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Super Bowl finalists show how you finish

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Tom Brady and wide receiver Danny Amendola connected on two touchdowns, including the game-winner.
© USA Today Sports Images

A near-miss shocker, followed by a blowout stunner as the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles stamped their tickets to Super Bowl 52. Stats and market details…plus the latest on the anti-Cavaliers printing press in the NBA…and “Big Monday” college hoops with Greg Peterson right now in VSiN City!

AFC Championship: New England rallies dramatically past Jacksonville for another Super Bowl invite
It was there for the taking. The Jacksonville Jaguars were in early command of Sunday’s AFC Championship showdown against the heavily favored New England Patriots. Jacksonville was moving the ball seemingly at will. Tom Brady was still trying to find his throwing touch with a bum hand.  With that early backdrop, Jacksonville led 14-3…with the ball in New England territory…with less than four minutes to go in the first half. Brady and company would win the rest of the game 21-6, despite losing number one receiving weapon Rob Gronkowski to a concussion before halftime. 

New England (-7.5) 24, Jacksonville 20 
Yards-per-Play: Jacksonville 5.3, New England 5.6
Total Yardage: Jacksonville 374, New England 344
Third Down Pct: Jacksonville 40%, New England 25%
Turnovers: Jacksonville 0, New England 1
Rushing Yards: Jacksonville 101, New England 46
Passing Stats: Jacksonville 23-36-0-273, New England 27-39-0-298
TD Drive Lengths: Jacksonville 76-77, New England 85-85-30

Every “knowing what it takes to win” and “you have to get there and lose before you can get there and win” and “who do you want at quarterback in the fourth quarter of a close game, Tom Brady or Blake Bortles?” storyline loomed very large as the Patriots won the final stanza 14-3. Jacksonville started to play with fear on offense, and softened up on defense in similar fashion to the prior week’s 28-17 loss in the last two quarters at Pittsburgh. 

It was largely a statistical rout for the Jags until the fourth quarter. New England rallied to win YPP and get close in total yardage. The 30-yard TD that won it was more of a field position victory than a “cheap” TD. Jacksonville was pinned deep in its own territory, punted short, and couldn’t bring the return man down until the 30-yard line. Like Tom Brady needs any field position help. 

New England returns to the most important game in sports. Brady has two weeks to heal his hand. Gronkowski has two weeks to recover from a concussion. Head coach Bill Belichick has two weeks to prepare for an underdog that’s enthusiastically playing with house money. 

NFC Championship: Underdog Eagles vanquish Vikings
Minnesota drove the field easily for the first touchdown of the game. It must have been scored by Red Herring. Philadelphia ran off 38 straight points in almost unbelievable fashion to end the Vikings' dreams of hosting a Super Bowl. The only #1 seed to ever be a home underdog in two straight playoff games will represent the NFC instead. And, it will be coming off an astonishing offensive performance against what was supposed to be the NFL’s scariest defense. Run your finger down the right side of the stat box as you scroll. 

Philadelphia (plus 3) 38, Minnesota 7
Yards-per-Play: Minnesota 5.0, Philadelphia 7.1
Total Yardage: Minnesota 333, Philadelphia 456
Third Down Pct: Minnesota 46%, Philadelphia 71%
Turnovers: Minnesota 3, Philadelphia 0
Rushing Yards: Minnesota 70, Philadelphia 111
Passing Stats: Minnesota 28-48-2-263, Philadelphia 26-33-0-346
TD Drive Lengths: Minnesota 75, Philadelphia 75-76-75-92

That’s 7.1 yards-per-play…10 of 14 on third downs…no giveaways…more than 100 rushing yards… almost 350 passing yards…and four touchdown drives of 75 yards or more (the field goal drive was a respectable 60 yards)…all with a backup quarterback.

Minnesota had no chance. Sure, the three turnovers hurt. That would have made it a closer loss. Underdogs aren’t supposed to be able to do THAT when everyone’s at peak intensity. Great result for a head coach who’s built a complex offensive system that's difficult to disrupt, and a quarterback who got sick of hearing that he wasn’t good enough to get the job done. 

