Mike Carlson has been picking bets every week of this enthralling NFL season. Here our man picks six for Super Bowl LIV on everything from touchdowns to the national anthem...
"Assuming SF concentrate on stopping Tyreek Hill, it could leave Hardman in single coverage, and that could create problems for the defense."
Two weeks is a long time in football. The more you stew on what seems to be the most balanced and compelling Super Bowl in some time, the more unconvinced you get. The spread is 1.5 points, and that probably reflects the Chiefs' ability to score seemingly at will when their backs appear to be against the wall.
The Niners may be the better balanced team, on offense between run and pass, and between offense and defense, but one thing the two teams have in common is that they have both come good at the right time: getting players healthy on their O lines, getting back playmakers on defense, and were probably both in peak form in the conference championship game.
The Niners left the Packers needing therapy before the first half was over. The key point to remember here is that Aaron Rodgers, who was the beta version of Patrick Mahones, doesn't have the game-breaking possibilities at wideout and tight end. My best bet two weeks ago, based on their form of quick-starts almost all season long, was Green Bay to score over 9.5 points in the first half. They were shut out. Luckily the Niners covered the half-time over all by themselves, and the garbage time points for the Pack covered the full-time over easily.
Garbage time also helped with two of my other choices, Jimmy Graham over 2.5 at evens and Richard Sherman to pluck a pick at 11/2. Someone actually tweeted @betfair that they'd bet those as a double - I wish I had! Meanwhile, my view that the Titans would stop the Chiefs enough to keep their total under 52.4 turned out to be a misapprehension.
This week I'm probably taking the Niners on the moneyline at 11/10 and the under 54.5 at 11/10. But those aren't the bets I'm advising (though if you do go Chiefs, I'd skip the points for them as well, and probably take the over: the higher-scoring the game the better the Chiefs' chances).
Speedy Hardman could be the man to watch
Are you kidding me? Yes Hardman is kind of a gadget player, but he's more useful than that, and getting the ball to him twice during the game seems to me a sure thing. Deep, on a deep slant route, or a wide-receiver screen to take advantage of his speed. Assuming SF concentrate on stopping Tyreek Hill, it could leave Hardman in single coverage, and that could create problems for the defense.
Key man Matthieu to make lots of tackles and pick up assists
Matthieu is one of the keys to the Chiefs' defensive success: he needs to be very active against the Niners' play action game, which means I see him trying to slice through zone blocking schemes. He also may be a first line of defense against George Kittle.
Because of his quickness, I think he's in on a lot of tackles, and picks up assists that way. Three tackles, three assists puts him over and I like that.
Bourne, Juzcyk and Williams all offer value
Individual TD bets are a crap shoot, but I tend to like going for third or fourth options, and Bourne has been dependable in the red area. A longer shot that intrigues me for a flutter is Niners' fullback Kyle Juzczyk to score at 9/1. He could run a dive play or catch a pass in the flat when everyone else has cleared out defenders. If the Chiefs fall behind, I like Damien Williams under 13.5 rushes at 10/11, and I'm not convinced they will blow out SF and put them in that position to run out the game. And Tyreek Hill is evens to score a TD, which I'd like to see slightly longer but still seems a realistic possibility.
I always like the national anthem bet, and though I have nothing like the faith I had in Gladys Knight that Demi Lovato will deliver, she would have to be a real stage-hog to extend to two minutes five seconds.
How can they resist? He's a former baseball star, a TV personality, and J-Lo's latest super fit sculpted squeeze.
Clear/water is usually the favourite, for good reason, but the odds have been shortening on red all week, because someone has noticed that both teams wear red. Call it a hunch...
Best Bet: Mecole Hardman over 1.5 catches at evs
Value Bet: Tyrann Matthieu total tackles (tackles plus assists) over 5.5 at 11/10
Outside Bet: Kendrick Bourne to score a TD at 11/4
Best Novelty Bet: National Anthem duration under 2:04.5 at 5/6
Value Novelty Bet: Alex Rodriguez shown on camera during J-Lo's halftime show at 2/1
Outside Novelty bet: Colour of Gatorade poured over winning coach to be red at 17/10.