IT’S Super Bowl time! Here Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) focuses on the best Atlanta Falcons bets.
New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons | BBC One | Sunday 23:30
For those casual viewers of this sport, its worth knowing a few things about New England. They have the greatest coach of all time, the only man to win three Super Bowls and the greatest player perhaps the game has ever known. Oh and like Manchester United, if you are not a fan, you are obliged to despise them. That will put me in trouble with a few …..
New England has dominated the NFL for almost all of this century. That is simply not meant to happen. This sport is set up in such a way, that no team can dominate for more than maybe five years. Much like United of a few years ago, if New England aren’t winning the thing, they are damn close.
In that context, what they have achieved this season, perhaps ranks above everything else that has gone before. Most will not need reminding that the Patriots played the first four games of the season without their main man. Tom Brady, the GOAT as Pats fans love to call him, missed a quarter of the regular season … and they still won their division by a mile.
Brady was suspended after the saga of ‘deflategate’, a subject we wont go into here but suffice to say that Number 12 was found guilty of cheating and he really was not happy about it.
At 39 and the oldest non kicker in the league, Brady could not afford to miss such a big part of one of his last seasons and he certainly did not like the damage to his whiter than white reputation.
New England were not exactly written off (I tipped them to end with the seasons best record) but they were expected to struggle at the very least. They could well be 0-4 by the time 12 got on the field and looking at missing post season football.
The back ups to Brady were just a couple of kids. This could get ugly. However, New England proved there was far more to them than ‘just’ having the greatest etc etc.
Despite losing back up Jimmy Garroplolo to injury and having to start third string Jacoby Brissett, Brady took over a winning team. Amazingly, the Pats were 3-1. Only a home defeat by Houston when Brissett was the starter and Pats fans could breathe again.
Would the old man (he looks about 26) get back to where he had been before. Especially after missing so much game time? Brady was to lose one more game. A week 10 loss, again at home, to Seattle 31-24. It was though Brady had never been away.
Despite another season of injuries to key players, everything looked rosy at Gillette Stadium. Even the loss of the incredible Tight End, Rob Gronkowski to season ending injury was overcome.
What else would you expect from a Bill Belichick team.I have made comparisons between New England and the Ferguson era Manchester United. There are similarities, but also crucial differences.
United, because they were so successful, were able to buy the best players. The success that the Patriots have had, has the opposite effect. The coaching staff in Foxboro don’t get to pick the juiciest apples.
The way the NFL works means that the best teams pick last I the draft, the best young players go the worst teams, not the best. That’s how the sport stays competitive.
No, the Patriots pick from the bottom of the barrel. The guys nobody else wants badly enough, or through free agency and trades, they pick up those who have failed elsewhere.
New England is a team of misfits. And that is their strength. That is what New England are best at. Picking guys up and turning talent and desire into the basis of superstar careers. Frank Lampard would play for New England. Paul Pogba wouldn’t.
The starting point for any discussion about New England, remains Tom Brady. The Pats are so utterly predictable, if unstoppable, most of the time but there are strange games in which Belichick baffles.
Suddenly LeGarret Blount will have a 150 yard 3 touchdown day. Brady almost having a day off, but most of the time it is safe to assume that the game will revolve around his main man.
The injury to Gronkowski has not had any noticeable effect on what this Patriots offence has done since. As in any great team in any sport, when a star player goes down, someone steps up.
The man to do that this season in many ways is Julian Edelman. He suffered a season ending injury of his own in 2015 but has become the go to man for Brady. 98 targets in the regular season tell their own story in a unit littered with great hands. There are a lot of taller, faster, stronger receivers than Edelman. There are few as intelligent.
Martellus Bennett, when fit, has proved an able substitute for Gronk. His huge frame proving particularly difficult to cover down near the goal line. Dion Lewis missed a good 10 weeks of the regular season but is a favourite of the coach’s. Lewis is equally good with ball in hand or catching short screen passes for big gains.
A glittering offence may be doing the business at one end but New England also happen to possess a fairly decent defence as well. If the highest scoring defensive unit in football can be called decent that is.
Matt Patricia is destined for a head coach job somewhere, maybe even a candidate when Belichick finally calls it a day. Patricia’s defence is like most of this team, full of the guys who didn’t make it on other teams. Its full of guys that can make it a very difficult day for opposing quarterbacks. Guys who rarely crack under pressure. Belichick teams don’t crack.
As the AFC number one seed, New England did not play until the second round of the playoffs. They took on the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on January 14th and started as 15 point favourites in the handicap markets. Houston despite a stellar defence were being led by a donkey of a quarterback in Brett Ostweiller.
Despite that, it took a while for the Patriots to really get into the game. Brady was hit eight times by the Texans defence which was a big fail on the part of his offensive line. His protection was non existent at times. The Pats got to grips with the task and came though 34-16
On to the AFC Championship, Brady’s 11th the visit of Ben Roethlisberger and his Pittsburgh Steelers. Its hard to judge the game, the loss of LeVeon Bell so early in the piece was a devastating blow to the Steelers.
If we just look at what New England did, then its all very good news. Edelman was brilliant once again. His playoff total in 2016 now standing at 16 catches for 255 yards an a touchdown. What really stood out about his showing against Pittsburgh was the yards he gained after the catch.
There are few better than Edelman at that aspect of the game. The only man to do better than Edelman, especially in the 36-17 win over the Steelers was another classic New England misfit, Chris Hogan.
The big receiver failed to make it as a Bill and you have to be pretty bad not to succeed in Buffalo and has emerged almost from nowhere to being a man to be feared in the biggest game of all.
13 catches for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns is something he will remember forever. What those who saw the game will remember is an incredibly strong, agile receiver who like Edelman is so difficult to bring down for safetys and cornerbacks.
Sunday night and NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas gets to host the greatest show on earth. Once again, I get the privilege of calling it for WeLoveBetting.
I chose New England many months ago. Although I was hugely positive about Atlanta in pre season, few if any of us would have chosen them to go this far, certainly not me.
My view of the game is probably little different to every other one you have read. Its going to be close, its going to entertaining, there will be plenty of points and quite possibly whoever has the ball last will win.
To add to the Atlanta picks, lets start with the Super Bowl MVP. It is almost certainly going to be the winning quarterback. It normally is and Brady is a best priced 10/11 but in this market, I prefer to play small stakes on big prices.
Defensive players have actually won two of the last three. Malcolm Butler, who picked off a pass in the last second to win New England its last Super Bowl has a live chance this time around.
My best bet of the game, once again inspired by racing guru @gazsax is Julian Edelman over 88.5 receiving yards 10/11 with Skybet. Easy pick. Brady loves him, hes in great form and Atlanta cant cover him.
It just isn’t possible to bet against the Patriots and having expected a much bigger number I am going to pick New England as 30-24 winners and make Patriots -3 my final bet of this NFL season.