Before moving to early Super Bowl betting, let’s quickly review last week’s previews. First, last Thursday’s market notes on how sharps were looking to deal with the Brady injury news. 

“If the Patriots play coy with updates, the market may come to a relative halt in this game…Sharp money will probably take some small “just in case” positions either way, with conservative bets on New England -2.5 in teasers (which will look great if Brady’s going to be fine), and Jacksonville plus 8.5 (which will look great if he isn’t). The final victory margin could still land comfortably inside that window of opportunity no matter how things eventually play out.” 

That’s why sharps are sharps! Understanding the range of possibilities, they were able to position themselves logically with limited risk even during uncertainty. The final margin landed right in that window of opportunity as a 4-point win covered for New England -2.5 in teasers, but Jacksonville plus 8.5 on the game line. Once more information was known in the hour leading up to kickoff, it was largely smart money on the Jags plus 8 keeping the market stable as the public focused on New England -7.5. 

In the games proper... 

“If Fournette is a force, while Brady can’t perform to his norms, then Jacksonville is going to the Super Bowl…If both are hobbled, possibly a 23-17 type game where Under makes the most sense…If Brady is unaffected while Fournette can only run forward in a straight line, this might be a replay of Pats/Titans in terms of game flow. If both look to be near 100%, a thriller that likely favors the Jags against a number that would have risen back toward plus 8.5 or plus 9.”

Neither Fournette nor Brady seemed to be at 100%, though both were able to have a positive impact. Fournette could only run straight forward…yet did that to the tune of 76 yards on 24 carries. Just 3.2 yards-per-carry, with a longest run of 14 yards. He did help move the chains more than that low average might suggest. The “both are hobbled” guess of 23-17 was a bit under the 24-20 final. Maybe both were around 80-85%?

In the nightcap…

“You can’t make a raw statistical case that the Vikings should be this big a favorite. The differences aren’t that dynamic. But you CAN make the case that Minnesota’s defense is so great that it can bottle up Foles and hold the Eagles to 16 points or less (barring cheap points off turnovers or special teams). Feels like the stats are telling us there’s slight value on Philadelphia’s side of the equation at plus 3, a bit more at plus 3.5…with conservatism in play calling the potential key to keeping total points from flying into the 40’s.”

Well, there isn’t any modeling approach that would have yielded a 38-7 final, or ANY TEAM outside of the Pats and a healthy Brady having a real shot 456 yards on 7.1 yards-per-play against this Vikings defense. Feels like a good enough read on value, but a big miss on the one-sided game-flow. Only 38 offensive points were scored even with a much more wide-open evening than expected (81 combined passes!). 

The early line for Super Bowl 52 was up by the fourth quarter in Philadelphia.

Super Bowl 52: Early point spread shows Patriots by less than a TD
We’ll talk more about this Tuesday once initial betting has had time to settle. The first “feeler” numbers up offshore showed New England -7. Underdog Philadelphia was hit immediately at that price. Later stores opened lower. If you were watching VSiN’s special “live betting” show Sunday evening hosted by Brent Musburger, you know that the South Point went up with New England -6 virtually simultaneously to the Westgate going up with New England 5.5. 

As of publication deadlines, Pats -5.5 was more prevalent than the full six. An opening total of 47.5 had been bet up to 48. Remember that the Super Bowl will be held indoors…that New England’s offense will be healthier…and Philadelphia’s offense is now more dangerous than it looked in poor late-season weather. 

Vegas Golden Knights: Another road win closes out Eastern swing
More profit for newly knighted hockey fans in the gambling capital of the world. The Vegas Golden Knights closed out their four-game Eastern swing Sunday afternoon with a dominating 5-1 win at Carolina. VGK was only -120 in a game that was virtually over after three visitor goals were scored in the first 13 minutes of action. The Golden Knights won shots on goal 33-28 despite playing with a lead all day. 

