Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Advantage - Patriots

Advantage: New England · Los Angeles · Over · Under

Editor's Note: Antony Dinero went 3-1 on his championship game picks and is on an 8-4 run (66.7%, +368) in these playoffs, connecting on five of six total plays. He went 51-23 (68.9%, +2502) in October and hit 22 of 32 totals (68.8%, +1115). Dinero is 205-180-10 (53.2% , +271) for the entire 2018 regular and postseason. Don't miss out on NFL Winners from Antony Dinero on this postsesaon. Click to win!

If it weren’t for Atlanta’s collapse in Super Bowl LI and Seattle’s ill-fated decision to throw from the 1-yard line on second down in Super Bowl XLIX, New England would be on a streak of five consecutive losses in the NFL’s premier event.

Of course, pro football is filled with ifs and buts. All the Patriots have to do to is look at who is lining up against them for evidence of that, facing the Los Angeles Rams instead of the New Orleans Saints due to incompetent officiating. As things stand, the Patriots are 2-3 in their last five Super Bowl appearances dating back to February 3, 2008.

On the 11th anniversary of seeing their dreams of a perfect season dashed thanks to an upset suffered at the hands of the New York Giants, the Pats will take the field favored once again. 41-year-old Tom Brady will look to win an unprecedented fifth Super Bowl MVP trophy while leading his team to a sixth championship, which would tie the Steelers for most all-time and cement Brady as the best football player ever since he’d be the only one with six rings.

Bill Belichick is adding to his legacy by making his eighth appearance. His five wins are already the most in league history by a head coach.

Obviously, Belichick and Brady are the reasons the Patriots have ben so successful over the last two decades and will key Sunday’s efforts as they look to take down the Rams. The duo teamed up to pull off an upset of the Chiefs in Kansas City in order to secure their spot in Atlanta, winning the AFC Championship in overtime after Brady bailed out Belichick’s tired defense by leading the offense on a 13-play, 75-yard drive following victory in the ever-important coin toss. Patrick Mahomes II never even touched the ball in the extra session after leading the Chiefs to a 24-point fourth-quarter outburst, allowing Belichick to enjoy the handiwork of his godsend of a quarterback instead of stressing over how to get a stop that eluded him throughout the final 15 minutes of regulation.

Kansas City scored on the first play of the fourth and then put together scores on drives that took 10 seconds, 1:29 and 31 ticks. Rams head coach Sean McVay will surely glean something from the Chiefs offensive game plan and has the weapons to drive the ball down the field. Look for L.A. to spread out the Pats defense, allowing Todd Gurley room to catch the ball out of the backfield and giving Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods plenty of space to work underneath. Both are exceptionally fast and precise route-runners, so it will be on Jared Goff to deliver the ball as accurately as you know Brady will in order to keep this competitive.

New England’s defense has dominated early in this postseason, holding the Chargers to just seven points while Brady are rookie RB Sony Michel helped build a 35-7 halftime edge. The defense stood tall against Andy Reid’s scripted plays and shut out the Chiefs in bitter cold two weeks ago, helping the Patriots take a 14-0 lead to the break.

New England’s secondary gave up 374 passing yards against the Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl, but it nevertheless trusts its experience. Corner Stephon Gilmore will be starting his second straight title game while tag-team partner Jason McCourty will be making his first appearance. Safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung have been around for years, so Belichick will lean on them to prevent big plays and keep the Rams’ speedy receiving threats from getting behind them.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been spectacular down the stretch and will be tasked with keeping Gurley in check in what is probably the most crucial matchup in this contest as far as the Patriots are concerned. Belichick is counting on his speed helping to neutralize a running back who hasn’t been himself through this entire playoff run after missing the final few weeks of the regular season. New England is heavily invested in keeping him from finding his rhythm.

The same can be said about Goff, who started slowly in New Orleans last week before warming up and delivering the upset with help from kicker Greg Zuerlein. Throwing him off early will be essential since the Patriots didn’t record a sack of Nick Foles in Super Bowl LII. They’re counting on Trey Flowers’ experience to help deliver some pressure.

Brady was only sacked once by the Eagles and threw for 505 yards in the loss last season, setting an NFL postseason record. He proved last week that he doesn’t need a lead to feel comfortable, not that that was ever in doubt. Against the Falcons, he threw for 466 yards, so he’s thrown for 971 yards in his last two appearances in the “Big Game.” He’s completed 71 of 110 passes and thrown just one interception in the last two Super Bowls and comes into this one the all-time leader in completions (235), attempts (357), yards (2,576) and passing touchdowns (18). When you consider Goff hadn’t even won a playoff game until earlier this month, the difference in experience between Sunday’s starting quarterbacks is cartoonish.

Goff said his earliest memory of watching football centers around Brady and Super Bowl XXXVII back he when he was a 9-year-old.

That’s why it was so surprising that the Rams opened as a 1-point favorite at most sportsbooks before betting quickly turned the Pats into ‘chalk’ as the spread has reached as high as a full field goal at some shops. The line at most books is 2.5 points as of Tuesday morning, which is entirely because of Brady and Belichick.

They’re trusted, known commodities. While experience isn’t the end-all, be-all, it’s nice to have that in your back pocket when investing on what’s always the most gambled-on single event of the calendar year, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see more money come in on the Patriots. If you’re willing to lay points, get in sooner than later. If you’re taking them with the underdog Rams, you’ll likely be best served waiting closer to kickoff.

In-game circumstances dictate most totals, but the Patriots have proven time and again that Brady is unflappable and immune to pressure from even championship-level defenses, so the ‘over’ has to be tempting, especially indoors. Even at a robust 56.5, both offenses can easily surpass that figure if conditions command a second-half shootout.

Belichick is going to utilize the first few drives to see how his unit holds up against Goff and Gurley. If the results are poor, count on a more methodical approach relying on Michel and Rex Burkhead to try and work the clock and keep his defense off the field. Red-zone efficiency will also be a major factor since the Rams are very strong in that department.

Considering the Patriots have gotten to this point as healthy as they’ve been all season, losing only a couple of key contributors to attrition along the way, they’re well-equipped to move to 6-3 in Super Bowls in the Belichick/Brady era.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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