born over here you know… In London… He’s BRITISH and playing AMERICAN football! IF he gets the carries he could probably win the game for them, but he shares the backfield with Legarrette Blount and Corey Clement, and they occasionally even mix in Kenjon Barner as well, it’s a bit of a mess back there. He has had the bulk of the carries for the team in the play-offs though and they signed him pretty much exclusively for this post-season run so it seems to me like they’ll run him around 15 times this week. He has averaged a very nice 5.8 yards per carry and has a long of over 10 in each game since joining the Eagles and usually won’t go down from the first tackle, he usually pops up with a few catches as well so he does have a pretty decent involvement in the games. Blount (25.5 rush yards – 13/5 TD) has scored rushing TDs in both of their post-season matches, equalling what he had in all 16 regular season games before that (He did have a receiving TD in the first game of the season). He’s been used in goal line situations in both games which is frustrating if you’re on Ajayi for anything, but it’s what he does, and he does it well, he will be wanting to show the Patriots what they missed out by jettisoning him after last years Superbowl. Corey Clement (13.5 rush yards – 5/1 TD) has been used a lot as a third down back, the new Darren Sproles, he’s a tough one to judge and in fact came up a half yard short on probably my most confident bet from last week, finishing with 28 combined yards. I definitely wouldn’t take 13.5 rush yards, but around 30 combined yards will probably be the line once they get that one sorted out. He’s usually one I’d look for as an anytime scorer as well, 5/1 is probably a little short for me to risk too. Others – Kenjon Barner – 20/1
The passing game is a tough one for me to figure out as well, I can’t work out whether he prefers the tight end Zach Ertz, WRs Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor or even Torrey Smith. My first thought would be that Ertz (54.5 rec. yards – 7/4 TD) is his favoured target, he caught 8 of 8 for 93 yards last week and has had a very good season, scoring 8 times, although a lot of his production was with Wentz with just 1 has come from playing with Foles, again with such a small sample size it’s tough, but last weeks receptions, 8 for Ertz, 5 for Jeffery, 5 for Torrey Smith, 3 for Agholor, 3 for Ajayi. Looking a little further back into it (sorry for the numbers, but I’m struggling to get a feel for this team – These are the target numbers in the games the Foles started (excluding the Dallas game) – Ertz – 14,9,5,8. Jeffery – 10,2,5,5. Agholor – 9,7,4,3. So… After all this, I believe the Ertz will be the higher targeted player by Foles in this game, add to that the the Partiots probably have better corners than they do linebackers, and I think it would make sense for the Eagles to target the middle of the field with the tight end. So if I’m going with that then I’ll class Alshon Jeffery (60.5 – 23/10) as his preffered WR target. He’s had a great season since joining as a FA from the Bears and fair play to him for that decision, he could have secured a long-term deal elsewhere but chose a 1 year “prove-it” deal with the Eagles, and he’s obviously done that with the team signing him for 4 years. I do find him hard to judge but he’s a big bodied strong receiver who can cause most CBs issues, he scored 2 last week against the Vikings, one a 53 yards bomb. (he only put up 29 yards with his other 4 catches) The slot guy who they seemed to want to get more involved was Nelson Agholor (38.5 – 3/1) after a horrible 2016/17 where he could barely catch a ball he’s proven himself more than adequate in this side and has been pretty important in their superbowl run. I have definitely noted that his targets with Foles have been dropping since he took to the field the first time and he’s already cost me money in this run, but he could do well here against the Patriots team that gives up around 58 yards per game to WR2s. Torrey Smith (35.5 – 7/2) is the wildcard here, he’s always had the pace and the ability to catch the ball downfield as he did from a perfectly thrown 41 yard pass from Foles last week, but he’s even tougher to call, he’s had 3,5,4,8 targets from Foles so he’s been involved. There’s a few other guys, the likes of Mack Hollins (9.5 – 14/1), Trey Burton (11.5 – 17/2) and Brent Celek (3.5 – 18/1) who can pop up with plays, Hollins is the younger Torrey Smith essentially, Burton and Celek are the other tight ends on the roster, who have been known to also chip in with catches and TDs over the season, Burton “famously” scored 2 earlier at 500/1. Obviously these guys are practically impossible to call, but if you think they’ll catch a pass, there’s a good chance they’ll beat their prop lines!
The Eagles defence has been one of the best in the league this year, ranking 4th in total yards allowed, 17th against the pass and 1st against the run. They were 4th in interceptions with a +11 turnover differential in the regular season, 3rd in 3rd downs allowed and best against 4th down attempts. Looking into that run defense a little more, they allowed 6 rushing TDs on the year, but 5 to pass-catching RBs, that could well be where the Pats decide to attack with one of their many pass-catching backs, either that or just through the air in general, the Eagles gave up the 6th most receptions during the regular season.
The more I write the better I think the Eagles match up against a Patriots team that usually does a good job of taking away your best weapon. Who is that here? I would argue it’s Ertz, but they have great depth in both the pass and run game so it will be tough if you concentrate on one particular player.
