By the time Super Bowl LII kicks off, you’ll have heard every single possible angle and matchup about the game. With two weeks between the Conference Championship Weekend and the biggest game of the year, analysts drone on 24/7 about the X’s and O’s, the coaches, the field, the minor injuries, and the major injuries. Paralysis by overanalysis is a real thing for the Super Bowl, so make sure that you are sticking to the outlets that you trust the most.
Considering you are reading this, BangTheBook.com must be one of those outlets and we thank you for that. This general game preview will barely be the tip of the Super Bowl iceberg that we’ll have for the game on February 4 between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. We’ll have different spins on player, game, and novelty prop bets. We’ll have betting market data based on a large sample of the offshore sportsbooks. We have our matchup data, which is posted above. We have countless sportsbook reviews to help you find the right books for the prop bets, the spread, and the total. Shopping around is essential.
The New England Patriots are basically penciled into the Super Bowl every year at this point. It just takes until the AFC Championship Game to know if we can write over it with Sharpie or need to flip the pencil over and use the eraser. As it turns out, the Sharpie was needed. The Patriots will face the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Patriots are favored by five points with a total of 48 for the big game.
There are a lot of things that don’t make a ton of sense about this line. The Eagles were a field goal underdog at home to Atlanta in the Divisional Round and Minnesota in the NFC Championship. Considering home field in the playoffs is easily worth three points, if not slightly more, those two lines suggested that the Eagles would be catching six points on a neutral against those two NFC foes. Now, as we get ready for the neutral-site Super Bowl, the Eagles are only getting five. Sure, New England looked pretty beatable against Jacksonville and Philadelphia did not against Minnesota, but this line seems to have overadjusted based on the results of one week of action.
The Eagles fly into this game with back-to-back outright upset wins in the playoffs and a 15-3 straight up record with a 12-6 ATS record. The Patriots have identical marks. The Patriots failed to cover for just the ninth time over the last 37 games in last week’s win over Jacksonville. Philadelphia had dropped four of five ATS to end the regular season, but has gotten back on track in the playoffs.
Make no mistake, this is a tricky handicap. We have two data points of Nick Foles against playoff teams. Foles started regular season games against the Giants, Raiders, and Cowboys, but that Week 17 finale against Dallas meant nothing and the Eagles played like it in a 6-0 shutout. Through two playoff games, however, Foles is 49-of-63 for 598 yards with a 3/0 TD/INT ratio. He’s only been sacked twice and has nearly 10 adjusted net yards per pass attempt and nine net yards per pass attempt. There have been big plays and he has spread the ball around really nicely while not turning it over. The eye test was a lot kinder to Foles against the exceptional Vikings defense in the NFC Championship Game than it was against Atlanta, but it seemed like Foles really settled down and the coaching staff had the right plan in place. Zach Ertz caught all eight targets for 93 yards. Alshon Jeffery caught two touchdowns and all five of his targets. Torrey Smith caught five of seven targets for 69 yards and Nelson Agholor caught three of his four targets for 59 yards. The Eagles had 13.5 yards per reception against the vaunted Minnesota defense and were 10-of-14 on third down. There are a lot of guys to cover and key in on with this Eagles group of skill position players and that will be the challenge for Matt Patricia. It certainly looks like head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have put Foles in a position to succeed.
Lost in the surprise about Foles and his performance is the fact that this defense has been quite good. The goal-line stand in the Divisional Round is the reason why the Eagles are here. Through two games, the Eagles have allowed 614 yards and just two touchdowns. They have four sacks, three takeaways, and Matt Ryan and Case Keenum have combined for less than six yards per pass attempt and only 50 completions on 84 attempts. The Eagles didn’t put up the same big sack totals that teams like Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and the Rams put up, but they did hold the opposition to a 60.4 percent completion percentage and just 5.1 adjusted net yards per pass attempt. Philadelphia’s ability to get pressure with the front four and collapse the pocket helped the defense to 19 interceptions and allowed the back seven to worry about tackling and coverage as opposed to rushing the quarterback. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have to crack the Tom Brady Code in order to help his team to victory, which is no small task, but the fact that the Eagles can disguise coverage packages and rely on the linemen to interrupt Brady should be a big help with New England’s desire to use the backs in the passing game and should also mitigate some of New England’s strength on those crossing routes.
