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Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
By: Keith Wade
(Editor's Note: Keith sent us his Super Bowl LI notes 'as is', the exact same way he sends them to his many subscribers and faithful sports betting followers. The guy is good! The guy is highly respected.)
The 51st Super Bowl will take place at NRG Stadium , Houston, home of the Texans. It has a retractable roof, so games can be played indoor or out.
No decision will be made on this until Saturday, with forecasts split about how much rain there will be on game day. The NFL would prefer this to be outdoor, but will take no chances and, if the latest forecast predicts even a 20% chance of rain during the game, I understand the roof will be closed.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has not played a single game indoors all season, his Falcons counterpart Matt Ryan has played nine games under a dome in 2016/17.
That sounds like a big edge, but Brady has a good record when he does play indoors and Ryan's numbers are decent enough in the elements, so I am not seeing that as a major factor, but, as I am going with Atlanta anyway, if you forced me to choose, I would of course say, close the roof !
Ryan has been putting up MVP numbers all season long, something I spoke about along with the Falcons defensive upgrade in the second half of the campaign, ahead of their Championship game with a beat up Packers .
Aaron Rodgers led his team to an eighth straight win last week , the Packers beating the Cowboys in Dallas 34-31, it is a game that many people are ranking in their top ten of all time and highlight of that was a game winning play from Rodgers which has already become known simply as "The Throw". It was an amazing sporting moment, made all the more incredibly if what Rodgers is said to have done in the huddle ahead of that play is true (made up each receivers pattern on the spot).
That should have been the Super Bowl finale, trouble is here we are a week later and we have to do it all over again just to reach the decider and it probably feels like the final has already been played for Green Bay and the Packers have been on the road for two weeks and in post season mode and dare not lose territory since Week 12 and November 28th ! They must be running on empty and injuries are piling up and there is only so many times that Rodgers can (almost) single handedly pick his team up and haul them over the line and today is the day we can say, Aaron, it is ok to let go ! I would not like to be the one to tell him, but it feels like enough is enough !
His top receiver Jordy Nelson suffered two broken ribs in the first post season game and he has had very limited practice this week and will not be risked unless 100% which seems unlikely, fellow receivers Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison are also battling issues, Adams has been huge in the post season, but has sat out all week. Rodgers has spent most of this week throwing to second tier receivers and his running backs.
I just do not see how that is going to get the job done against the Falcons and we have not touched upon the biggest issues yet ! His Atlanta counter part Matt Ryan has had a sensational year, yes even alongside Rodgers and he has put up the 5th highest passer rating in NFL history and last week seemed to finally shake off any post season concerns about him in a 36-20 win over the Seahawks .
That was played on Saturday, so an extra day to rest and prepare for Ryan and his troops and no travel to contend with and ,after watching a rookie quarterback throw for 302 yards and three touchdowns agaisnt the Pack last week, Ryan will fancy his chances today against what looks a beat up secondary and that will go double if star safety Morgan Burnett is less than 100% and he is another who sat out practice this week until yesterday. Defensively, the Falcons are giving up 8 points less per game over the second half of the season and since they beat the Packers here 33-32 in a Week 8 thriller. Adams and Nelson caught 168 of 246 passing yards that day, Allison also caught a touchdown pass and Burnett had a game high 8 tackles, all played above themselves and Atlanta still won ! All four are injured or will be playing at less than 100% and defensively the Falcons are fast improving and mentally they have to be in a "better" place, with Green Bay worn out. Atlanta big.............by 10 + !. Atlanta won that 44-21, it was easier than even the scoreline suggests and pretty much over as a contest at the half. Patriots come into this having seen off a previously impressive Pittsburgh Steelers in no less comfortable fashion, but the early loss of Le'Veon Bell was huge, if maybe not a total game changer and the Steelers are in trouble for not reporting his existing groin situation in their pre game injury report and the episode has left a bit of a sour taste. There was little running game for Pittsburgh in a match up where conditions were conducive to keeping the ball on the ground as much as possible, at least until the play or scoreline suggested otherwise. Anyway, as a result New England won their 9th straight game and 13th in 14 starts, now play in their 7th Super Bowl since 2001 and are the most experienced post season team in football.
It is hard to pick too many holes in them especially the quarterback and coaching staff, but I have to try, I do think a lot has gone their way, at least from say Week 4 onwards. They have faced only four teams with a winning record since then in the regular season and played five who had posted five wins or fewer, of course, you can only beat what is put in front of you, but they met at least two of those winning teams when they were very badly beat up and or at seasonal low points . They went 3-1 against teams from the NFC (all from a disappointing West division) the Rams and 49ers only managed six wins between them and two came against each other ! The 7-9 Cardinals took the Pats to within two points and the only opponent with a winning record, the Seahawks, won by 7 in Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots.
The Falcons four starts against AFC teams were versus the strong Western division, their two losses came by a combined four points (one in OT) and they won both road games.
In sport in general and in the NFL as much as any , it is become increasing true that the more offensive minded teams/players have become dominant and to compare that to soccer, you win little nowadays with "a point on the road being a good return" attitude and if offense prevails today, it has to be the Falcons who take the spoils and that would be good for the game and might put an end to that " defense wins championships" cliche once and for all.
The Patriots gave up the fewest points this season, but are not the #1 defense they have been quoted as, we have already discussed the opposition they were facing and they finished the season ranked 8th in yards given up and the Falcons have beaten three teams ranked higher and by an average of 14 points.
Atlanta kept all those opponents quiet offensively too and their own defense is fast improving, ignore the rankings, they just didn't gel early season, now their speed is coming into play and they kept Aaron Rodgers and the Packers scoreless for circa 36 minutes (until the game was won) and Seattle without a touchdown for about 48 minutes and that coming after the Seahawks has scored on their opening drive, those are super impressive stats.