Full season profit is now plus 20.58 units on the money line according to covers.com. It’s up to plus 26.59 units on the puck line. Seventeen of VGK’s 31 wins have been by two goals or more.

Vegas heads home to host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. 

Basketball Betting: Updating stories we’ve been covering
Some notes in both pro and college basketball from the past weekend, before Greg Peterson previews Big Monday basketball for us. 

*The NBA printing press known as “fade the Cleveland Cavaliers” won big again Saturday. Oklahoma City (plus 3) absolutely crushed Cleveland 148-124. Cleveland is now an almost unimaginable 3-18-1 against the spread at home. That’s a big anchor in the 12-32-1 full season ATS mark. 

Even if you’ve just been casually following the NBA of late, you know that Cleveland’s defense has been horrific in recent weeks. That’s killed road performance too. Focusing only on active trends wherever the games were played, the Cavs have failed to cover EIGHT in a row, are 1-13 ATS their last 14, 2-16 ATS their last 18, and 3-18 ATS their last 21. Cleveland visits San Antonio Tuesday night. 

*Brooklyn continues to be a moneymaker in the NBA. The Nets (plus 6) upset Detroit 101-100 Sunday. Brooklyn is 10-3 ATS its last 13 games, 29-18 ATS for the season. Brooklyn visits Oklahoma City Tuesday. 

*Chicago is also 11 games over the .500 mark against market prices. The Bulls (plus 2) won at Atlanta Saturday night 113-97. That’s five straight covers for Chicago, who is also 19-5 ATS its last 24 games. Chicago visits New Orleans Monday night. 

*Philadelphia (-7.5) routed Milwaukee 116-94 Saturday night. The 76ers are now 8-1 straight up and ATS their last nine as they’ve climbed very aggressively back into the playoff picture. Philadelphia visits Memphis Monday night. 

*Moving to college hoops…#4 Oklahoma, #7 Wichita State and #8 Texas Tech all went 0-2 last week to plummet from their perches. 

--Instead of bouncing back off a humiliating loss at Kansas State, Oklahoma lost in overtime to state rival Oklahoma State. Phenom Trae Young did score 48 points, but missed 25 shots and had 7 turnovers while doing so. Young was just 6 of 19 inside the arc, forcing up too many shots. Oklahoma is 1-4 ATS its last five games. 

--Instead of bouncing back off a home loss to SMU, Wichita State played much worse in a road loss at Houston. The Shockers shot 39% on two-pointers, 4 of 20 on treys, and turned the ball over 18 times against Houston’s stellar defense. Note that Wichita State is now 3-7 ATS its last 10 games, with two of the covers coming against very overmatched East Carolina and South Florida teams. 

--Instead of bouncing back off a point spread miss of 12.5 points at Texas, Texas Tech missed the spread by 25 points in a stunning loss at Iowa State. The Red Raiders have now failed to cover four straight, missing the market by a combined 48.5 points.

Also of note…

*Kansas failed to cover another home game in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Here’s an updated listing of their home efforts vs. major conference opposition (excludes cupcakes)…

Kansas (-12) lost to Arizona State 95-85 (missed by 22)
Kansas (-7.5) lost to Texas Tech 85-73 (missed by 19.5)
Kansas (-16) beat Iowa State 83-78 (missed by 11)
Kansas (-12) beat Kansas State 73-72 (missed by 11)
Kansas (-9) beat Baylor 70-67 (missed by 6)

That’s 0-5 ATS this year vs. major conference foes, after a 2-9 ATS mark in its last 11 such tries last season. Adds up to 2-14 ATS against opponents who aren’t intimidated at that site. (Amazingly, Kansas is perfect straight up and ATS on the road in Big 12 action, performing much more in line with their Final Four hopes.)

*Arizona State failed to cover two more games since we last checked on the Sun Devils. They’re now 0-5-2 ATS in Pac 12 play, after once reaching #4 in the country. 