As good as this Philadelphia defense has been and as much time as there is to prepare, Tom Brady is still going to get his. Brady was 26-of-38 against Jacksonville and did struggle in the first half, but he made plays when he needed to and helped the Patriots overcome a poor effort from the rushing attack. Brady was forced to scramble more than he would like and was sacked three times, but he has a couple of weeks to heal those bumps and bruises and, perhaps most importantly, Rob Gronkowski has two weeks to come back from the concussion that he suffered. Gronkowski is obviously a matchup nightmare and an elite player, but he commands the watchful eyes of both linebackers and safeties, which allows the Patriots to use the middle of the field with the backs and receivers. What should scare Philadelphia is that Brady adjusted and relied heavily on Brandin Cooks once Gronkowski went out and that softened the defense for Danny Amendola. Brady is simply that good and that will be the challenge for the Eagles. If they remove Gronkowski from the plan or Gronkowski’s concussion does that for them, they still have a lot of weapons to be concerned with.
New England’s defense excels at a few key things. For one thing, the Patriots, for all the yards they allowed, especially on the ground, only allowed a 43.8 percent touchdown conversion rate in the red zone. Teams moved the ball, but scheme won out for Patricia’s defense. That was the fourth-best mark in the NFL. Philadelphia, meanwhile, ranked 20th at 55.3 percent, so we’ll see if that comes into play in the Super Bowl. New England’s team speed has been in question throughout the year and that weakness is mitigated when things get bunched up inside the 20, so it stands to reason that the Pats would excel there when they failed in a lot of other defensive areas. Head coach Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia often find ways to neutralize the opposition’s best player, which might be Zach Ertz for Philadelphia as far as skill players go, but the Eagles are a lot like the Patriots in that their collective cast of backs and receivers features guys that can make plays and step up if somebody else slacks off. We’ll have to see who draws the most attention from the New England defense and if the corners can hold up in single coverage if that’s what it takes to slow down Ertz.
As usual, we have to consider some of the intangible elements of the Super Bowl. The Patriots have been there and done that. Tom Brady has won the MVP four times in his five Super Bowl wins. The one time he didn’t came in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles and Deion Branch won the honors. In other words, the Patriots have done this a lot. The Eagles have not and Nick Foles now finds himself under the brightest lights in the business. At least Carson Wentz went through the NFL Draft hoopla, so he did a lot of interviews and media. Most of the Eagles have not and that can be draining in the lead-up to the game. Similarly, Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Patricia have been through this. Pederson never has. Reich was an offensive assistant in 2010 when the Colts went to Super Bowl XLIV. Schwartz, who worked under Belichick in Cleveland in the mid-90s, was a defensive assistant for the Tennessee Titans for their trip to Super Bowl XXXIV. The Patriots certainly have a lot more experience in these two areas.
Free NFL Pick: Philadelphia Eagles +5
This is not a strong opinion and there’s no reason to jump in on this game right now. Wait it out and see where the money goes and how the market plays out. The value in this game will be on props, like it always is. The Eagles present some problems for the Patriots because of how well they can cover short and intermediate routes since they don’t sacrifice much with blitzes. The skill position talent for the Eagles is spread out in a way that should allow Philadelphia to have success against a slower New England defense.
If this line closes 5.5 or higher, it will be the largest Super Bowl line since 2009 when Pittsburgh failed to cover against Arizona as a touchdown favorite. Dating back to 2008, the underdog is 8-2 ATS with New England winning as a pick ‘em in Super Bowl XLIX. That may or may not mean much of anything this time around and it isn’t the largest of sample sizes, but favorites typically are inflated a little bit with the expectation of heavier volume on the “public” team.
Take a small position on the game, but save your money for the less efficient prop market.