Tom Brady Jared Goff super bowl LIII
(USA Today Sports Images)

We’re at T-minus about 100 hours until the Tom Brady Invitational, also known as the Super Bowl, also known as the best day of the year.

So far this week we’ve posted an early action report, looked at the three biggest Super Bowl bad beats, and explored the history of Super Bowl prop bets, beginning with a touchdown plunge by The Fridge in Super Bowl XX.

Now we, Smiley and Casale, and are examining the board and announcing our favorite prop bet selections, indicating the best prices we currently see at various New Jersey legal sportsbooks, also in Nevada, acknowledging that the best value prices in some cases may have been scooped, under assault early by professional bettors.

Follow us on Twitter @RGSportsBetting. Here we go!

James Develin Under 3.5 rushing yards (-110) — Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

Casale: A thorn in the side to fantasy football owners everywhere, Develin has been known to vulture a goal line touchdown or two. However, he’s not big on yardage. Develin has 13 yards…on the season. He recorded 10 of those yards in two games. Develin didn’t see a carry in 10 games. He’s a low-profile player, and it’s one of my top plays on the board.

Smiley:  Look at you, mining through the Patriots’ depth chart. (Goes to look up Develin rushing stats). Eight rushes all season for 13 yards. Wow. I’m on board! I see DraftKings Sportsbook has Develin at 4.5 for rushing/receiving yards. Does the possibility for a reception scare you off of that? He does have 13 catches for 70 yards on the season, including one grab for 9 yards against KC in the AFC Championship game.

Casale: I’d be more worried about him catching the ball than running, especially with Burkhead healthy again. I’ve never seen the guy gain more than a yard.

Smiley: Yeah, let’s stick to rushing only.  While we’re in the Patriots backfield, I’ll go to one of mine.

Sony Michel Over 78.5 rushing yards (-108) — FanDuel Sportsbook

Sony Michel
Sony Michel

Smiley: This game, I suppose like every game, will be won in the trenches. The Patriots have a dominant offensive line and with Brady’s arm strength and accuracy waning, have leaned more heavily on the ground attack. Even with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh in the middle, have gotten gouged on the ground, giving up a ridiculous 5.1 yards per rush attempt – dead last in league. They’re ranked 28th in rushing defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders.  I’m counting on this game to start slowly, for it to be close, and Michel to get lots of carries against a porous rushing defense. If he can break one of them for 15-20 yards, we’ll be in good shape here.

Casale: I was looking at that one myself. The Rams have been better defending the run in the playoffs but I expect Michel to be a big part of the Patriots gameplan on Sunday. Next up… I’m going to the kicking game.

Greg Zuerlein Over 1.5 field goals (-130) — SuperBook  

Greg The Leg rams
Greg The Leg

Casale: I like this prop because the Patriots play such good red zone defense. And no matter what the outcome, the Rams’ offense should be able to move the ball in this game, giving Zuerlein scoring opportunities. The Rams have attempted an NFL-high 84 field goals over the past two seasons. Over that span, Zuerlein has played in 27 games and has made at least two field goals 23 times. The odds are with you that Greg “The Leg” goes over this prop.

Smiley: I can’t poke any holes in this one. What’s the Rams’ red zone efficiency? Sounds unspectacular if he’s attempted 84 FGs in two seasons. Rams red zone scoring percentage is only 58.8, ranked 19th in the league. And points per red zone trip is 14th, per Football Outsiders. Here in New Jersey I’m seeing that on SugarHouse at -125. Okay, next up.

2H scoring > 1H scoring (-120) — SugarHouse

Smiley: I’m pushing hard on this one. I bet a lot of units last week when it was -110, the line has moved out, but it’s still a good bet in my opinion. Off the top of head think this prop was like -130 or maybe even -140 last year and in years past.  

I’m sure a lot of readers are aware that the Patriots historically haven’t scored much of anything in first quarters. Just…. THREE total points in first quarters in the 8 previous Brady-Belichick era Super Bowls. I think at least in the first half these teams will be looking to pound the football and settle in. The Rams and younger Patriots will have normal jitters.

And we know Belichick is great at halftime adjustments, so more of the scoring ought to come in the second half, when it’s time for some trick plays, perhaps one team forces things and turns the ball over, creating a short field. Other than chance, there’s just no good reason to think there’ll be more scoring in the first half. My chips are down.

Casale: I didn’t bet this personally but it makes sense, considering Bill Belichick historically has the edge over young quarterbacks. We saw Patrick Mahomes start slowly in both games against the Patriots this year before heating up. Like Brett pointed out, I can see the first quarter being a bit sluggish until both coaches adjust to what is going on defensively. My gut tells me Jared Goff is off early.

Josh Reynolds Over receiving yards 48.5 (-110) — SuperBook

Josh Reynolds rams
Josh Reynolds

Casale: Maybe I’m overcompensating because I can’t bet any Cooper Kupp props in the Super Bowl but I’m staying in the slot with Reynolds. Reynolds has topped this total in three of his last five games. The Patriots will likely try to take away Brandin Cooks in this game, giving Reynolds opportunities in the slot against New England’s man defense. The Patriots played more man defense than any team in the NFL this year. The Pats are going to make Jared Goff go to his secondary receivers, so look for Reynolds to have a big role. This was the first prop bet I made and even though I got a better number, anything under 50 yards is a play for me.

