We finally made it. The last football game of the year. I have bet hundreds of football games since August and there is now only one game left. Bengals vs. Rams. Joe Burrow vs. Matt Stafford. It’s some fresh blood in the Super Bowl for the first time in a long time so that’s exciting but one thing that isn’t exciting to me is that I don’t particularly love the matchup from a betting perspective. There was no massive edge that jumped out to me right away and the bet I settled on is basically just me going with my gut. Here are the updated numbers one last time before the end-of-year recap:
NFL Playoffs: 13-12-1 +0.15u
NFL YTD: 113-96-5 (54%) +8.9u
Let’s get over double-digit units on the season this weekend to end the year nicely!
Bengals @ Rams (-4) o/u 48.5
As I said earlier, this isn’t the ideal Super Bowl matchup for me from a handicapping perspective. For example, in all three of the 49ers’ games they were clear plays to me and covered all 3, the Rams vs the Bucs catching points was a clear play for me, unfortunately… this one is not. The Rams have several big advantages, most notably the pass-rushing ability against the Bengals’ weak OL. However, we have seen Burrow get banged up every game, including the record-breaking 9 sack performance by the Titans, and yet here the Bengals are. One of Joe Burrow’s best traits that won him a National Championship, a Heisman, made him the #1 overall pick, and now playing in the Super Bowl is his toughness and resilience. It is something that can’t really be quantified in numbers but is worth so much to his offense and his team. Burrow can get beat up badly and seems to only get better as the game goes on despite what’s happening to his body.
Another key factor to consider is that the Rams are elite at getting pressure but they do blitz at one of the highest rates in the NFL and Burrow is ELITE against the blitz. So one big thing to watch early in this game is whether the Rams bring a lot of pass rushers or not. With Von Miller, Aaron Donald, and Leonard Floyd the Rams should be able to get pressure only rushing 4 or 5 but so many of their schemes revolve around blitzing that it’s a really interesting storyline to follow. I think the Rams would be smarter to rush 4-5 because I think they would still get pressure and that would allow the LBs to help on the dangerous weapons of the Bengals. However, if the Rams decided to bring a lot of pressure I think they will get after Burrow a lot but that will play into Burrow’s hands so we will see there.
In terms of handicapping the game in general, I don’t have some genius insight into how the game will go that hasn’t been harped on about by every football media member in the world over the past two weeks so I’m not going to waste too much time talking about exactly how the game will go and what both teams will do to try to win because I’m sure you’ve already heard every angle. Instead, I’m going to run through all of my bets and explain why I’m taking that particular angle. At the end of the day I did land on Bengals +4.5 as I think Joe Burrow really just is that dude and the Bengals defense has really impressed me throughout the postseason.
Here are some quick trends that support why I like the Bengals + the points:
-The Bengals are 8-2 ATS on the road this year and 6-1 ATS as road dogs
-Away from Cincinnati, the Bengals are 16-9 (64%) ATS under Zac Taylor, 5th best in the NFL over that stretch and that includes the games without Joe Burrow late last year
-The Rams were 7-10 ATS as favorites this season
-Between college and the NFL, Joe Burrow is 9-0 SU in “elimination”/win or you’re out games
-Joe Burrow is 11-2 ATS as a dog of 3+ in the NFL
-The “McVay has been to the Super Bowl before” take doesn’t hold much weight. In the last 22 Super Bowls, 11 have had a head coach that has been to the SB before against a head coach that hasn’t been and the head coach with experience was only 6-5 SU. Also, Zac Taylor was the QB Coach on that Rams team so he has been through the SB week experience even if it wasn’t as a HC. In summary, it means close to nothing, if not nothing at all.
Here are some of my predictions for how the game script will go that I’m basing my bets around:
-The Rams have started quick and the Bengals have started slow most of the playoffs and even back to the regular season
-Both of these coaches have been conservative early in the game in terms of 4th downs, aggressive play calling, 1st down passing
-The Rams have struggled to hold leads and McVay gets very conservative when he has a big lead
-The Bengals have been great in obvious passing downs causing them to be able to come back from large deficits
I used this general map for how I think the game script will go- I see a low-scoring 1st half that will see the Rams take a 4-10 point lead into halftime and then Burrow and the offense will make their adjustments and kick into gear in the second half which I see being much higher scoring than the first half. I think the game will end up coming down to a field goal either way but gun-to-head I would go with the Bengals being the ones to kick the game-winner. I WILL be looking to bet some Bengals live or 2H at +7.5 or better if they do end up going down early and would also look into a 2H over if the number is right.
