Super Bowl LIII: The early verdict from Mike Carlson

LA Rams coach Sean McVay
Can 'genius' Sean McVay stop the Pats?

Our NFL expert takes an early look at Super Bowl LIII where punters have made an early move on another Patriots victory...

"The game itself is a fascinating one, and the Pats really should be underdogs in much the same way as they were back on 3 February 2002, exactly 17 years before the date of Super Bowl LIII (53 to those of you who don't speak Latin): a team without overwhelming individual talent playing against the Greatest Show On Turf, the high-powered Rams' offense quarterbacked by Kurt Warner and engineered by short-lived offensive genius Mike Martz."

Two underdogs in the big one

A funny thing happened on the way to the Super Bowl.

The Patriots, in the unusual position of being underdogs in Kansas City, took a dominant first half lead and withstood a ferocious Chiefs' rally to win in overtime. Meanwhile the Rams, also underdogs on the road in New Orleans, got away with one of the most blatantly obvious no-calls in NFL history, to get into overtime and win off the foot of kicker Greg Zuerlein, who hit from 48 to tie the game at the whistle, and then from 57 in overtime to win it.

Punters pile in on Patriots

The result of this was that the Super Bowl line opened with the Patriots again underdogs, by a point or a point-and-a-half, to the Rams. But not for long. A flood of money came in from people, not all of them in the six New England states, who said "this is a Super Bowl and you're giving me the Patriots AND points?" It swung the line all the way over to giving that point-and-a-half to the Rams, with the over/under set at 57.5.

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You can't argue with the innate smartness of the book. After all, both Conference Championship games went off with the home teams as three point favourites; in essence saying these were toss-up game. If you followed my best bet last week and took the Rams, you didn't even need the 3.5 points that were on offer. I was really too cautious picking these tight games, and of my odds-on value picks James White didn't pull in his six catches, but Rob Gronkowski did catch more than 3.5 so I was even there, and my outside pick of Robert Woods to catch more than six was a push, as he caught six.

But Pats probably should be underdogs here

There will be tons more prop bets on the Super Bowl, not limited to the play on the field either, as befits a day that is, in effect, America's one true national holiday. But the game itself is a fascinating one, and the Pats really should be underdogs in much the same way as they were back on 3 February 2002, exactly 17 years before the date of Super Bowl LIII (53 to those of you who don't speak Latin): a team without overwhelming individual talent playing against the Greatest Show On Turf, the high-powered Rams' offense quarterbacked by Kurt Warner and engineered by short-lived offensive genius Mike Martz.

Can genius McVay land the big one?

This year's genius is Sean McVay, the young head coach who has started a trend of looking for head coaches among other team's offensive coordinators who still get asked for ID when they order a beer. When his Rams beat the Chiefs 54-51 back in November it was supposed to sound the death knell for low-scoring football in the NFL.

Of course it didn't, and the Rams/Saints game, featuring two high-powered offenses, went well under the 56 points offered to bettors, while the Pats and Chiefs, who in the cold winds of Kansas City looked a better bet to under their 56, cleared it easily (helped of course by overtime, but still 62 points in regulation).

It's going to be a fascinating match-up, and I'll be back next week with the usual breakdown and picks and with a certain sense of relief as this will be only the second week all season I don't have to own up to my previous week's recommendations! See you then!

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