Updating the recent slide…

Arizona State (plus 6) lost at Arizona 84-78 (push)
Arizona State (-9) lost at Colorado 90-81 in overtime
Arizona State (-3) won at Utah 80-77 (push)
Arizona State (-7) lost to Oregon 76-72
Arizona State (-12) beat Oregon State 77-75
Arizona State (-3.5) lost to Stanford 86-77
Arizona State (-10) won at California 81-73

Arizona State will host Utah and Colorado in return bouts later this week. 

*USC caught fire in the Pac 12 while nobody was looking. The Trojans swept the Oregon schools on the road this past week to move to 6-1 straight up and ATS their last seven games. Home games with Stanford and California are on tap this week. 

Lace up your Nikes…it’s time to run the floor with Greg Peterson on Big Monday!

College Basketball: “Running the Floor with Greg Peterson”

North Carolina at Virginia Tech (7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Early Line: North Carolina-5
Offensive Efficiency: North Carolina #33, Virginia Tech #11
Defensive Efficiency: North Carolina #60, Virginia Tech #99
Rebound Rate: North Carolina #1, Virginia Tech #119
Percent of Shots are 3s: North Carolina #269, Virginia Tech #120
Free Throw Shooting Percentage: North Carolina #100, Virginia Tech #103
Pace: North Carolina #63, Virginia Tech #66

Both teams like to play at a faster than average pace, and both are stronger on offense than defense. Virginia Tech has more of a small ball lineup with no true center, while North Carolina has more of a true post presence. That can explain why Virginia Tech is more willing to shoot 3s than the Tar Heels, but cannot match North Carolina's rebounding rate, which is the best in the nation.

North Carolina does not take a ton of 3-pointers because a lot of its shots are on second and third chance opportunities close to the rim off missed jump shots. North Carolina's rebounding also allows it to be a more solid defensive unit than Virginia Tech.

The Hokies have been done in by poor defense of late, allowing an average of 92.5 points in their two most recent games, both of which were losses.

This game will come down to whichever strength proves to be the most important. North Carolina will attempt to use its advantage on the glass to try to take out Virginia Tech while the Hokies want to bury the Tar Heels with 3s.

West Virginia at TCU (9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Early Line: West Virginia -1
Offensive Efficiency: West Virginia #45, TCU #7
Defensive Efficiency: West Virginia #6, TCU #222
Rebound Rate: West Virginia #39, TCU #12
Percent of Shots are 3s: West Virginia #95, TCU #211
Free Throw Shooting Percentage: West Virginia #49, TCU #154
Pace: West Virginia #70, TCU #56

TCU suffered an unfortunate break last week when point guard Jaylen Fisher was lost for the season due to a torn meniscus. This is a tough blow for a team that had been 13-4 before his injury (with two of those losses in overtime, and the others coming by a combined five points). 

TCU clearly has been a high-powered offense. though a lot of that is a credit to the backcourt in which Fisher was a part of, having forwards that can step out and hit 3-pointers is also helpful. The Horned Frogs will need their big men to be sure-handed against a West Virginia team that puts on a full court pressing defense for a full 40 minutes.

West Virginia has one of the most efficient defenses in the country due to that press as it causes a bunch of turnovers prior to opponents even being able to get across half court. If TCU can break this press, the team should be able to get a good amount of open looks.

One area of the game that Jaylen Fisher did not have a huge impact on is rebounding. That remains one of the strongest aspects of TCU's game. For the season TCU has the edge in rebounding rate, but West Virginia got back one of its main forwards in Esa Ahmad on January 13th after he missed the team’s first 16 games of the season.

These two teams are in opposite spots as West Virginia seems to be adjusting to having Ahmad back while TCU is in its third full game without Fisher.

Without Fisher, TCU has actually been playing a bit better on defense, which is much needed given how inefficient the Horned Frogs had been in that respect.

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Back with you Tuesday to monitor early Super Bowl betting and dig deep into another busy week of basketball.

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