Patriots settle in as a slight favorite over the Rams

We’ve seen this movie before. For a generation, NFL fans have grown accustomed now to seeing Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and some version of the New England Patriots find their way into the Super Bowl. They’re also usually favorites as well apart from their first appearance where they were huge underdogs against . . . the St. Louis Rams. This year they’ll face the now Los Angeles Rams led by young coaching phenom Sean McVay and young quarterback Jared Goff. The current line has the Patriots favored by 2.5 points, which has grown from a slightly smaller opening spread and money jumped on the Patriots.

There will be tons of interest in Super Bowl bets leading up to the game next weekend. For many, it’s hard to bet against Brady and the Pats. Brady’s performance in Super Bowls has been legendary as he has racked up a 5-3 record in these games, including the spectacular comeback from a 28-3 deficit against the Falcons several years ago. Even last year’s loss against the Eagles came down to the wire. Last week he led an epic drive in overtime to send home Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs. Still, at the age of 41, Brady probably can’t do everything he used to as consistently, and Belichick has made it a point to use the running game with Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White to provide a balanced offense to take the pressure off Brady. This will be critical against the Rams pass rush led by Aaron Donald. The Pats can’t let him tee off on Brady as pressure is the one element that can foil the Pats (and most other teams).

Another important storyline involves Rams running back Todd Gurley who discusses the game in the video above. Gurley is back in Georgia for the game, hence the Bulldogs sweatshirt, and he’s obviously hoping to get his groove back for the Super Bowl. Gurley has been dominant most of the season, helping to drive one of the best offenses in football. Lately he’s been slowed by injuries and played poorly against the Saints, but the Rams have struck gold with their late-season pickup of CJ Anderson who has been a force in the running game. The Rams offense is truly scary when they can run the ball, as they showed several weeks ago in completely dominating the Cowboys. Against the Saints, Anderson picked up the slack and played the majority of the game with Gurley being ineffective. If Gurley can return to form, he plus the powerful Anderson can be keys to a potential Rams victory.

Many will focus on Brady and Goff when evaluating this matchup, but it may come down to which team can effectively run the ball. Both running games are impressive, and the Rams in particular can be a handful if both Gurley and Anderson are gaining yards.

As for coaching, we definitely have two of the game’s best. Belichick is arguably the greatest coach of all time, and we’ve seen how he’s molded the Patriots into a team that can adapt from week to week to take advantage of the weaknesses of the opponent. Belichick knows how to play the odds and he’s ruthless about it. The he has Brady to work his magic when needed. McVay has shown he can adapt as well, and it will be fascinating to see this chess match unfold.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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