The Patriots had a big scare last game against the young up-and-comers of the Jacksonville (London) Jaguars, they came back from 18 points behind to finish with one of their customary fourth quarter comebacks and take the game 24-21 in the end. It was seemingly inevitable that the Patriots would win it in the end, but they definitely like to keep things interesting for the neutrals out there.
There’s been countless conspiracy theories floating around (Especially on the NFL UK Facebook group) – stills of the referees “celebrating” with them, a ref being the first to congratulate old Tommy-boy after the game, the fact they only got 1 penalty (which was on special teams) to the Jaguars 6 , and that they called the Myles Jack “fumble recovery” dead instead of letting him get away. It’s all bullshit. You really think the league wants the Pats to win? The same league that banned Brady for 4 games and took away first round draft picks for balls being slightly off what they should have been? Now, the counter-argument towards them wanting the Pats is that viewing figures are down (the same viewing figures which are proportionally up on all scripted TV year on year) and that the Pats playing in the Superbowl will bring a bigger audience than if the Jags had made it to the final. I don’t know about that, surely the masses would want to see something different?
Anyway, I may be a little biased, I have my largest pre-season bet (one I didn’t tip as it was the chalk and didn’t really need tipping) on the Patriots at 9/2 so I, for one am happy to see them here!
Tom Brady (285.5 passing yards) is the greatest of all time, I don’t think there’s too much doubt about that now, and despite the “scare” of his hand injury last week, he put up some good numbers and of course led his team to that 4th quarter comeback. Against the “leagues best pass defence” his numbers were 26 from 38 for 290 yards and 2 TDs, both to Danny “playoff” Amendola. Bare in mind that these numbers were without Gronk for more than half the game and after a pretty poor first half from the Pats, the halftime alterations made by the Patriots can’t be dismissed, it’s just what they do. I wrote a lot more on Foles as he’s far more of an unknown quantity, there’s not a lot more to say about Brady, we all know who he is and what he does, he was last years Superbowl MVP (although I think James White should have won that) he’s had a passer rating above 100 for both playoff games and averaged over 100 during the regular season, 32:8 TD to INT, but 5:0 in the playoffs, he’s played in 7 Superbowls, that’s the same amount as the whole 53 man Eagles roster combined, a long of 31 yards in both playoff games, his line on longest pass completed is at 38.5 on 365, possibly a little high. His rushing yards are… it doesn’t really matter, I won’t be taking his rushing yards.
Now to the conundrum of the New England backfield, Dion Lewis (47.5 – 6/5) he’s also set at 14.5 rush attempts which I won’t be taking on although I would lean to the under if I had to. He has definitely become the go-to back on running plays, with roughly three times the carries of anyone else back there and averaged 5 ypc in the regular season, down to 4 in the playoffs, he did finish the game for the Pats last week with a carry of 18 yards, about half of his total on the day and that was after fumbling, so he obviously has the trust of the coaching staff and the Patriots have only lost 3 of the over 30 games that he’s played in. As with the Eagles, it’s a crowded place in the Patriots backfield and James White (35.5 rush and rec. – 9/4) is a playoff wizard, he’s scored 7 in the last 5 playoff games, and only 8 in the last 2 regular seasons, although the 3 in last years Superbowl obviously skews that a little! But he’s scored in 3 in 2 this year both on the ground and through the air, it makes him a great weapon for the Pats and one that will probably need to be used a lot against a very good Phillie run-stuffing unit. Then there’s the Bengals reject Rex Burkhead (15.5 rush, 30.5 rush and rec. – 21/10) who was on fire for a few weeks as the goal-line back for them but has missed a lot of games with a knee injury and at the time of writing I’m still not 100% sure he’ll be fit, I thought he would be two weeks ago and that proved wrong, so who knows. If he is good to go it changes everything and makes it very tough for backing any RB for an anytime TD. At this moment in time I would lean towards White if you wanted to pick any of the 3 RBs to score.
The passing game isn’t bad, but a lot revolved around whether Rob Gronkowski (69.5 – 1/1) is good to go or not, I would be very surprised if he isn’t declared fit and out of concussion protocol, but these things are rarely as straight forward as you think! I’m assuming he’ll be playing and as always he’ll be a vital part of the offense, he can do things that no other play on the field can do and will keep the chains moving all day if needed. The Eagles only conceded 5 TDs to the tight ends all season so it’s not the easiest matchup he could have had, but this is Gronk, before getting knocked out of the game last week he’d scored in 6 consecutive playoff games and is the natural go-to when near the redzone, I have personally got on him at 11/10, it’s not often you get odds against on Gronk, I know that doesn’t help anyone now, but honesty is the best policy, right?! They have a few actual wide receivers who can catch passes as well, Brandin Cooks (68.5 – 6/4) and if he doesn’t well, he’s the 4th in the league this year for gaining penalty yards from pass interference with 141 during the regular season and a few in the last game against the Jags as well. If he manages to catch the ball then his average of about 15 yards per catch over the season which has been pretty important for this team. It doesn’t seem like he’s been as explosive as he was in N.O. but, he’s actually had a higher average yards per catch than any of his seasons for the Saints which I guess points to his reliability. Danny “playoff” Amendola (49.5 – 5/2) was the star in the game last week with Gronk out of the game he took over the plays in the slot and his second half performance pretty much won the game for them, not just the 2 TD catches, but the yards he put in between the end-zones was vital for them, and he gets rewarded each year by having to take repeated pay cuts to stay on the roster. For me, he and Edelman are the two guys who optimise the Patriots year on year. They probably couldn’t play in any other team in the league, but in this scheme they’re world-beaters. Chris Hogan (27.5 – 13/5) is a bit of a wild card. He’s been injured for the last month or so as well, but before that he was brilliant for them and this line to me, looks pretty low. I believe they’ve been easing him back into action with this in mind, but that can’t be proved! He’s at 38.5 on 365, so there’s a nice middle at the moment if you fancy it, his games when healthy read like this… 8,78,68,60,74,19,71.60 to me, that sounds like 27.5 is a very good bet. Kenny Britt (18/1), Philip Dorsett (18/1), Dwayne Allen (8/1) round out the receiver corps. They don’t deserve writing about though.
