2018 Super Bowl Prop Bets – Analyzing Odds on Super Bowl 52 Props

Prop bets are always one of the most exciting parts of the Super Bowl. And this year will be no different, because there are plenty of fun Super Bowl 52 prop bets available.

In fact, we have dozens of 2018 Super Bowl prop bets available. These range from things as simple as which team will win the coin toss, to who’ll win the game’s MVP award.

You can check out all of our Super Bowl 52 prop bets here (click “More Bets” in the game line). And keep reading as I analyze a few of the bets being offered and give advice on what you should do.

Player to win 2018 Super Bowl MVP

  • Alshon Jeffrey (PHI) +2500
  • Brandin Cooks (NE) +2000
  • Chris Hogan (NE) +4000
  • Danny Amendola (NE) +1800
  • Dion Lewis (NE) +1800
  • Fletcher Cox (PHI) +3000
  • Jake Elliott (PHI) +6000
  • James White (NE) +3500
  • Jay Ajayi (PHI) +1600
  • LeGarrette Blount (PHI) +4500
  • Nelson Agholor (PHI) +5000
  • Nick Foles (PHI) +333
  • Rex Burkhead (NE) +5000
  • Rob Gronkowski (NE) +900

Who will win the Super Bowl 52 MVP Award?

nick-foles-eaglesThe biggest surprise omission from our 2018 Super Bowl MVP prop bet is that Tom Brady isn’t available. If he were listed, odds are that he’d certainly have the best chance to win the award.

Instead, what we’re left with is a group led by Philadelphia QB Nick Foles at +333. I can’t really say that I see any value in picking Foles here, unless he’s somehow able to repeat his performance from the NFC Championship (352 passing yards, 3 TDs). But given his erratic play, I wouldn’t bet on this happening.

Sometimes, the Super Bowl MVP is someone whom you don’t expect to win. But mostly, it’s the big-name guys who’ve been around the league for a while. Case in point, Tom Brady has won two out of the last three years, while Giants QB Eli Manning (twice), Baltimore QB Joe Flacco, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers, Saints QB Drew Brees, and Denver linebacker Von Miller have won within the past decade.

That said, I’m looking at players like Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Alshon Jeffrey, Dion Lewis, and Jay Ajayi.

I believe that all five of these players are offering better value that Foles. And while Foles does fit the typical quarterback requirement, look at the QBs who’ve actually won – none of them are backups.

1st score of the game

  • Eagles Field Goal +450
  • Eagles Passing TD +440
  • Eagles Rushing TD +600
  • Any Other Eagles Score +1600
  • Patriots Field Goal +375
  • Patriots Passing TD +275
  • Patriots Rushing TD +600
  • Any Other Patriots Score +1800

What will the first score be?

jaguars-patriots-afc-championship-oddsObviously many are thinking that the New England Patriots will score first. After all, they have a dominant offense and are led by Brady.

But Super Bowl history shows us that the Patriots have only scored first in two of the seven Super Bowls during the Brady/Bill Belichick era.

That said, the Eagles are a good bet to score first. Philly also ranked third in the league with 6.3 points per quarter, which is worth keeping in mind.

The Eagles scored 53 TDs against 29 field goals during the regular season, for roughly a 2:1 ratio.

They only had 9 rushing TDs during the regular season, so you want to throw this bet out at +600.

They had 38 passing TDs against 29 field goals, which gives Eagles Passing TD +440 the most value (versus +450 for a field goal). But note that Wentz threw many of those touchdowns, making the value here slimmer than it appears.

First play of the game

Run -145
Pass +115

Will the first play from scrimmage be a rush or pass?

The Eagles rushed 473 times versus passing 341 times on the season, for roughly a 12:8 ratio. The Patriots passed 448 times versus rushing 389 times, for roughly a 10:8 ratio.

Combined, the teams are at an 11:9 ratio with regard to rushes vs. passes.

The run vs. pass odds are at an 11.2:8.8 ratio. Therefore, I give the slight edge to a running play happening first.

