It's Super Bowl Week at The Football Pod, which makes our Pick-6 challenging since we're down to one last game. Normally we give you at least six great picks ATS, but with only one game to go we'll have to compromise and give you some prop picks too. As discussed on the podcast this week, the Eagles are flying high, but haven't we seen the Patriots take care of business in games just like this one before? Or does this Philly team have enough to overcome the New England machine? Let's take a look at what to watch for, how to pick the game, and how to have fun with the Vegas props. Here we go! All the picks, previews, and commentary you need from The Football Pod:
***These are Wednesday morning lines for the Super Bowl. If you pick later in the week and need help with adjusted lines just find me on twitter, and I'll help you out. That's what friends are for!***
Philadelphia (+4.5) vs New England, from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota:
Super Bowl Week is finally here! Depending on your perspective, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. Fans of the Eagles and the Patriots are deservedly excited. Football fans with no rooting interest in this game may be sad to see another season come to an end. March Madness and the NBA Playoffs are fun, but they're not football season. The Super Bowl hasn't even kicked off and my withdrawal is well under way. So let's try to put that aside and focus on this one last game. And what better way to do that then break down this line. Here we go...
This is familiar territory for New England. The Patriots are playing in their tenth Super Bowl in the history of their franchise. More notably, it's their 8th Super Bowl appearance in the last 17 seasons, a remarkable accomplishment. With a win on Sunday they'll take home their 6th Lombardi Trophy. All six from those past 17 seasons, more commonly known as the Brady/Belichick era. Or is it the Belichick/Brady era? Have we ever figured out who's more important to this incredible Patriots run? Does it matter anymore? I say "No" since they couldn't have done it without each other. And they'll both need to be great again on Sunday to beat this overachieving Philly team. The Eagles got off to a tremendous start in 2017, led by second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz was unbelievable up until his season-ending injury in the 13th game of the season. The Eagles were 11-2 at that point and headed to the Playoffs but it was unclear what kind of success they'd have without their MVP-caliber quarterback. Vegas had little faith in the Wentz-less Eagles. Philly was an underdog in both the Divisional round and the conference title game, despite being the number one seed in the NFC and playing both games at home. But backup quarterback Nick Foles was better than expected - much better in the conference championship - and here are the Eagles, playing in the Super Bowl. But for the third straight time this postseason, Vegas has no faith. The Eagles are 4.5 point underdogs to the New England machine.
That's not to say that the Eagles don't stand an excellent chance here. For Philly their success starts on defense. The Eagles have ranked at or near the top of every meaningful defensive statistic all year. That includes rushing defense: Philly surrenders less than 80 yards per game on the ground, by far the best number in the league. Stopping the run has to be any defense's first concern, even when playing Brady. The Eagles should be able to do this on Sunday, as they've done all year. New England will try to get rushing attempts to keep Philly honest, but I expect the Eagles to be as stout as ever defending the run. Good coaching and depth on the defensive line will be to Philly's advantage here. On this side of the ball, at the line of scrimmage, Philly has a definite advantage. Their defensive line is just plain better than New England's offensive line. But that advantage will only last them all night if they can get off the field on third down and be fresh when they have to come back on. I don't expect New England to get too exotic early. The Patriots do a tremendous job of preparing for their opponents, but also scouting them in the first half of their games. They'll do this on Sunday, like they always do, intent on making halftime adjustments based on what they see in the first 30 minutes. Because of New England's conservative approach, I like Philly to get some three-and-outs in the first half, and keep themselves fresh on defense. They also get the extended halftime in this game, so that gives them extra rest and the chance to be great in the second half too. Fletcher Cox and the rest of the Philly front must get a rush on Brady but that's not enough in this game. To win, they'll have to get to him and bring him down. Jacksonville couldn't do this enough in the AFC title game and it cost them. It's a key for every New England opponent and this game is no different. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has been great this year. I expect him to have the defense ready to go here too. They'll do their best to make life miserable for Brady and that will keep them in this game.
