It’s somewhat fitting that University of Alabama coach Nick Saban and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick are good friends, because they are taking all the drama out of college and pro football with their teams’ dominance. Each season is almost a foregone conclusion these days.
Of course, Saban’s Crimson Tide won yet another national championship earlier this month, and now the Patriots are in their eighth Super Bowl in the Belichick/Tom Brady era. That’s by far a record for any coach or quarterback. AFC champion New England is an opening 5.5-point favorite against the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles for Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the first time that building has hosted the big game.
The NFL loves to trumpet its parity as every year since 1990 when the league shifted to the current postseason format there have been at least four new playoff teams from one year to the next. This season there were a whopping eight, and the Eagles are one of those. However, the Patriots were the AFC’s top seed and the Eagles the No. 1 in the NFC.
Since 2013, every AFC top seed has reached the Super Bowl, winning it three times (Patriots in 2014 and 2016 seasons). In that same time span, four of the five NFC No. 1 seeds have made the Super Bowl. The only one to miss out was the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. That said, only three NFC No. 1 seeds in the past 20 years have won the Super Bowl. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks were the lone one this decade.
The current 5.5-point spread – it opened at 6 – is the Super Bowl’s biggest since following the 2009 season when the Pittsburgh Steelers were -7 against the Arizona Cardinals and won in the final seconds 27-23. Five straight underdogs had won the Super Bowl until New England ended that run last year as a 3-point favorite and rallied for a 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Favorites are 27-23-1 against the spread in the Super Bowl overall.
The Eagles are used to being underdogs as oddsmakers have given them no respect in these playoffs behind backup quarterback Nick Foles. Philadelphia was +2.5 in the divisional round and beat Atlanta 15-10. It was +3 in the NFC Championship Game and crushed the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 as Foles had the game of his life in throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns. He’s attempting to become the 10th backup quarterback to win a Super Bowl. The last was the Patriots’ Brady in the 2001 season. Philadelphia is 0-2 in the Super Bowl, last losing to New England following the 2004 season.
Including playoffs, Philadelphia is an NFL-best 12-6 against the spread this season. So is New England. The Patriots had no trouble covering a 13.5-point spread in a 35-14 divisional round win over the Tennessee Titans. Things were much tougher at -7.5 in the AFC title game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars as Brady had to lead a rally from down 20-10 in the fourth quarter in the 24-20 victory. That was only the Patriots’ second non-cover since mid-October. Brady is 3-4 ATS in the Super Bowl. Make that 3-5.
January 23, 2018