Longest made FG – Either team

Over 47.5 (-130)
Under 47.5 (+100)

stephen-gostkowski-kickerPatriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski made 37 of 40 field goals on the year, with 7 of these coming from 47+ yards. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott made 26 of 31 field goals, with 10 of these coming from 47+ yards.

This means that both kickers, who have powerful legs, combined to make 17 of their combined 71 total field goals from 47.5+ yards. However, this is only 24% of their combined attempts.

Combine the fact that the odds are -130 on betting over 47.5 yards, and you definitely want to take the under here.

Will there be a defensive or special teams TD

Yes +190
No -235

eagles-defenseThe Patriots scored one touchdown on a kick return. But they haven’t gotten any defensive touchdowns on the year.

The Eagles tied Jacksonville for the most defensive touchdowns at 5, and they scored one in the postseason.

This means New England and Philadelphia have combined for 7 defensive and special teams touchdowns in 18 games.

The theoretical chances of seeing either a defensive or special teams TD in this game are 38.9%.

Now, let’s do a little math on why betting No is a good idea:

  • You stand to win $100 for every $235 wagered.
  • 100/235 = 42.6% bet equity.
  • 42.6 – 38.9 = 3.7% advantage for No bet.

As you can see, wagering on no defensive or special teams TDs is a smart bet.

Final Thoughts on 2018 Super Bowl Prop Bets

You’ll have no shortage of prop bets to choose from for Super Bowl 52. But I strongly suggest that you limit your prop bets to those that can actually be researched through stats.

I discussed a few above, and you’ll also find some other wagers where you can spot value on one side of the line through research.

Of course, there are also some pure gambles, such as the coin toss bet. I never like these, because there’s no skill to guessing whether a coin will and heads or tails. Instead, I like the other prop bets that do bring skill into the equation.

If you also go this route, make sure to do your research and pick a winner!

Eagles vs Patriots Odds – 2018 Super Bowl Preview

patriots-eagles-super-bowl-oddsNobody is surprised to see the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52. After all, this is their fourth Super Bowl appearance in the last seven years.

They’ve won two titles in this span and have a chance for their third next Sunday.

The Philadelphia Eagles are a bit more surprising, given that they lost starting quarterback Carson Wentz in December. Despite earning the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed, Philly was a long shot to make it through the NFC with backup Nick Foles leading the team.

But Foles has played really well in the playoffs and is a big reason why Philadelphia has a chance to win their first-ever Super Bowl.

Can the Eagles beat the favored Patriots? Let’s discuss the matter by looking at this game’s odds and analyze each team’s chances of winning.

Super Bowl 52 Odds (Feb 4 at 6:30pm ET)

Philadelphia vs New England Point Spread
Eagles +4.5 (-110)
Patriots -4.5 (-110)

Philadelphia vs New England Moneyline
Eagles +180
Patriots -210

Over/Under
Over 48 (-113)
Under 48 (-107)

Key Factors for Philadelphia

The biggest key for Philadelphia will be the play of quarterback Nick Foles. He’s experienced a roller-coaster ride since taking over for the injured Wentz, which included a poor three-game stint to end the regular season.

But Foles has turned things up in the postseason, boasting a 122 passer rating in two playoff games. This will be his third playoff start of the season, and fourth overall postseason start.

Foles was especially electric against the Minnesota Vikings, throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns against the league’s top defense. It’s hard to see the Patriots’ defense really clamping down on Foles. But it’s up to him to avoid the erratic play that he showed in four regular season contests.

The Eagles have a strong running game that can help Foles out. Jay Ajayi, who was acquired in a midseason trade with the Miami Dolphins, has become the team’s lead back. He gained 99 yards from scrimmage on 21 total touches against the Vikings.

What makes Philadelphia tough to stop is that they have a deep backfield, with LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement coming off the bench. As a team, they ranked third in the league in rushing offense with 132.2 yards per game. Given that New England’s rushing defense ranked 20th by allowing 114.8 yards per game, this bodes well for the Eagles.