Tom Brady is an all time great, but he remains without his superstar TE in Rob Gronkowski and regardless of players continuing to pick up the slack, no one can argue that they are not a better team with Gronk in the line up, or that, however great he is, that at 39 , Brady is as good as he once was. He has also only won one post season game away from Gillette Stadium since 2006, conditions at Foxborough hugely favour the Patriots from December onwards and will be very different in Houston.
Atlanta have a fast array of offensive riches led by Julio Jones and it should be remembered that the Steelers, even without Bell and therefore a balanced game plan, managed 360+ yards and 22 first downs . I just do not see how the Pats are going to keep the Falcons to under their seasonal average of 34 points which has increased along with those defensive numbers, the longer the season has gone on, Atlanta are improving in every department. There is a good chance they will start on the front foot, New England almost always defer when they win the toss (but did opt to receive against the Steelers) ,Atlanta usually do too, which is odd as they have scored on their first possession for eight straight games and with their defense only looking vulnerable on that first drive from Seattle in the post season. I know there has been talk about this time taking the ball if they win the toss, if that is the case, they are likely to have the ball first, more of that later.
Atlanta for me and to be honest, I would be quite surprised if they did not win, but is all about value, Vegas odds give them a circa 42% chance and that seriously underestimates their chance in my opinion .
1.75 units Atlanta Falcons 2.35 Money Line Pinnacle/Vegas/Sportmarket Pro.
These are fun and I know many like to play them for the Super Bowl, but some are difficult to back and odds are often set to attract one way action at low odds and anything quoted at sub 1.95 has no appeal for me in any case, but we can discuss the scorer markets briefly.
First touchdown scorer: Having already spoken about what might happen following the toss and my feeling about the game in general, it has to be a Falcons player(s) we have to look at and where I think there is some value. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick will surely adopt his usual approach and double team the main offensive threat and that is Julio Jones, but many have tried this and failed and Jones, like all great players has upped his game at the right time and has four TD passes in his last three starts, including the first of the game against the Seahawks. I was going to look elsewhere and will, but odds of 9.0 about Jones feel too big to totally pass up.
However, if he is double covered that will give more space elsewhere and with Atlanta also posing a big receiving threat from their running backs, it is impossible for opponents to double up and cover everything. Beneficiary of this in the post season has been Mohamed Sanu who has become increasingly influential and he has a TD pass in both playoff games, including the first against the Packers and he is the receiver finding space on third down and in the red zone. He had a quiet December and has therefore gone under the radar a little, but has stepped up a level as we entered 2017 . At the end of November his numbers were very impressive.......Sanu had been targeted 18 times on third and fourth down, making 12 receptions ,eight for first downs. He had made eight catches for 58 yards, two touchdowns and four first downs in the red zone, where all three (at the time) of his touchdowns had come. Jones was targeted the same number of times, but only made 8 receptions and in the red zone, had 2 from 6 for 14 yards, one TD. Jones works better with space ahead of him, Sanu is the go to man in the scoring zone, we can cover both.
0.5 units Mohamed Sanu to score the first touchdown 17.0 general quote.
0.25 units Julio Jones to score the first touchdown 9.0 general quote .
1 unit Mohamed Sanu to score a touchdown at any time 2.55 Pinnacle.............there is 2.50- 2.875 elsewhere and I think that, especially at the upper end, is a great price for someone who Ryan will be looking for in the red zone and who has scored in the last three games.
This has all been very Falcons based, so I think I will also give my thoughts on the Patriots TD scorer market, although, to be honest, I would be happy if there was not one, but that is highly unlikely ! I think Chris Hogan has a better than 40% chance of scoring and he will be one of the hungrier players out there and one who has already proved he can step up on the big stage. Hogan opted to play lacrosse at college , but had one year of NCAA eligibility left and played football for one season, was undrafted, yet somehow made it to the Buffalo Bills, Bill Belichick signed him as a restricted free agent last March and Hogan has made the most of his opportunity, with 38 catches for 680 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season, his 17.9 yards per catch average tied for best in the NFL. In the Championship game, the biggest by far he has ever been involved in, he caught nine receptions for 180 yards and two TD's, a franchise post season record.
Julian Edelman (with 16) aside, Hogan has 13 catches and is the only receiver with more than six post season receptions, he has scored in four of the seven games this season in which he has caught four balls and he seems highly likely to be given the chance to catch far more than that this Sunday. He had both his best and 4th best games of the season in the two playoff games and doesn't look the sort to overly suffer nerves, more to thrive on the big occasion.
Patriots safety Duron Harmon said of Hogan : "Amazing, he works hard, man. "Ever since he got here, I don’t know if it was because he’s so eager for the opportunity, but I haven’t seen too many people put in the type of work he does. "I mean, you always see him, catching the ball, running extra routes, working with Tom (Brady), always doing something to get better. “He’s one of the last guys to leave the locker room, so it’s not by coincidence – what he does on the field on Sundays is not by coincidence. "He does it each and every day, consistently … I’m excited for him.” Me too !
1 unit Chris Hogan to score a touchdown at anytime 2.50-2.80 general quote.
Super Bowl LI Prediction
Clubgowi Sports Betting Advice
Keith Wade, a former bookmaker who's been gambling on sports successfully, and virtually, for 20 years, reaches a mass audience through www.clubgowi.com & Gambling and Other Wholesome Interests, his website and very popular blog. He is a respected & successful sports bettor, who's been cushing the line for two decades!
Here, he breaks down Super Bowl LI between the Patriots & Falcons.
Who are you taking?