This is part 3 in our week-long Super Bowl deep dive on the betting aspects of the game. In PA and can’t bet online yet? That’s cool, find out when you can bet online in PA, or just read the piece for an insightful, numbers-based preview of the game. On Monday, we covered Super Bowl prop bets. Yesterday, the over-under. Today, why the Rams can win and cover. I bet you can’t guess what’s tomorrow.
This Isn’t Exactly David vs. Goliath
Despite an overwhelming amount of the money pouring in on the Patriots ahead of Super Bowl 53, this game isn’t exactly a David vs. Goliath matchup. It just seems that way. It’s true that bettors are backing the favorite at historic levels with nearly 80% of the money on the Patriots, but New England remains less than a field goal favorite in a game that essentially opened as a pick ’em at most books. The truth is that the NFC Champion Rams are loaded with talent on both sides of the football and looked like a superior team to the Patriots throughout the regular season. Of course, that was before the Patriots dropped 78 total points in two impressive postseason wins headlined by a pair of lights-out performances from Tom Brady that put his team back in the Super Bowl. Again.
It hasn’t mattered to the majority of bettors to this point that Los Angeles has scored 32.4 points per game this season, that Aaron Donald may be football’s most disruptive force, or that the Rams overcame a 13-0 deficit on the road in a hostile environment against the Super Bowl favorite Saints to reach this point. Maybe it has something to do with the pass interference no-call, but it shouldn’t, and I think that many have simplified this game by asking themselves this question:
Is Tom Brady, a year after losing to Nick Foles and the Eagles, seriously going to get back to this game only to lose to Jared Goff?
Admittedly, if you look at this game through that lens, it might be hard to side with the Rams. But the reality of situation is that the Patriots aren’t a lock simply because Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time. Just ask the Giants (twice) and Eagles. The reality is that Los Angeles is a real threat, and if you’re looking to lock them in on Sunday, there’s plenty to like.
Let’s take a closer look.
There’s a reason the Rams have won 15 games this season—they’re really good. Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings suggest the Rams are the superior team in this game. Offensively, Los Angeles has been consistently phenomenal, hitting or eclipsing 30 points an absurd 13 times, and there were 10 occasions in which the Rams scored in every quarter. And, most importantly, they can beat defenses in a variety of ways which they’ve shown this postseason.
The Rams gashed the Cowboys for 273 yards and three scores on the ground in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, but struggled to consistently run the ball against the Saints’ stingy front throughout the NFC Championship Game. No matter. Goff consistently made big throws, completing passes to eight different receivers on his way to throwing for 297 yards in the comeback win and most of that was done without star running back Todd Gurley. Still, given Gurley’s importance to the Rams’ overall success this season, it’s hard to imagine Los Angeles getting it done without a big game from him this week. Consider this: the Rams are undefeated this season both when Gurley has at least 75 rushing yards (9-0) and when he has least 125 total yards from scrimmage (7-0). C.J. Anderson has been huge for the Rams late in the year, but Sean McVay will need his brightest offensive star to help combat whatever Bill Belichick throws at him.
I expect this offense to pose problems for a New England defense that was the NFL’s 21st ranked unit in yards allowed this season and has also allowed 75% of opponents’ red zone drives to end in touchdowns over its previous three games. Defensively, well, the Rams do have Aaron Donald and a defensive line that can turn up the heat against a good offense (ask Drew Brees) and this:
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 28, 2019
This level of swag is at least worth a stop or two.
Underdogs Are Red-Hot
Everybody remembers that the Eagles won Super Bowl 52 as the quintessential underdog led by backup quarterback Nick Foles a season ago, but they aren’t the only team to topple the favorite on the big stage in recent years. In fact, underdogs have won six of the previous seven Super Bowls outright. That success is part of a larger trend that has seen underdogs go 13-4 ATS over the previous 17 Super Bowls. And it’s not like the Rams are some overwhelming underdog in this game, so it’s more than reasonable to reason that a team this talented could continue what has been an extremely solid trend spanning nearly two decades. That argument becomes even more convincing when you consider New England is only 3-3 SU and a brutal 1-5 ATS as a Super Bowl favorite (2-5 ATS if you had New England favored in SB 49) in the Brady/Belichick era.
One more thing. The Rams will be the underdog for only the second time this season (the first was in the NFC Championship Game) and for only the seventh time in 36 games under McVay. The Rams have performed well as an underdog outside of Los Angeles, going 4-1 SU and ATS.
Does Experience Matter?
This is one of the most pressing questions ahead of this matchup. Experience certainly seemed to matter in Super Bowl 51 when the Falcons folded as the more experienced Patriots stormed back to win in overtime. That experience, however, didn’t prove to matter a year ago when the Eagles made the big plays in the big moments to outlast the more seasoned Patriots. In fact, that outcome is more in line with the recent trend of the team with less experience winning 8 of the previous 12 Super Bowls.
Going Against the Grain
What should we make of the fact that the Patriots are currently on-pace to become the most heavily bet team in terms of spread percentage in Super Bowl history? Know that teams receiving this type of support generally don’t perform well. Dating back to 2003, teams receiving at least 80% of the action are only 94-114-9 ATS. The Broncos received a strong 68% of the action as a short favorite in Super Bowl 48, making them the most heavily bet Super Bowl team in terms of spread percentage, and then went on to get their doors blown off by the Seahawks. It is, however, worth noting that New England has actually won and covered twice with at least 60% of the money them in recent Super Bowls, beating the Falcons in Super Bowl 51 and the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49. Of course, there’s plenty of time for this disparity to shrink, but at the very least, there exists some reason to be cautious of rolling with the overwhelmingly popular side.
Rams Travel Well
Yeah, it’s true that the Super Bowl is a different animal and a game that is played at a neutral site, but the Rams have excelled away from “home” under McVay, compiling a 14-3 record while going 10-7 ATS. Am I little concerned that the Super Bowl setting could overwhelm Goff given how skittish he looked in the first quarter of the NFC Championship Game? Maybe. But that road record combined with his ability to hang in and rebound over the final three quarters and overtime against the Saints more than quell those concerns.
The Market and Where to Bet the Rams
I strongly advise that prospective bettors take advantage of the different promotions and free bet offers at the various legal New Jersey sportsbooks. Always compare the different offerings before locking in your plays. Lines and prices often vary across the board, and just like with any purchase, it’s important to get the best deal possible. If you’re looking to take the Rams, I suggest heading to BetStarsNJ where you can grab them at +2.5 (-105). DraftKings Sportsbook and Sugarhouse Sportsbook also have the Rams +2.5, but they are a bit pricier at the time of this post. One more word of advice—if you’re taking the Rams, don’t worry about the points. Grab them on the moneyline at BetStarsNJ with +125 odds. After all, 44 of the 52 Super Bowls winners have also covered the spread. Or if you’re new to FanDuel, you can get either team at 53-1 odds.
Full disclosure: We are an affiliate of legal New Jersey sports betting sites, so we may receive a commission if you use our links.