The strength of this team is definitely their defense, which was right up with Minnesota during the regular season.

The front four only managed one sack against Vikings QB Case Keenum. But they did hit him eight times, including one that directly resulted in Keenum throwing a pick-6.

eagles-defensePatriots QB Tom Brady was hit seven times and sacked three times against the elite Jacksonville defensive line. However, it’s also worth mentioning that this pressure didn’t shut down Brady, especially since he threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. How Philly’s pressure impacts Brady will be something to watch in the Super Bowl.

Few people expected Philadelphia to go into U.S. Bank Stadium and blow Minnesota of the water. But this is exactly what happened in a lopsided game.

If Foles can have a repeat performance of the NFC Championship game, then it’s very possible that Philly takes home their first-ever Super Bowl title.

Key Factors for New England

Even an age 40, Brady has been as good as ever. He completed 66.3% of his passes for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns during the regular season. All combined, this led to an outstanding 102.8 passer rating.

Jacksonville visibly slowed Brady and the Patriots’ offense in the first half. But he really opened things up in the last quarter, while leading New England two crucial TD drives in the AFC Championship.

It’s hard to beat Brady with the blitz, because he knows how to deal with the pressure. What makes things tougher is that New England always has a strong offensive line, which is why Brady was only the 21st most-pressured QB in the league.

The Eagles’ best chance to slow New England is by stopping their running game. The Jaguars had some success with this. But the league as a whole struggled to contain a multi-headed backfield that includes Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, James White, and Mike Gillislee.

Lewis is the big key here since he had 896 rushing yards (5.0 avg. per carry) and six rushing TDs during the season. White and Burkhead add a different dimension with their pass catching abilities, as they tallied 429 and 254 receiving yards, respectively.

The offensive weapons just keep coming for New England, because they also have a strong receiving corp that includes tight end rob Gronkowski and receiver Brandin Cooks.

Gronk led the team with 69 catches for 1,084 receiving yards. Cooks ranked second with 1,082 yards, along with a team-leading 16.6 yards per reception.

Gronk, who’s in concussion protocol, won’t participate in Super Bowl opening night. But he should be cleared by game time.

New England also features Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. Amendola is especially dangerous, given that he caught two touchdowns against the Jaguars in the AFC championship.

The main question mark for the Patriots coming into the game will be their defense. This isn’t to say that New England has a bad defense, but it’s just not the best one they’ve brought to the Super Bowl.

patriots-vs-eagles-oddsPart of the problem is that the linebacking core isn’t the greatest, especially since Dont’a Hightower was lost due to injury. Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts have had trouble both stopping the run and in pass coverage.

Defensive lineman Trey Flowers is one of the team’s best defensive players. They also have tackle Malcolm Brown, who’s good at stopping the run.

But New England’s absolute biggest strength on defense is their safety tandem of Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. McCourty is strong at covering deep balls, while Chung is one of the leagues-hardest hitting safeties.

I don’t have many reservations about New England’s offense, even against Philadelphia’s tough defense. But my main question is whether the Patriots can slow down Foles and/or the run. If they can do either, then Brady and coach Bill Bilichick will be celebrating their sixth Super Bowl win together.

Prediction on Eagles vs Patriots in the 2018 Super Bowl

Many people are writing the Philadelphia Eagles off just because of the Patriots’ previous success. But I certainly think that’s Philly has a chance in this game.

jaguars-patriots-afc-championship-oddsThey have the edge in defense, and their running game matches up well when compared to New England’s. The one big department where they’re lacking is quarterback, especially when pitting Foles against Brady. Nevertheless, Foles has proven that he can step up to the occasion, like he did last week against Minnesota.

But to be honest, it’s hard for me to bet against New England on this stage. After all, the path towards a championship seems easier this year that it was last season.

Sure, they struggled to score points in the early going against Jacksonville. But then again, the Jaguars have the best defensive line in football.

