By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
HOUSTON (CBS) — Oh my goodness, the Super Bowl wait is finally, almost, over.
It’s not as if the weeks leading up to the biggest game in sports aren’t fun. They are. And it’s not that they aren’t needed. Frankly, we’ve all got to build some time to churn up the hype machine and let it roll.
But really, by the time Thursday of Super Bowl week comes around, we’re all ready. The players are ready, the fans are ready, the media is ready. It’s time to go. So, thankfully, there will be football soon enough.
But, you know, this is a picks column. Picks — as in plural. And I can’t rightfully sit here and just give you one pick. That would be a pick column. And that would be silly.
So, as I like to do every year, I’ll be perusing some of the more unique prop bets in play for the Super Bowl and then providing you with a lock-it-up 300 percent guaranteed surefire pick* for each.
*ignore all of those words, please.
Look, the Falcons are going to score. There’s no doubt about that. The offense is too potent, and Matt Ryan is too damn good at spreading the ball around. Ryan is going to find a mismatch — maybe with Eric Rowe, Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, etc. — and exploit it. That’s been his strength, and as a result, the Falcons are going to move the ball.
But here’s one problem for Atlanta: they’re going to need touchdowns, not field goals. The Falcons ranked 10th in the league when it came to getting the ball into the end zone after getting to the red zone, but New England had the seventh-best red zone defense at 50 percent. Not coincidentally, the Patriots had the No. 1 scoring defense, allowing just 15.6 points per game.
Obviously, a number like that is going to be inflated when a team plays against the Rams and 49ers and Jets. For sure. But the point is this: the Patriots’ defense can make plays, and the Patriots’ defense can tighten up in the red zone and force the opponent to settle for field goals.
But here’s the only thing you really need to read: You know how the Patriots ranked seventh in red zone defense at 50 percent? The Falcons rank 32nd in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 72 percent of opponents’ trips to the red zone.
(Thirty-second would dead last, for those keeping score at home.)
And offensively, the Patriots ranked ninth in red zone scoring, at 64 percent.
The Patriots are going to score more touchdowns than the Atlanta Falcons. There should be no doubt.
Oh, and there’s also this: Atlanta’s rushing defense allows 4.5 yards per carry, which ranked 26th in the NFL. They allowed 15 rushing touchdowns. LeGarrette Blount, meanwhile, scored 18 touchdowns. The Falcons will not be able to stop him — the man is a hyper-agile bowling ball — and that will particularly show in the red zone.
Plus, what I’ve heard a lot over the past two weeks is the billing of the “No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense.” While yes, that’s true, let’s framie it in a more reasonable way:
No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense
No. 3 vs. No. 27 defense
Would you rather have the best offense (with Matt Ryan) and the sixth-worst defense, or would you prefer having the third-best offense (with Tom Brady) and the very best defense?
It’s not even close.
The three-point spread is insane and I don’t get it. The Patriots are going to win comfortably.
FINAL SCORE: Patriots 38, Falcons 26
And now, on to the prop bets from Bovada.
Julian Edelman (+2000)
The man is due. He had nine catches for 109 yards and the game-winning touchdown in his last Super Bowl. Given Atlanta’s 28th-ranked passing defense, Edelman should be in line for a similar performance. Yeah, Tom Brady probably gets this one, but picking the favorite is no fun. And sometimes people get bored of voting for the same person so much. So there you go, Edelman’s your guy.
Will Luke Bryan be wearing a hat when he appears on screen before singing the US National Anthem?
I consider myself an expert in this department because I Googled “Luke Bryan,” clicked on images, and saw he was not wearing a hat most of the time.
What will Luke Bryan be wearing when he starts singing the US National Anthem?
Any other pants besides blue jeans (+200)
You’ve got to pick against the blue jeans, because really, imagine how great of a start to your night it would be to see the country star take the stage wearing some nice red slacks or something. You’d be all hyped up, high-fives for everyone, time to eat with a smile on your face.
How long will it take for Luke Bryan to sing the US National Anthem?
Under 2:09 (-120)
How long can a country singer really take to sing the anthem? He’s not going to get all Whitney Houston on us. I don’t think.
What color will the liquid be that is poured on the head coach of the winning team?
Yes, this is the favorite, but that’s what the Patriots went with in Phoenix. Such sticklers for details, why would they change anything?
How many times will Donald Trump be said on TV during the live broadcast?
Under 1.5 (-200)
Unless he’s at the game, I don’t see too much presidential talk between Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
How many times will “deflate” or “deflategate” be said on TV during live broadcast?
Over 1.5 (-130)
Let’s be real, folks. People love that stuff.
How many times will J.J. Watt be mentioned on TV during live broadcast?
Over 1 (+150)
How about over 1,000? I’d still take it. As an aside, J.J. Watt had more security walking around radio row than the President of the United States.
Will any player on the Falcons or Patriots roster be seen kneeling during the National Anthem on TV during live broadcast?
I think so, right? I mean, the buzz about political statements during the anthem has died down a bit since September, but on this stage, some players may be eager to make a statement.
Will any player other than Brady or Ryan attempt a pass?
Mohamed Sanu is the obvious choice, but we’ve also seen Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola throw passes before. Everybody knew Edelman could throw, but I don’t think many people saw that Amendola pass coming. Perhaps there’s another secret arm in the ranks on the New England offense.
Or, hopefully, we get to see a fake punt. If you don’t love fake punts then you aren’t living.
If the Patriots win will Brady, Belichick or Kraft be seen shaking Roger Goodell’s hand on TV?
Of course not. They will take the trophy, maybe offer a pat on the shoulder, and then Goodell will skedaddle. The man will ske-dad-dle.