Despite the bad rap that the Patriots defence has got for most of the year, they really haven’t been a bad group since week 3. They did what the Patriots usually do, they saw problems and they fixed them, they are a typical bend-don’t-break defence, they give up a lot of yards still, but not a lot of TDs. In a direct comparison, despite conceding nearly 600 yards more on the ground than the Eagles, the Patriots actually conceded less rushing TDs than the Eagles, 6 v 5 (2 of them to Chiefs in the first game of the season!) and 5 v 4 rec td to rbs. (2 of them in that Chiefs game too) They actually both gave up 24 TDs through the air and were pretty even at 6 (Pats) and 7 (Phi) on the ground. so despite them being widely regarded as opposites, the points they gave up weren’t a million miles away. In fact… They were actually 295 v 296 points conceded in the regular season, it doesn’t get much more even than that.
So where are we looking for an angle?
Remarkably the Pats haven’t scored in the first quarter of ANY of their Superbowl games, and while I don’t altogether trust historical data, they’ve scored 3 and conceded 7 in two playoff games this yea, so taking the Eagles +0.5 (4/5) seems to make sense to me, alternatively if you want to take u10 points in the first quarter then that’s also at a nice price at 11/10. similarly relying on this trend to continue, highest scoring half being the second half at 1/1 seems a sensible bet as well. I’m not sure I’d double, or treble down on this, but I’d be more than a little annoyed if one of them didn’t come in.
In all of their Superbowl games with Brady, the Patriots have only been involved in one that’s finished over 5 points winning margin, that was last year in OT. Other than that all their wins have been by 4 or less points, so, if you fancy it to be a close game again then the Tribet – any other result – 2/1 on 365 looks decent too, basically either team to win by 5 or less points.
Along with @rfltips I do like to look at the first half field goal market and I’ll happily take any team that’s near to evens on it, but with the Patriots bend don’t break defence as mentioned above, I would be surprised if the Eagles to score a field goal in the first half. At 4/7 it’s skinny odds, but Jake Elliott has kicked 61 yards outside this year, taking him indoors seems to make sense to me. Eagles first half FG o0.5 – 4/7
Now there’s a few prop bets that are essentially a shot in the dark, a few of them I am still willing to risk a couple of quid on. Team to recieve the kick off is a tough one as it largely depends on who wins the toss. The Patriots nearly always defer the kick, but it’s the away teams call on the toss, and that’s the Eagles. So… If the Eagles lose the toss then the Pats will likely defer the kick, if the Eagles win the toss it wouldn’t surprise me to see them take the kick with the idea of getting on the board first – Team to receive opening Kick – Eagles – 10/11 – PP
Now as I mentioned earlier there’s a whole load of conspiracy theories against the Patriots being loved by the refs, well, while I don’t believe those theories, the stats for defensive PI are quite eye opening, the Pats lead the league in yards gained by PI, a full 80 yards more than the Eagles received, they were also the beneficiary of 4 more than the Eagles, while the Eagles conceded only 1 more than the Pats did this season. First team penalised for PI – Eagles – 1/1 may well be stupid bet, but it could also be justified!
I will be looking at releasing a “stupid punts for Superbowl” post later in the week, but it’s dependant on whether I get the time or not! I also expect Skybet to have their 3 for 2 offer on RaBs so I’ll probably have a little post on them too, and a few correct score punts later as well.
Summary (so far…) –
- Tribet – Any other result – 2/1 – 365
- 1st qtr points – u10 – 1/1 – 365
- 1st qtr TDs – u1.5 – 4/9 – 365
- Eagles first half FG – o0.5 – 4/7 – 365
- Gronk anytime – 1/1 – ladbrokes
- Team to receive opening Kick – Eagles – 10/11 – PP
- Hogan o27.5 yards – 5/6 – PP
- Mack Hollins o9.5 rec. yards – 5/6 – PP
- Jay Ajayi u16.5 rush attempts – 5/6 – PP
- First team penalised for PI – Eagles – 1/1 – PP