I personally think that the NFC’s best chance of winning the Super Bowl died when New Orleans lost to the Vikings’ miracle 61-yard touchdown as time expired.

Nevertheless, this is going to be a close contest just like the one between New England and Jacksonville last week. That said, look for Brady and Co. To emerge from this one with a narrow win.

Final Score Prediction on Super Bowl 52: New England 23, Philadelphia 20 – The Eagles cover +4.5

Tom Brady Thumb Injury is Impacting AFC Championship Odds

The New England Patriots get the Jacksonville Jaguars at home for the AFC Championship. And they opened this week as a big favorite at sportsbooks. GTBets had them at -9.5 earlier this week.

But this was before Tom Brady was mysteriously seen practicing in gloves throughout the week. Media outlets did some digging and found that he suffered an odd thumb injury.

According to Tom E. Curran, of NBC Sports Boston, the injury occurred in practice, when handing off to a running back. Here’s how Curran described the strange event:

“Brady’s right thumb bent back badly when he was smashed into by a running back. Somehow, the ball got jammed back into the webbing between his thumb and index finger and it caused a cut. Might have been the laces.

“There may be stitches. He’s not taking snaps under center. He can take them in shotgun. He’s trying not to aggravate the thumb between now and kickoff so the reps are at a minimum. He can throw. I have no idea how hard, how far or how accurately.”

NFL writer Kevin Patra also described the injury as pretty severe:

“A source close to the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that Brady suffered a cut to his right thumb during Wednesday’s practice. The cut was gushing blood and required stitches, per Rapoport.”

What did Tom Brady have to Say about His Injury?

The football world hasn’t gotten a good glimpse of Brady’s thumb, because it’s been covered by a glove all week. But if there’s something really wrong, Brady isn’t telling anybody. Here’s a look at the transcript from his AFC Championship press conference:

Question: Tom, how’s your hand?

Tom Brady: “I’m not talking about it.”

Q: Thumbs up or thumbs down for Sunday?

TB: “We’ll see.”

Q: Did you throw any footballs today?

TB: “I’m not talking about that.”

Q: Did you practice today?

TB: “I was out there.”

Q: How was practice?

TB: “It was fun.”

Q: How much are you looking forward to the opportunity Sunday?

TB: “It’s a great challenge. I think the team has worked hard to get to this point, and it’ll be a great game. We are playing against a really good team that’s good in all phases. And we’re going to have to play really well.”

Q: Do you have to be on top of your game on Sunday to beat this team?

TB: “Absolutely. It’s the best team we’ve faced all year. They’re here for a reason. They obviously are a top-ranked defense in the league. Great players at all levels. Really well coached. Scoring a lot of points. So, we’re going to have to play really well.”

Q: How confident are you that you’ll be playing on Sunday?

TB: “We’ll see.”

Brady eventually left the press conference after mentioning “You [press] said only two questions.”

Stephen A. Smith doesn’t Buy Brady’s Thumb Injury

The New England Patriots aren’t the most transparent franchise. In fact, they’ve been part of a few scandals in their history. That said, it’s no wonder why Brady’s mysterious gloved hand is being dubbed “Thumbgate.”

And ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith certainly believes that there’s a conspiracy afoot.

“I’m supposed to believe that that guy [Brady], with a Super Bowl berth on the line, got hurt handing the ball off to a running back,” Smith said on First Take.

“I don’t believe it for one second. I think it’s a wrong story, it’s bogus, I’m not even concerned.”

Smith later added, “It’s the fact that they’re talking about his right hand that I know it’s bogus. Because if there was really something wrong with Tom Brady’s throwing hand, you think Bill Belichick would tell you. He’d find a way to lie about it.”

How has Brady’s Injury Affected AFC Championship Betting Odds?

As I mentioned earlier, New England opened the week as a -9.5 favorite. But they’ve slipped to a -7.5 favorite in our most-recent GTBets line.

