There’s nothing quite like Super Bowl Sunday, but sadly, the drama and theatrics that come with it also bring about the realization that we’ll be making our final football wagers until early September (or August for those who very daringly elect to bet on preseason action).
Either way, today should also be meant for celebrating, especially if you were following the column every week. Winning at higher than a 55-percent clip en route to accumulating double-digit units here at Deadspin, we put forth an elite-level performance. But there’s still one game left.
Either way, soak it in. Sundays will be very, very different for months from here on out.
Over/Unders: 14-5-1 Spreads: 11-8-1 Teasers: 8-12 Props: 11-9
Overall Record*: 44-34-2, +11.07 units
*Each over/under graded to win 2 units; everything else for 1 unit. Playoffs are half
Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals
For the first time in nine years, a Super Bowl will commence without Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
That shouldn’t take away from the pair of massive QB storylines, however. When the 56th iteration of The Big Game is all said and done, either Matthew Stafford will cement a surefire Hall-of-Fame resume with a long-awaited title, or Joe Burrow begins his potential lofty run of greatness by nabbing a championship in Year 2.
See, plenty of drama despite the lack of household name star power under center. And this very well could become that game — that point in time — in which one or both QBs vault into said stratosphere.
Or will it not?
Yeah, Stafford and Burrow are both upper echelon star quarterbacks. This should be common sense by now, even for Burrow, who is just putting the finishing touches on a superb sophomore year in the NFL.
But there’s also evidence to suggest that they each may be working with a lower ceiling than usual in this Super Bowl affair.
Stafford has enjoyed a fantastic playoffs that will be remembered as helping define his legacy, win or lose today. At the same time, he’s entering treacherous waters in the form of extra rest, a scenario that hasn’t treated the 34-year-old too fondly.
Throughout his career, Stafford has started 13 ballgames on more than a week’s rest, whether following the annual bye week or the rare occurrence returning from injury. His overall work generally declined a touch, evident in the pedestrian 81.2 passer rating he collectively registered across those bouts.
Furthermore, Stafford connected on just 57.8 percent of his throws in these games, which, to put this in perspective, is nearly a full 10 points lower than his completion percentage the last seven seasons (65.9 percent). As great as he’s been leading L.A. to this point, the extra time seemingly creates some rust for the veteran and may factor into not as huge a showing.
Obviously, the Rams have more than enough artillery to support their QB1. This column was even the only voice backing Odell Beckham Jr. for a Comeback Player of the Year bid before the year. Cooper Kupp, meanwhile, had one of the greatest season in history of any wide receiver.
But it can all go for naught if Stafford isn’t as in tune as he was prior to the bye week.
There’s certainly no shortage of heavy artillery on the defensive side of the ball for the Rams, also. I’m sure you’ve been pounded by the constant chatter these last two weeks that the ferocious Los Angeles defensive line will feast on a poor Bengals O-line, one that allowed more sacks this season than all but two teams.
And that’s certainly something to ride. The likes of Aaron Donald and Von Miller are elite-level players — and that D contains at least a couple more to enforce its will.
Above all, though, I’m pursuing the angle that young quarterbacks just simply do not thrive on this humongous stage — the biggest possible stage in all of pro sports.
Burrow is special and will continue to be special for a long time. But when it comes to Super Bowls, there’s something at play that even Joe Cool might not figure out.
Eleven quarterbacks ever have played in a Super Bowl within their first three years, including most recently Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff. In those games, said signal-callers combined to only manage a 76.7 passer rating while actually tallying more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (12). The pressure is very real.
Either way, anticipate tougher sledding for Burrow and his boys given the quality unit they’re about to tangle with. Consistent pressure in the pocket should also cap the number of potential big-play gains, meaning Cincy will have to work to score.
That’s what I’m expecting from the Rams, too, needing to compile time-consuming drives in order to get on the scoreboard. Such activity can help prevent a shootout.
Pick: UNDER 48.5 (-110)
Spread: Rams -4
Sometimes, a bettor just has to concede.
When that’s the case, lay off! My No. 1 rule of gambling is this: Never force a bet.
And so I will decline on the spread of this hard-to-decipher matchup. Would you be surprised if the Rams won decisively? Or by less than four? Would you be surprised by a Bengals outright victory? Not at all.
Thus, no need to make any spread wager.
A bettor taking a teaser on the same game is probably a degenerate just looking for extra action. Hitting multiple details within one contest is tough to do, yet the odds remain the same compared to regular teaser bets spanning a full slate.
It goes without being said to avoid this.
Over/Under: 2.5 FGs
Yes, that’s just three field goals needed for the whole game. Of course, such a seemingly friendly proposition comes with a price and that high price tag reads -210.
Normally you don’t want to lay such juice on any bet. However, exceptions can be made if you see value in one of these juicier wagers and that’s exactly what I’ve caught here considering the low number.
Matt Gay and Evan McPherson are not established vets but they’re both emerging and come in on good stretches. In fact, both have made multiple kicks on their own in each of their playoff outings.
McPherson — a rookie, remember — is a perfect 12-for-12. Gay, meanwhile, had the year of his life, converting on 32-of-34 kicks during the regular season. As I alluded to in the over/under bet, both teams will produce time-consuming drives, some of which could stall in field-goal range. These two boots will cash in.
Pick: OVER 2.5 FGs (-210)