A lot of football fans are rooting for Philadelphia to win the Super Bowl Sunday because they hate New England, but they’re also afraid the Patriots will figure out a way to win the game.
So I’m expecting a lot of half-hearted support for the Eagles (at least outside Pennsylvania), who were made 6-point underdogs before their game with Minnesota was over and have been bet down to 4.5 points.
The betting interest in the Eagles stems from the perception the teams are much closer than the point spread indicates, and I’m inclined to agree with that view.
Using a basic power rating system that has proved reliable over the years, I rate Philadelphia less than 1 point better than the Patriots. The teams had 6 common opponents this year, and the Eagles when 5-1 against them vs. the Patriots 4-2 record. (Kansas City is the only team that beat both of them.)
The teams are almost even in turnover ratio, the single best predictor of who’s going to win a game. From a strictly betting perspective, Philadelphia beat the point spread by an average of 7.8 points (the bookies underrated them all year) while the Patriots covered the number by 1.3 points. That suggests taking the Eagles and the points is a better play than New England.
But New England has two advantages Philadelphia lacks–quarterback Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the best coach in pro football today and maybe the best ever. As the old saying goes, Belichick can take his and beat yours, and take yours and beat his.
The Patriots are far from perfect; their biggest defect is a weak running game, and I’m sure the Eagles are going to try to stop the run and force Brady to beat them through the air. Philly has the best pass rushing defense in the league, and will depend on its front four to pressure Brady enough to disrupt his timing.
Belichick know this, and you can bet he will come up with a counter. He also has the best big-money quarterback in the game. Brady has already won a record 5 Super Bowls and you need to take a deep breath to bet against him in this one. (Besides, he was born and raised in my hometown, San Mateo.)
Close games always come down to the QB, and I would like Philly if Carson Wentz was starting because he can largely offset the Brady advantage. Unfortunately, he was injured in game 15 and his backup, Nick Foles, will have to get the job done. There’s a reason why he was second string.
Who’s going to win the game? I don’t know, but I’m going to enjoy the game from a unique position. A friend of mine who bets a lot more on football than I could ever afford has invited me to join him at a high rollers party at the Peppermill hotel-casino in Reno.
It will be interesting to see how guys who “go to their pocket real good” react as the game unfolds. I’ll be watching closely as I enjoy the food and beverages.