Some of this may be bettors believing that Jacksonville had a good chance to cover at +9.5, leading to heavier action on the Jaguars. And of course, this causes our sportsbook and others to shift the line. But some of it may very well be bettors being concerned with Brady’s injury.

I’d say that at least 1 or 1.5 points in the shift are purely due to rumors on Brady’s thumb. And it’s hard to question bettors for being concerned with New England’s ability to win by over a touchdown if their Hall of Fame quarterback isn’t 100%.

What is the Patriots’ Backup Plan?

tom-brady-thumb-injury-1If Tom Brady’s injury is severe enough to where he can’t play, then backup Brian Hoyer would fill the role. And this isn’t the worst thing in the world, given that Hoyer is one of the league’s best backups.

He was the starter in San Francisco for the first seven games of 2017. Hoyer put up mediocre numbers with 1,245 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. But it’s also worth mentioning that he didn’t exactly have a stellar supporting cast.

Hoyer had a really efficient season last year with the Chicago Bears, completing 67% of his passes for 1,445 yards, 6 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. While Hoyer isn’t going to win the game for you with 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns, he’s a serviceable starter.

In any case, none of this probably matters. I agree with Smith in that this is a ruse by the Patriots, and they wouldn’t be discussing the matter if there were really a chance Brady can’t go. That said, look for TB12 to take the field on Sunday and have a strong performance.

Vikings vs Eagles Odds – NFC Championship Preview

philly-vikings-oddsThe Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles will meet in the 2018 NFC Championship this weekend.

Philadelphia got here by winning a gritty 15-10 game against the No. 6 seeded Atlanta Falcons. Interestingly enough, Philly opened the game as a -3 underdog at home. And the reason why is because they lost their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, late in the season. Nevertheless, their defense came through against Atlanta and they’ve moved on.

Minnesota got here via a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints. The Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but eventually surrendered this in the second half. They needed a miracle 61-yard touchdown at the end of the game to win.

It’s hard to immediately know what to expect from this game. But let’s figure it out by looking at the GTBets odds along with analysis on both teams.

2018 NF Championship Odds (Jan 21 at 6:40pm ET)

Philadelphia vs Minnesota Point Spread
Vikings -3 (-115)
Eagles +3 (+105)

Philadelphia vs Minnesota Moneyline
Vikings -164
Eagles +144

Over/Under
Over 38.5 (-116)
Under 38.5 (-104)

Key Factors for Philadelphia

nick-foles-eaglesThe Wentz injury continues to loom large for the Eagles. Nick Foles, who’s been starting in his place, has a 3-1 record so far. Foles’ only loss was a regular season finale against the Dallas cowboys, where the team rested their starters.

Foles hasn’t exactly been the reason for the three wins. He threw 4 touchdowns against the New York Giants in his first start. But he’s only tossed one touchdown in the last three contests. Philly’s offense is also averaging 11.3 points per game in this three-game span.

Things don’t look to get any better for Foles against what may be the league’s best defense. That said, he needs to channel his performance against the Giants, or at least something close to it, for the Eagles to score.

Lucky for him, Philadelphia has a really good running game to relieve some of the pressure. The three-headed backfield of Jay Ajayi, LaGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement will help generate some offense.

eagles-defenseOf course, Philadelphia’s biggest strength will be their defense. Much like Minnesota, they can also argue that they have the best defense.

They did an excellent job of shutting down Atlanta, holding them to a 281 yards and 10 points – their lowest totals since a 14-9 loss to Minnesota in Week 13. The keys to success won’t change against the Vikings, who have a less-potent offense than Atlanta.

Philadelphia will also have all of the doubters to motivate them for this contest. Head Coach Doug Pederson mentioned this in a recent interview with ESPN:

“When did Carson Wentz go down? Since that point, no one’s given us a chance. I understand Carson’s a great player, but every week our guys are hearing the same thing. Now, all of a sudden, we’re not good enough? We’re 13-3, best record in football, home-field advantage throughout.The guys are gonna motivate themselves based on what they’ve heard for the last month. It really doesn’t matter what you guys talk about, because [our] locker room is united. I’ll go to bat for every one of those guys; I’ll go to war for every one of those guys in that dressing room.”