Non-Prop Betting Card
1.5u Bengals +4.5 (-110)– Joe Brrrrr plain and simple
0.5u 1H u24 (-120)– slow starters
0.25u 1Q u9.5 (-110)– historically the lowest scoring quarter in the SB and two conservative coaches early in games
0.1u 1H alt total u17.5 (+240)– greedy…
0.1u Rams to lead at HT, Bengals to win (+625)– perfect game-script prediction
Now, I am betting way more props than any rational human should on this game but it’s the Super Bowl soooo why not? However, if you are more responsible than me or just don’t want to track 50 bets at once, then these are the props for you. I’m gonna give my top six props with some longer write-ups, then run through every other prop I’m betting with a more brief explanation.
Cam Akers u65.5 rushing yards (-115)– we bet this one in the last round against SF and cashed and I’m going back to it here. The Rams are just not running the ball that frequently or with great effect. Also Darrell Henderson is set to return to this game and with Sony Michel’s playoff and Super Bowl experience I expect him to get a decent amount of touches as well. Akers has had fumble issues in the postseason and if we see him put one on the floor in this game I think McVay goes heavy with Michel the rest of the way.
Cooper Kupp longest reception o28.5 (-135)– This is the only Cooper Kupp prop that you can get any kind of bargain on. The Cincy secondary has been susceptible to the big play and I think the Rams will really try to scheme a few plays where they can hit Kupp over the top. Between that and his YAC ability, I think we see at least one huge play from Coooooop.
Joe Mixon o24.5 receiving yards (-110), Mixon anytime TD (+100)– Mixon has not gotten as much ground work in the postseason but he has been getting a lot of work through the air. This is the last game of the year so I expect Mixon to stay on the field as much as humanly possible instead of sharing snaps with Perine and Evans. Also with the Rams dangerous pass-rush Mixon will be a go-to quick outlet for Joe Brr. Mixon has gone over this # five straight weeks dating back to the regular season. I also think he’ll get into the end zone as the go-to guy running the ball and/or a quick screen outlet.
Higgins over 68.5 receiving yards (-120)– Ja’Marr Chase deservedly gets a ton of love for his rookie season but Tee Higgins has quietly been a star in this Bengals offense. With the Rams (and mostly Jalen Ramsey) giving Chase extra attention I expect Higgins to be the guy that gets more favorable matchups and can break some big plays for the Bengals O. Higgins went for 103 and 96 yards in his last two games and has gone over this # in 8 of his last 12 games.
Stafford rush yards under 5.5 (-115)– Stafford went over this # on one random scramble at the end of the 2nd quarter last week but he has no interest in running the ball. This # also is favorable with the possibility of Stafford taking knees at the end of the 1H and/or game. There is some recency bias baked into this number because Stafford has had some random scrambles in the playoffs to push him over this # but in the regular season he only cleared this # in 4/17 games.
Game to be decided by exactly 3 points (+400)– Like I said, I think this game comes down to a kick either way- take the shot here.
Full Prop List
This is every prop I’m betting including the favorites I wrote up above. I’ll give a word or two on why I like each one. I also separated them into separate categories if there are certain types of props you don’t like betting. I entered as many as I could into Action but they don’t have them all listed so I will grade the whole sheet separately after the game. Make sure not to bet too much on props so that worst case you kinda just push this money around and go 50/50 but hopefully they are pretty profitable to go along with the main bets.
First Quarter Draw & 1Q u9.5 parlay (+740)– can’t find a 1st quarter to finish 0-0 prop so betting this and 3-3 would also cash it
Game to be decided by 3 points (+400)– fav
Highest scoring quarter- 3rd (+500)– historically highest scoring quarter of the SB
Coin Toss- Tails (-101)– never fails and heads has been on a run so let’s get it back. Find site with the least juice possible.
Opening kickoff- no touchback (+110)– the league uses a commemorative ball for opening kickoffs of SBs and idk if the ball is slightly different or if there are just nerves but there are rarely TBs on opening kicks of the SB
Rams first charged TO (-120)– McVay has been burning early timeouts a ton all season and particularly in playoffs
First play either team- a pass (+115)– I think both coaches will try to get their QBs comfortable early with an easy completion
Huber longest punt o52.5 (-125)– Huber boot football.
Matt Gay o1.5 made FGs (-135)– Bengals have been good holding teams to 3 in the playoffs and Gay has been super accurate at SoFi. McVay also conservative when it comes to taking the points.
Cam Akers u65.5 rush yards (-115)– fav
Kupp longest catch o28.5 (-135)– fav
Joe Mixon o24.5 receiving yards (-110)– fav
Burrow over 273.5 passing yards (-115)- Believe in Big Game Joe.
Higgins over 68.5 receiving yards (-120)– fav
Stafford rush yards under 5.5 (-115)– fav
Chase rush yards o3.5 (-125)– Chase has had at least one carry in each postseason game so far and I think Taylor will fully open up the playbook for the SB and have some creative ways to get the ball in Chase’s hands especially with Ramsey covering him on passing plays.