But New England gets better later in games. We see it every time the Patriots get into a close game. They win because they win the second half. The Philly defense will have to continue to get after Brady throughout the second half, but they'll need even more than that. They'll need a few big plays in the secondary and they'll absolutely need a big game from safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins is one of the very best at his position in the league, maybe the best. He can defend the run, he can blitz, and he's an excellent cover safety. As discussed on the podcast this week, Jenkins will get matched up with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski at times in this game. Gronkowski is probably the single-biggest matchup nightmare in the NFL. If you were paying attention to the AFC title game you saw that the Jaguars actually had Jalen Ramsey match up with Gronkowski multiple times. The Jags - maybe the league's best defense - were dedicating the league's best cover corner to a tight end. And justifiably so - Gronkowski is that good. How Philly contains him is key, and Jenkins will no doubt play a part in that. If you haven't seen many Eagles games this year, look out for #27. He's exceptional, he's critical to their success, and he will make plays on Sunday. His performance will be especially important in the second half. Brady dissected a good Jaguars secondary in the AFC title game when New England needed two late touchdowns. Jenkins will need to make plays late on Sunday for Philly to have any chance.
All of that being said, Philly won't win this game (or even cover) if they can't score. If you watched the Eagles close out the regular season with their backup quarterback, you weren't too encouraged. If you watched them beat the Falcons in the Divisional Playoffs you still weren't sold. If you watched them two weeks ago, you saw a different Nick Foles. Was that a one-hit wonder, or can we expect another solid performance in the Super Bowl? For Foles to get going, he'll need a quarterback's best friend, which is the run game. Philly doesn't lack talent in the backfield and they've run the ball well this year. They were a top four rushing offense. This is an excellent matchup for the Eagles since the Patriots gave up 4.6 yards per rush attempt. New England ranked 30th in the league in that category this year. But with two weeks to get ready for this game, Belichick will have his defense ready to stifle the Philly ground game. They have to force Foles to beat them, right? And that's the biggest question mark in this game. When New England commits to shut down the run, can Foles connect on play-action passes? Can he audible out of runs that are going nowhere and make the Patriots pay? The answers to these question start with coach Doug Pederson's preparation over these last couple weeks. Give Pederson a lot of credit: Foles was playing significantly better by the end of the NFC Playoffs. And that title game win was an excellent outing against the Vikings - one of the three or four best defenses in the NFL. Pederson, Schwartz, the rest of the staff, and (most importantly) the Eagles players have continued to prove their doubters wrong after the Wentz injury. I think the offense will do just enough against a suspect New England defense to keep them in this game. And keep in mind that for all of the Patriots' greatness, they generally play close Super Bowls. Their previous five wins came by an average of 3.8 points. Only once did they win a Super Bowl by more than this 4.5 spread, when they beat the Falcons by 6 points in overtime last year. This seems like another field goal game to me. Eagles to cover:
Total Points Scored in the Super Bowl will be OVER or UNDER 48.5:
I can't lay out all the reasons for why Philly will cover in a close, hard-fought game and then take the OVER, right? Right. So I'll be consistent and go UNDER on total points scored. I'm thinking something in the neighborhood of 24-20, 23-21, or 21-17. Those are some common scores that will get you an UNDER, but even something like 28-19, or 31-16 and your UNDER is safe. And remember, Jacksonville went to Foxboro and stayed within four points of New England. The final score in the AFC title game was 24-20, so that would be a safe UNDER here. I've talked myself into it - UNDER for sure. Now I just hope it doesn't go to overtime.