The Eagles are 9-3 against the Vikings straight-up in the last 12 meetings. And they’ve gone 11-3 ATS in the last 14 games between these squads.

Key Factors for Minnesota

case-keenum-vikingsRoad favorites have fared well in the conference championship throughout NFL history, with an 8-6 record in 14 games.

A big key for Minnesota will be playing like they did in the first half against the Saints, rather than what they did in the second half. The Vikings allowed zero points against a strong offense led by Drew Brees. But their mistake-riddled second half nearly doomed the team’s chances.

The biggest mistakes involved Minnesota’s pass coverage, where they gave up the three touchdowns. But the good news is that Nick Foles will be the opposing QB, and not Brees.

Speaking of which, Minnesota has an edge at quarterback. Case Keenum has been a pleasant surprise this year after taking over for the injured Sam Bradford. Last week, Keenum put up 318 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

The Vikings also have a solid running game that features Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. Both players combined for 1,412 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season. McKinnon also added 421 receiving yards on 51 catches.

Minnesota’s biggest strength is their defense, which shut down most of the opponents they faced the season. Putting the second half collapse against Orleans behind them, the Vikings up should fare much better against Foles and the Eagles.

This team has gone 9-3 ATS over their past 12 games. And two of the three failed covers were only by a half point. That said, Minnesota looks like a strong bet to cover their -3 spread.

Prediction on Eagles vs Vikings

Philadelphia has the home-field advantage, which is their greatest asset right now. And they’ve gone 8-1 at Lincoln Financial Field, with the only loss being the Week 17 contest where starters rested.

The Eagles have survived with Nick Foles up to this point. But honestly, how much longer can they keep this going against playoff clubs?

Both teams have top-tier defenses, which means that this contest will probably be a low-scoring affair. But I think that Minnesota’s quarterback advantage will be the biggest thing that defines this game.

Final Score Prediction: Minnesota 20, Philadelphia 16 – The Vikings cover -3 spread

Jaguars vs Patriots Odds – AFC Championship Preview

jaguars-patriots-afc-championship-oddsThe New England Patriots booked their seventh-straight AFC Championship game appearance via a dominating 35-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are here as a result of a 45-42 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Many expect New England to march on to their eighth Super Bowl in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. But then again, many thought that a Patriots-Steelers AFC Championship was a formality. And Jacksonville busted this up with an outstanding road performance.

Do the Jaguars have another surprise ready? Or will New England win as expected? Let’s discuss this matter by looking at the GTBets odds along with some analysis on both teams.

2018 AFC Championship Odds (Jan 21 at 3:05pm ET)

Jacksonville vs New England Point Spread
Jaguars +9.5 (-124)
Patriots -9.5 (+104)

Jacksonville vs New England Moneyline
Jaguars +305
Patriots -405

Over/Under
Over 38.5 (-118)
Under 38.5 (-102)

Key Factors for Jacksonville

jaguars-calais-campbellThe story on Jacksonville is their postseason experience, or lack thereof. This team is relatively young, and they don’t have anywhere near the experience in these situations as the Patriots.

Nevertheless, Jacksonville didn’t get to this point by accident. Instead, they did so by crushing teams with their defense, which is quite possibly the most talented unit in the NFL.

Defensive end Calais Campbell leads the Jaguars’ defense. He tallied 14.5 sacks in the regular season and demands constant attention at all times. Jacksonville also has shutdown corners in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.

One thing that bodes well for this team is that they’ve only struggled against mobile quarterbacks. Brady is hardly this, which should give the Jaguars a boost.

The offense is led by rookie running back Leonard Fournette. The fourth-overall pick in the 2017 Draft slowed down towards the end of the season. But he looks great so far in the postseason, scoring three touchdowns against the Steelers last week.

blake-bortles-jaguarsBlake Bortles hasn’t been anything spectacular at QB. But he did fare well against Pittsburgh, throwing for 214 yards, one touchdowns, and, most importantly, no interceptions.

