2019 Super Bowl Betting: Wagering Keys and Distractions
We're still a week and a half away from the Super Bowl as I write this. There is still plenty of handicapping and consideration left to do before kickoff and lots of time for news to come out and things to change. As a result, I'm in no hurry to lock in my pick and make any bets yet. But what we can do is look at what we know now and what is going to be important. Here is a look at three big keys to success that stand out for each team as well as two distractions that could draw the mind of handicappers away from what really matters.
Get to Brady: The Chiefs were tied for tops in the league in sacks with the Steelers in the regular season, but they virtually never made Brady uncomfortable. Brady makes very fast decisions and has a faster-than-average delivery, so he's already a tough guy to deal with. But the Chiefs couldn't even come close to making him scramble, and as a result he had his way down the stretch. The Rams aren't as strong overall, but Aaron Donald is a menace, and he needs to be here. If Brady can sit back and have his way, then he is going to tear this L.A. secondary apart.
Find the second half fight: The Rams have not shown as much fight as I would like to see in the playoffs. In the fourth quarter against the Saints, they had chances to do damage, but they couldn't. And in the end they needed a massive stroke of luck just to stay alive. And after opening up a 20-7 lead in the first half against Dallas, they let up and lost the second half while holding on for the win. They have talent galore, but they need to show hunger - something we know the Patriots will certainly have down the stretch.
Get Gurley healthy: The star running back hasn't been right for a long while now, and it's a serious problem for this team. In New Orleans he ran just four times for 10 yards and had one three-yard catch. That's just short of invisible for anyone, never mind a talent like him. The running game was a non-factor for the Rams, and it hurt them. They may not have the time to get him fully healthy, but the closer they can get him to right the better off they will be.
New England Patriots
Show up on time: The Patriots have had a bad habit of slow starts in the Super Bowl lately. Against the Falcons, they had a disastrous opening half, and only a truly historic comeback saved them. And last year they were down 15-3 early in the second quarter and 22-12 at the half and were never able to climb out of the hole. The Rams are dangerous enough on offense that the Patriots can't afford to fall behind again - especially on a field that is going to allow the Rams' offense to shine because of the perfect conditions.
Keep Goff scrambling: When Jared Goff can stand in the pocket and make his decisions, he can measure up against any QB in the league. But when he is scrambling, his brain turns off and he is not even an average pivot. The better job the Patriots can do of making Goff uncomfortable, the better off the Pats will be.
Make the defense difficult: The Patriots do some things on defense that other teams don't do. They play much more man defense than any other squad, and that can provide challenges for an opportunistic team like the Rams. And New England plays dramatically more cover zero than any other team, which is a scheme that Goff has almost never seen this year. The more they can make things unfamiliar and uncomfortable for the Rams, the less of an impact the potent offense will have. The last time these two squads met in the Super Bowl, the potent Rams' offense had a very rough day. New England will be looking to do the same again, and defensive creativity will help in that regard.
The officiating: Officiating is a big story because of the mess at the end of the New Orleans loss and some rough calls in Kansas City as well. But you can't worry about that when thinking about this game. It's in the past. There could easily be officiating issues in this game, but that's true for any game that is played. We can't know if or how the officials will fail or which team it will affect. So, from a handicapping perspective it is totally irrelevant.
Coaching: L.A. quarterback coach Zac Taylor has reportedly been tabbed as the next coach of the Bengals after this game. And with a couple of jobs still open, there is a decent chance that teams have been poking around one or both of these teams' assistant coaching staffs beyond Taylor. But, as we say every year, you can't worry about any of that. These guys are pros, and they are going to show up for this - a game that can make their careers - even if it is their last time with their current team.
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