Tom Brady will Pass for OVER or UNDER 294.5 Yards:
See my thoughts above in the game preview for why I like Philly to stifle the New England ground game. That being said, New England will have to get something going through the air eventually. We saw Brady light up the Jaguars in the second half of the AFC title game, and I like their secondary better than the Eagles. Not by much, but the point is that Brady will find a way to use underneath routes and take whatever the defense gives him. The Patriots will need him to do that on Sunday. Chipping away at 300 yards over 60 minutes will be the same end result as getting the yards in big plays early. His stats may be relatively pedestrian at halftime, but a couple long drives in the second half should get him the OVER here:
The Philadelphia Rocky Statue will be shown OVER or UNDER 1 time(s) on the NBC Broadcast:
This is a fun prop to think about, and my initial reaction was that this is an easy OVER. But that's where you need to read the fine print if you play props. Most of them are limiting this prop to how many times the Rocky statue is shown on the NBC broadcast of the game. That excludes pregame coverage, post-game shows, and halftime. Meaning, how many times will you see the Rocky statue as NBC is actually airing the game, like when they go to commercial or come back. Late in the game, if it's close and Philly is getting the ball back for a last-minute drive, doesn't that seem like when NBC gives you a shot of Rocky? I think so, but I don't think they'll do it more than once. So with the line for the O/U at 1, this seems impossible to pick. If it's a blowout win by New England, I think we're not likely to see Rocky at all. So I think there's a chance to go UNDER, but I think the best chance on the OVER is to push at 1. UNDER it is:
Pink's Star Spangled Banner will go OVER or UNDER 122 Seconds:
First, Pink is an excellent choice for the National Anthem. Too bad she's not doing halftime since she's significantly more talented than Justin Timberland. But that's okay - I'll settle for an all-time great Star Spangled Banner. And I think she'll absolutely deliver on that. Can anything ever top Whitney Houston in 1991? Probably not. In fact, I'll just say no, never. That was the best one we've ever seen. This has a chance to be second.
I think the safe play on this prop is always the UNDER and here's why: There are only three things the performer really can't afford to do: One, they can't screw up the words of the song. That's a total disaster. Second, no matter what their reputation, they have to come out and be respectful. It's not an MTV awards show. Grandma and Grandpa are watching and they need to perform like they know that and respect it. Think how Lady Gaga looked, dressed, and sang a couple years ago. She nailed it. Now, the third thing the artist can't afford to do, is to try and take a note too far and screw it up. They can't try to "pretty it up" too much and risk sounding off-key. That's not as bad as screwing up the words, but still bad. It's noticeable and loser critics would be all over the mistake. So that's why I contend that the safe play is generally the UNDER. The blueprint is: Get out there, do an adequate job, don't try to be bigger than the Anthem or the moment, and get off stage. Then there's zero chance for criticism. It's a ballsy move to extend the notes since it's harder to pull that off. On the biggest stage in the world. Whitney-style. It takes a hell of a performer. We've got one on Sunday. I'll take Pink on the OVER.
By the way, I got asked what my favorite Pink song is the other day. This is nearly impossible to answer. I narrowed it down to: Please Don't Leave Me, Just Give Me A Reason, and Blow Me One Last Kiss. That's my three. Actually, I can't leave Just Like A Pill out. So that's my top four. What do you guys think?
President Trump will Tweet OVER or UNDER 5.5 times on Super Bowl Sunday:
Oh wow, where to start? Your guess is as good as mine on this one. Like the Rocky prop, read the fine print. Most of the Trump tweet props that I've seen are for the whole day, not just the time of the game. And most of them do not allow retweets into their counts. So in our case we're looking at 5.5 original tweets from the Reality President on Super Sunday. The first thing to consider is how this number relates to the President's "normal" tweeting behavior. According to this USA TODAY article, the President has tweeted about 6-7 times/day since winning the election in November 2016. So the number is right in line with his average. If you think the Patriots are going to win, I'd say go with the OVER. President Trump won't miss the chance to remind you of his friendships with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as he congratulates them. If you like the Eagles, then maybe consider the UNDER. I'd still predict the President tweets a couple times but probably not enough to get you the OVER. One more thing to consider: If something big happens in the world on Friday night or Saturday, does that mean you should take the OVER? The tweets don't have to be football-specific. You just need him to tweet six times about anything. I've reluctantly talked myself into the OVER, but I'm not confident:
***Sam's Football History Lesson***
Super Sunday has become one of the utmost important days on the American calendar. It's a day for family, friends, food, and of course football. But with spectacular halftime shows, stunning renditions of the National Anthem, and even the most anticipated television commercials of the year, it's so much more than a game. But this wasn't always the case. When the game was first played in January 1967 it wasn't even called the "Super Bowl." Nor was it known by this name for the next couple years. Instead, it was called the AFL-NFL World Championship, because the champions from rival leagues - the AFL and the NFL - met in what was more or less, a glorified exhibition. Retroactively we refer to these games as the first few Super Bowls, but it wasn't actually given that name until Super Bowl IV in January 1970. The following year the leagues merged, which is how we got the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference, the two conferences that continue to send their respective champions to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy annually.