Jacksonville is 10-0 on the season when Bortles doesn’t throw a pick. That said, their key to winning could bank on the fourth-year pro. Assuming Bortles doesn’t toss a pick, then the defense can use their talent to give Brady and Co. fits.

Key Factors for New England

brady-jaguarsSome experts are picking Jacksonville to win this game. And I assume that this could have something to do with shock value. After all, it’s nearly impossible to see New England losing at home on this stage.

Here are a few stats that compare the Brady-Belichick Patriots (18 years) to Jacksonville’s entire franchise history (23 years):

Super Bowl wins
Patriots 5
Jaguars 0

Super Bowl appearances
Patriots 7
Jaguars 0

AFC Championship appearances
Patriots 12
Jaguars 2

QB playoff starts
Brady 35
Bortles 2

Coaching playoff games
Belichick 35
Doug Marrone 2

It’s extremely hard to put Jacksonville’s chances in the same stratosphere as New England. And it’s very possible that the Jaguars are only here because Pittsburgh overlooked them while focusing on the Patriots.

The Patriots are far too professional to overlook the opponent right in front of them. And they’d be wise not to, because Jacksonville has loads of raw talent.

bill-belichick-patriotsJust the fact that Brady is starting against Bortles should be enough to have complete confidence in New England. Furthermore, TB12 has more weapons than his opposing signal caller, including Brand Cooks and Rob Gronkowski, who both went over 1,000 yards.

Brady can also check down to running backs Dion Lewis, James White, and Rex Burkhead, who combined for 120 catches, 893 receiving yards, and 9 receiving TDs.

Perhaps the only mystery in this game will be if New England can cover their lofty 9.5 spread. They’re 10-1 ATS in the last 11 games, which bodes well for betting purposes.

Prediction on Jacksonville vs. New England

In some ways, Pittsburgh was the perfect matchup for Jacksonville. And it didn’t help that the Steelers were more obsessed with beating New England than they were with winning their immediate divisional round contest.

Jacksonville won’t have the same luxury of surprise against the Patriots. New England is coached and quarterbacked by two of the best ever. Furthermore, New England is the top team of the four remaining squads still alive for the Super Bowl.

The Jaguars deserve credit for getting here. However, I don’t think they’re quite ready to outplay a Belichick-coached Patriots squad.

This situation reminds me of when New England played the Indianapolis Colts in the 2015 AFC Championship. The only difference is that the Colts had a strong offense and mediocre defense, which is the opposite of Jacksonville.

In any case, New England went on to win this game 45-7 at home. Maybe Jacksonville will make this a better contest than most expect. But then again, they’re only 2-5 ATS in their last seven games against the Patriots.

Long story short, I don’t see Jacksonville shocking the world. I see them suffering a humiliating loss, one where Bortles can’t guide his team downfield, and the defense is left guarding short fields against Tom Brady.

Final Score Prediction: New England 38, Jacksonville 13 – The Patriots cover their -9.5 spread.

Cavs MLK Loss to Warriors Creates Doubt Over Contender Status

cavs-in-troubleThe Cleveland Cavaliers suffered a 118-108 home loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday. And afterward, several players on the team talked about the growing concern that they may not be able to fix their problems and compete for a championship.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports that multiple players have concerns about their aging roster, redundant (3-point shooting) role players, and lack of defense.

All this has been evident in an up-and-down season for Cleveland, who started off 5-7, before winning 18 of their next 19 games. However, they’ve now lost nine of their past 12 contests, including the demoralizing loss to the warriors.

One might say that this is only a single game. But the loss to Golden State now drops Cleveland to 1-6 against the top three teams in both conferences. Their only victory against such an opponent was a win against Boston after Gordon Hayward broke his ankle.

