Scott Shapiro's Super Sunday Free Picks
One of the most highly anticipated days on the American sports calendar is upon us: Super Bowl Sunday, baby!
Obviously, the game between the Patriots and the Rams headlines the big day, but there is also a college hoops game that I hope to use to build our bankrolls before kickoff of the “Big Game” (6:30 p.m. EST).
Here is what I will be involved with on Super Bowl Sunday with an early college basketball free pick, my favorite Super Bowl prop bet and a breakdown of the championship game itself:
BANKROLL BUILDER (NCAAB)
Minnesota Golden Gophers at Purdue Boilermakers (12:00 PM EST)
Minnesota was able to get some much-needed confidence at home over their last two games with wins versus Iowa and Illinois. Richard Pitino’s team has only won 1 of 5 true road contests this season, but it was a big one when they beat Wisconsin at the Kohl Center 59-52 on January 3rd. In that contest in Madison, the Golden Gophers dominated on the glass and made 6 of 14 from downtown. They will need to do similar work on the boards and make a high percentage of three-pointers if they want to stay in this one against a red-hot Purdue team.
The Boilermakers were just 6-5 after a loss to Notre Dame at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but since then they have won 9 of 10 and have vaulted themselves into contention in the loaded Big Ten. Carsen Edwards has played like an All-American, but it has been the emergence of freshmen Trevion Williams on the interior that has taken Purdue to the next level. Combine Williams move forward with great shooting from Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert and you have a team that is capable of making some serious noise come March.
Purdue had to go overtime to on Thursday night to beat Penn State in State College and should have too much in the end for Minnesota. However, it may be closer than some expect.Pick- Minnesota (+11.5)
SUPER BOWL LIII PROP BET
Will Either Team Score in First Six and a Half Minutes? Yes, -150 | No +130
In a game where points are unlikely to be at a premium, it is not easy to pull the trigger on this proposition bet found on BetAmerica, but there are a few reasons to take plus money after a deep dive.
Firstly, the Patriots have received the kickoff in each of their first two playoff games in 2019 and on both occasions Brady and crew still maintained possession six and a half minutes later. The fact that they scored on the initial drive is a non-factor since it came after they already chewed up seven minutes of time. What is important though is that the AFC champions valued two things at the start of both playoff contests.
1) getting their rushing attack going early
2) a desire to keep the opposing offense on the sidelines as they methodically drove the football down the field
There is little reason to believe Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will not try similar tactics in the Super Bowl. If they do, the “No” has a big chance.
In addition to long first drives, history says the Patriots offense is likely to start slow on Sunday. New England has had plenty of success in the “Big Game,” but they have not necessarily lit the world on fire in the first quarter. Last year, the Patriots put up a mere field goal in the first stanza against the Eagles. In their three prior Super Bowl appearances against the Falcons, Seahawks, and Giants they were shut out over the initial fifteen minutes.
Since it is unlikely that the Patriots will once again milk the first six and a half minutes off the clock without a score on their opening drive, the fact that the Patriots defense has played well early of late is encouraging. They shut out the Chiefs in the first half in the AFC title game and only gave up one big play to the Chargers in the first quarter of their divisional round. This gives further reason to believe that a score during the first six and a half minutes is not a gimme.
Pick- No (+130)
Super Bowl LIII New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams Sunday, February 3rd - 6:30pm EST Odds: NE -2.5 (56.)
It is rare that I have a super strong opinion in the Super Bowl and once again neither side has jumped out at me as the obvious “right one” on Sunday evening.
Many of us doubted whether the Patriots were good enough to win the AFC this season after not passing the “eye test” through most of the year, but they have turned it on once again when it matters most. Tom Brady has been brilliant in January throwing for over 340 yards in both games and of course the game plans drawn up by head coach Bill Belichick and his staff have been near flawless. The question is will they get the best of Sean McVay and all-time great defensive mastermind Wade Phillips.
I did not like the Rams’ chances of making the Super Bowl just a couple of weeks ago, but they did impress me with their ability to hang in there despite a poor start in a hostile environment two weeks ago in the “Big Easy.” Sure, it took a terrible call for them to advance instead of the Saints, but their mental toughness and ability to make plays in the biggest moments was certainly worth noting regardless of the officiating.
It is difficult playing against Brady and Belichick in a game with all the marbles on the line, but it is not as if this duo has been unbeatable in previous Super Bowls. In fact, since upsetting the Rams as 14-point underdogs in 2002, New England is just 2-5 ATS. Furthermore, they needed an interception in the end zone to beat and cover against Seattle in 2015 and needed a near miraculous comeback in 2017 to cover the 3-point number in overtime against the Falcons.
I am not in love with either side in Super Bowl LIII, but I considered the Rams the better overall football team throughout the entire 2018-2019 campaign. Therefore, if you are willing to give me 2.5 points in a game that has been extremely kind to “dogs” of late I am willing to take a small bite.
Pick- Los Angeles Rams (+2.5)