It’s boring and minimally profitable to bet on the quarterback of the favored team to win Super Bowl MVP, so Matthew Stafford’s name is not trending this week. Stafford is not attracting much hype in general, which might be a good thing for the Rams.
When a case is made for the Rams to win Sunday’s game, most arguments begin with the intense pressure a dominant Los Angeles defensive line is expected to put on the Cincinnati kid, Joe Burrow. It’s an argument that makes perfect sense.
It makes little sense that Burrow and the Bengals, who won only four games last season, are even in this game. The baby-faced Burrow was not supposed to arrive on the NFL’s biggest stage so soon, and that could be why so many bettors are hot on the dog.
“What has surprised me so far is how much public support the Bengals are getting,” Westgate SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay said. “There’s a lot more support for Cincinnati than I expected. When I ask someone in the book why they bet the Bengals, they say, ‘I like Joe Burrow. I think he’s a winner.’
“My daughter bet the Bengals to win the Super Bowl three or four weeks ago. I asked why and she said, ‘I just like Joe Burrow.’ ”
Kornegay’s daughter is holding a Cincinnati ticket at 15-1 odds, for the record, and she has no plans to hedge.
It’s rare to hear someone say they are betting on the Rams simply because Stafford is a winner.
“Stafford is better with a better cast around him, but there’s not a lot of confidence in him,” Kornegay said. “Maybe it’s because of all his years in Detroit.”
The Rams are 4.5-point favorites and -200 on the moneyline, and Kornegay said those lines could dip to -4 and -170 by Sunday if Bengals support continues to surface. The total of 48.5 might rise to 49.5 or 50. The side and total are the meat and potatoes for the big game.
The props make the buffet. I typically make between 10 to 15 prop bets, which is not too many when there are several hundred on the board. Even if the game turns into a blowout and a bore, the props make every play count. Some of the most popular props always involve the quarterbacks.
Stafford is posted at + 130 to be voted MVP, but it’s easy to pass on that price. There are several ways the Rams can win without Stafford leading the way. The last defensive player to win the award was Von Miller in Super Bowl 50. Miller had 2.5 sacks in the Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Panthers. Miller, now a Rams linebacker, is getting 40-1 odds.
“If the Rams get a lead, I can see the defense taking over,” said Micah Roberts, a professional handicapper and former Las Vegas sportsbook director. “Who stopped Burrow? I can make a case for Miller, if he changes the complexion of the game with his pass rush.”
Burrow is posted at + 250 to be voted MVP, and there’s value in that price for those who like the Cincinnati side. Burrow is a better bet than the Bengals are at + 175 on the moneyline. It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which the underdog wins and Burrow is not the primary reason.
Roberts is leaning to the Rams side, mostly due to their advantages on the defensive line, but said, “I could see Burrow taking over the game and that would not surprise me.”
Form a plan of attack and envision a script for the game when playing props. With two first-time Super Bowl quarterbacks and two young head coaches, expect conservative play-calling in the beginning. I see this game starting slowly before the scoring and passing pick up in the second, third and fourth quarters.
Will the Rams score or punt first? Will the Bengals score or punt first? I’m betting on a punt for each team — Rams -110 and Bengals -140.
Another set of my prop plays focus on Burrow, who will have to escape the Rams’ pass rush and get out of the pocket, much like he did in the AFC title game in Kansas City. The Bengals’ weakness is their offensive line, so it’s unlikely they will run the ball with much success.
Burrow must carry a huge load for the Bengals in this game, win or lose, so I’m playing Burrow’s pass attempts Over 36.5, incompletions Over 11.5, passing yards Over 277.5, rushing yards Over 11.5 and rush attempts Over 2.5. In his past five games, including three in the postseason, Burrow averaged 38.8 pass attempts, 10.4 incompletions, 362.6 passing yards, 9.8 rushing yards and 3.2 rush attempts.
Stafford is probably primed to put up big numbers too, but I have yet to pull the trigger on any of his prop numbers. This is his chance to validate last year’s blockbuster trade that sent Jared Goff to Detroit and brought Stafford to Hollywood.
In the 2018 regular season, the Rams scored 32.9 points per game before averaging 28 in two playoff games. Then in Super Bowl LIII, Goff and the Rams were suffocated in a 13-3 loss to the Patriots. Sean McVay is a better coach than he was three years ago, and he’s not facing off with Bill Belichick on the other sideline this time.
Stafford already has redeemed himself by winning three playoff games, but he’s still the quarterback with the most to prove in this game. I need to see it to believe it.
When Burrow was a dog of more than three points this season, he went 4-0 straight up. Beware of the public dog? Underdogs are trending in Super Bowls, posting a 6-3 straight-up record in the past 10 (counting the Patriots-Seahawks game as a pick’em in 2015).
Quarterbacks were named MVP in nine of the past 12 Super Bowls. I’m taking 4.5 points with the Bengals and playing Burrow to be MVP at + 250.
The Bengals have arrived in this game ahead of schedule, and maybe the Burrow hype is too much too soon, but there are reasons to believe he can silence the Rams.