Defense is the Biggest Problem

Last year, the Cavs were a poor defensive team that finally got better in the postseason. But this year, they’re absolutely dreadful, ranking 29th in defensive efficiency. They allow 109.3 points per 100 possessions.

In the last 20 years, no NBA team that’s finished in the bottom two in defensive efficiency has made the playoffs, let alone the NBA Finals.

If Cleveland continues at this rate, they’ll become the first such team to make the playoffs. After all, their offense has been good enough to give them a 26-17 record. But it’s highly unlikely that they can get through the Eastern Conference playing such bad defense.

Cavs Blew Lead Over Warriors

Despite the current discontent in the Cleveland locker room, they didn’t play too badly against the team with the league’s best record. In fact, the Cavs were actually leading by seven points at halftime.

But the Warriors turned on the jets from here, outscoring Cleveland 61-44 in the second half. The fourth quarter was a specially damming, given that Cleveland shot just 26.1% (6-for-23) from the floor.

While this was definitely a tough loss to take, LeBron James found solace in the fact the team put in a strong effort.

“It seemed like the rim just got smaller and smaller,” said James. “Like our effort tonight. If we continue on that, going into our next few games, then I like where we are.”

Still Room for Improvement

isaiah-thomas-cavs-warriorsThe first time Cleveland played Golden State, they didn’t have the services of Tristan Thompson (calf) and Isaiah Thomas (hip). But both players were on the court against the Warriors this time around. And they couldn’t make a big enough difference to swing the tide in Cleveland’s favor.

Nevertheless, there’s still some improvement to be made here. This is especially the case when considering that Thomas, has only been back for five games, played his most minutes (32) last night.

“I just want him to take the shots that are given to him,” said Cleveland Coach Tyronn Lue. “Not forcing shots, but if someone, whoever is on the team that can shoot the basketball, if they’re open 21 times, then take your shots. It’s not about the amount of shots, it’s the amount of good shots. If they’re your shots then you’ve got to be ready to take them.”

Thomas has drawn a lot of comparisons to Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving, who was involved in the trade that sent Thomas to Cleveland. Right now, Irving and the Celtics hold the number one spot in the East, while Cleveland is currently fielding questions about their team chemistry.

However, it’s a little unfair to compare the two right now when considering that Thomas is still trying to get into the swing of things.

“[It could take me] 15 to 20 games or maybe a month,” Thomas said in regard to getting “back to the level that [I am] used to playing at.”

Rose and Shumpert Currently Out

Guards Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert are currently out with injuries. And they’ll add to the rotation when they’re healthy enough to return.

Of course, they could also further complicate a rotation that’s already in disarray. After all, Lue still has yet to figure out a lineup that can both score and shut down opposing offenses.

Cavs Trade Coming?

derrick-rose-lebronCleveland isn’t getting any younger. And there’s no defensive help on the way either. The Cavs will play better around the postseason – like always – but will it be enough?

Kevin Love can’t protect the rim when he plays center, Thomas is a defensive liability, and the rest of the roster is past its defensive peak.

Offensively, Cleveland doesn’t have a clear playmaker when LeBron sits. Thomas could be this when he’s healthy. But what happens when both sit?

Dwyane Wade, Rose, and Jose Calderon aren’t elite playmakers, while J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver are merely spot-up shooters. Then you have Jae Crowder, who’s having his worst season in years.

The important thing to remember here is that Cleveland is still 26-17 and looking like a middle seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, at worst.

But they certainly don’t look like any real challenger to the Warriors. They might not even be good enough to make it out of the East. And this would be a first within the past four years.

This is why GM Koby Altman might make a big trade before the deadline. I discussed the potential scenario where they acquire center DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers. But this would mean that they’d have to give up the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

Word now is that they want to keep it in case LeBron bolts in free agency. But the players would no doubt like to see Altman use this asset to better the team, especially with what’s going on now.

Cleveland still has over three months before the playoffs begin to get things right. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if they can swing a good trade or find a really effective lineup before then.