Before the AFC and NFC champs played for the Lombardi Trophy, Vince Lombardi was busy winning the first two AFL-NFL World Championship Games. The second of those took place 50 years ago in the original Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The AFL sent its champions, the Oakland Raiders, fresh off an impressive 13-1 regular season. In between their 13 win season and the second Super Bowl, the Raiders had beaten the Houston Oilers in the AFL Championship Game by a score of 40-7. Led by quarterback Daryle Lamonica, this Raiders team was primed to upset the mighty Green Bay Packers, winners of the National Football League. Green Bay was coming off its own impressive win in the NFL Championship Game, a game etched in our national memory forever - The Ice Bowl. But that's a story for another day.
Super Bowl II was about two franchises moving in opposite directions. The Raiders of the upstart AFL were the new kids on the block: There to challenge the Packers of the NFL, the very established dynasty of that era. How good were the Packers? They had just won their fifth NFL title in the last seven years. Five championships in seven years is a feat that hasn't been equaled by any pro football team since. But Green Bay was an aging team. Packers Hall-of-Fame quarterback Bart Starr had just finished his 12th season in the NFL. Defensive stars like Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Herb Adderley, and Willie Wood were nearing the end of their run in Green Bay. As was legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Prior to the game, there was speculation that this could be Lombardi's last game as coach of the Packers. Did his team have one last championship in them?
Green Bay moved the ball with relative ease in the first half but mostly settled for field goals and went into the half with a 16-7 lead. Packers guard Jerry Kramer has said over the years that he and his teammates knew it was Lombardi's last game and vowed to "play the last 30 minutes for the old man." Green Bay dominated the ball in the third quarter, scored ten more points, and got up 26-7 going into the fourth. Any fading chance of an Oakland comeback was eliminated when Adderley intercepted a Lamonica pass intended for Fred Biletnikoff, and returned it 60 yards for a score. That's the first pick-6 in Super Bowl history for those of you that enjoy that kind of trivia. Green Bay was up 33-7 and won the game 33-14. The Packers players carried Lombardi off the field, victorious again. It was indeed his last game as coach of the NFL's most storied dynasty. Super Bowl II was also Lombardi's ninth consecutive postseason win, an NFL record that stood for 38 years.
It was a only a couple years later that Lombardi sadly passed away from cancer, only 57 years old. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the following year. Following Super Bowl V, the first Super Bowl after Lombardi's death, the Tiffany Trophy that is awarded to the winner was officially named the Vince Lombardi trophy in his honor. An honor that continues to this day.
Did you like our NFL picks this week? Hate the picks? Want to play along and teach us how to pick? Let our experts know what you think:
|Sam finally had a decent season in 2016 and hit a 55% success rate on his NFL picks. So your best bet is to fade his picks this year. It won't hurt his feelings.|
|The voice of thefootballpod.com, KAM's so good that she's been known to pick both NFL and college games. She'll share her picks as long as you don't trash talk her Packers.|
|Need power picks and the power sweep, both? Then look no further than Kevin's picks. This Western Pennsylvania football product knows the game as well as anyone.|
|She's not only the best bartender in town, but #PaytonsPicks set the pace in 2016, to the tune of a 56% success rate! Catch her if you can. Or just wisely follow her picks.|
|He's our resident Cowboys expert, so you'll hear from Rick a lot this year. As for his picks, #RicksLocks are as money as Dallas playing as the one seed in the NFC Playoffs.|
|Founder of theredbeat.com, and a contributor at turnonthejets.com, Greg is the newest member of the team. He's the biggest Jets fan we know (and willing to admit it...)|
|After making the rounds on the podcast circuit for years, we finally have our Kansas City Chiefs expert weighing in, writing columns, and picking games. So pay attention!|
Looking for our college football coverage? No problem. Just click here!
You didn't listen to the podcast yet?! Find us on iTunes or listen directly from our website!