Leonard Floyd (+700)- Floyd, Donald, and Miller all have postseason sacks but Floyd has much better odds. Also, Floyd only had 3 less sacks than Donald in the regular season. Great value.
Sam Hubbard (+850)- Trey Hendrickson is the star of this defense but Hubbard leads the team with 3 postseason sacks. Great value here.
Ernest Jones (+2800)- Jones had two INTs in the regular season and is crazy value for a guy that seems to make a lot of heads up plays. Also if Burrow throws an INT I think it’s more likely to be fluky like a tipped pass then a bomb against Ramsey 1-on-1 so I like this bet.
Mike Hilton (+1250)- Hilton was tied for the 2nd most INTs on the team in the regular season and has another INT in the postseason but has the worst odds of any Bengals secondary member so I’m taking the value.
Ja’Marr Chase (8/1)– Obvious. He’s a monster and Joe will want to go to his guy early to get settled.
Joe Mixon (+750)- Mixon has the ground and air threat.
Sony Michel (16/1)- Michel more reliable and experienced than Akers and is good in short-yardage so good value if McVay wants to feed him on the goal line.
Van Jefferson (18/1)- Jefferson had 6 regular season TDs and is capable of breaking a big play at anytime. Could also be used in a Robert Woods type of play to run for a TD.
Chris Evans (100/1)- Normally I would just bet two guys from each team but Evans is really dynamic at this huge number. He caught two TDs in the regular season and could easily have been the guy that scored on the TD that Perine did in the postseason. He is also an electric kick returner so you never know…
Joe Mixon (+100)- Fav
Van Jefferson (+330)- With the amount of attention Kupp and OBJ will get I think Jefferson will get a shot at a big play. If Higbee is out or limited that would also get him a few extra targets potentially.
Either team D/ST (+210)- These odds reflect an implied odds of 32.26%. So basically there is a 1/3 in chance that there will be a D/ST touchdown based on these odds. However, I went back to the past 15 Super Bowls and there have been 10 D/ST touchdowns over those 15 games which would imply there is around a 2/3 chance of a D/ST touchdown in a Super Bowl- twice the actual odds. Obviously, a D/ST touchdown requires a decent amount of variance so it’s not that easy but I think there is real value in this number especially since both QBs in this game are susceptible to big mistakes and the Rams DL is so capable of a strip sack type of play.
Here are some quick MVP trends to note for your own bets and that helped form mine.
-A running back hasn’t won it since 1998
-Wide receivers have won 4 since 2005
-Quarterbacks have won 55% of all MVPs and 9/12 since 2010
-Defensive players have won 18% of MVPs- since 2000 we have seen superstars like Ray Lewis and Von Miller win but also random defensive players like Dexter Jackson and Malcolm Smith who were just in the right place at the right time
So my basic approach is: don’t bet a running back, QBs are obviously most likely by a lot but odds usually not worth it, big game WRs have a decent chance as of late, defensive players have a shot if game is low-scoring but usually requires a TD.
Joe Burrow (+225)– I’m staying away from Stafford because odds are so low but this is a decent number for a QB especially because if the Bengals win it will be really hard not to give it to Burrow even compared to most QBs.
Cooper Kupp (6/1)– For a WR to win they need to have like 2/3 or more of the QB’s completions, yards, and TDs. Cooper Kupp literally does that all the time. This would also be a consolation MVP for the guy some thought should have been the regular season MVP.
Tee Higgins (35/1)– I already talked about why I love Higgins in this game and this is great value compared to the other top WRs on the board.
Jalen Ramsey (45/1)– I am playing three Rams defensive players smaller. I think the Rams are capabale of dominating defensively and in a lower scoring game I could see a Rams D player getting rewarded, especially if they score 1 of the game’s only TDs. If anyone is bound to make a massive play and score a TD it’s Ramsey.
Eric Weddle (200/1)– Taking another longshot on a guy that is so smart that he could get himself into the right place at the right time to make that crazy defensive play. Also has the big story going for him with the comeback that could sway voters.
Leonard Floyd (200/1)– Going with Floyd for the same reason I took him over Miller and Donald for first sack- value. Donald and Miller are both under 20/1 and Floyd is 200/1. That makes no sense based on their production level. Floyd is capable of getting multiple sacks, forcing a fumble, and even has an INT this year. If he happens to be that guy that has a pick-six or returns a fumble for a TD on top of a couple of sacks, this could easily be his award. You even have the possibility that Donald or Miller come up with the strip sack but Floyd is the one that scoops and scores with it.
That’s it for the Super Bowl preview! I know that is a TON of info but this is the last chance I get to preview a football game for months so let me have this one! Best of luck to everyone and let’s make this an awesome football season finale. I’ll be back with a quick Super Bowl Sunday preview on how to attack the day similar to my Thanksgiving guide then I’ll have an NFL season recap next week!
One last time…