Smiley: What’s your theory for how the Pats handle Cooks? You think they bracket him or something? Because I’ve got a Cooks prop on deck. I think anyone looking to go “over” on Cooks props based on some double revenge game theory (previous game against his former team the Saints) is foolish, so I am happy to go under on him, but I like a match prop better.

Casale: I just think he’s the guy the Pats pay most attention to. Rams don’t get much from their tight ends. Robert Woods is tougher to handle because he lines up all over and does more things. I don’t necessarily think Cooks is going to have a bad game but the safety isn’t going to be concerned with Reynolds or Tyler Higbee. Bill will give up catches to those guys all day rather than a 75-yard bomb to Cooks.

I also have no idea what Belichick is going to do. He’s much smarter than me. He may decide doubling the slot is the way to stop the Rams offense.

Smiley: Which is why betting props in Belichick-coached games is somewhat of a crapshoot, which is great because they’re now making their 9th Super Bowl appearance in what, 18 seasons?  Anyhow, I think you’re assessment of Cook is right – they will not get beat by the long ball, so I’ll get into my next prop:

Most receiving yards match bet : Julian Edelman -120 vs. Brandin Cooks  – FanDuel

Julian Edelman patriots
Julian Edelman

Smiley: Edelman is fast, reliable, sure-handed, not as quick as he once was, but a Brady favorite going back to 2013. In 12 playoff games since ‘13 (Edelman missed all of 2017), he’s had at least 9 targets in every one and an average 99 yards across them. He’s going to get catches and yards in that range in this game, probably matched primarily against the unspectacular Nickell Robey-Coleman. Cooks wasn’t quiet against New Orleans last week (107 yards) or the Cowboys the week before (65 yards), but if one of these guys is going to have a dud, it’s Cooks, for reasons we already discussed.

Casale: I just bet this based on our conversation. Sometimes we try to over-complicate the Patriots offense because of Belichick’s genius. You know who isn’t playing QB on Sunday? Belichick. It’s Tom Brady and if you look at big games with Brady, he relies on his horses. There are some outliers but in general, Brady leans on his best players in the biggest games, whether it be Edelman, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, James White or…

Rob Gronkowski Over 4 receptions (+110) – SuperBook

Casale: I like Gronk to be a factor in this game. The Rams have trouble against tight ends, giving up five receptions per game to the position during the regular season. Gronk didn’t have his typical dominant year but he’s someone Tom Brady looks for in big games. He caught six balls on 11 targets in the AFC Championship Game and recorded 9 receptions on 15 targets in last year’s Super Bowl. Some have argued that Gronk will stay in to block more to negate the Rams’ pass rush. I considered that but the Eagles had a good pass rush last year and he still put up big numbers. I see the same thing happening Sunday. In what could be his final game, look for Gronk to go out with a bang.

Smiley: That man’s body is near-Cyborg with all his injuries and surgeries.  Can we handicap odds of retirement after this game? I’ll say -120. Anyhow, your theory makes sense, but I won’t be on this one. You need 5 catches to cash and he’s averaging about 3.6 per game this season. Obviously the playoffs is a different animal but you’re riding solo here. I’m staying with New England for my next one.

Total New England Patriots rushing yards o111.5 (-160) — FanDuel

Smiley:  Here I don’t have to guess which RB Belichick is going to use.  Does anyone remember Jonas Gray? He made the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Anyhow, the Pats averaged 127 yards rushing per game in the regular season and more in the two playoffs games so far,  and we know they’re going against a relatively soft rushing defense. The price is where the price is for that reason, but it’s not pricing me out.  At -160 it’s a 61.5% implied probability and I think there’s at least an 80 percent chance they crack 112 yards.

Casale: I agree with the assessment. We like Sony Michel to go over his rushing total and that means we’d need just 32 more from the rest of the backfield cash. We can probably count one Brady for… one of those yards. Overall, I like it, but you lost me when you started doing calculus. The juice is a touch too much for me to bite at the moment. I don’t like laying anything over -142…

Rex Burkhead Under receptions 2.5 (-142) — FanDuel

Casale: Well you don’t want to try to predict how Patriots backs will perform beyond Michel, but I do. Must be why fantasy football gives me ulcers. Burkhead caught four passes in the AFC Championship Game but the Chiefs allow close to six receptions per game to running backs. The Rams are much better against receiving backs and with the presence of James White, it will be hard for Burkhead to get 3 catches. In 10 games this season, Burkhead has failed to record at least three receptions seven times. It’s the Super Bowl and that means Big Game James. I don’t expect Burkhead to be much of a factor in the passing game. I really like this one, so I’m laying the juice and go under here.

Smiley: You do you. OK, I’m going to take a couple longshots here to round things out.  First up– First TD scorer! These aren’t props to make every Sunday, but it’s the Super Bowl, our last taste of NFL betting until September (or August for those of you who bet the preseason), so I’m getting spicy.

Without further, I present my picks for first touchdown scorer. It’s most likely whoever wins the coin toss will defer, so who knows who gets the ball first, although I’ve already said I think there won’t be much 1Q scoring. Anyow, I’m going to pick one for each team. For the Rams, I’ll take:

First TD scorer: Josh Reynolds at 15-1 (FanDuel)

First TD Scorer: Sony Michel at 7-1 (BetStars NJ)

Smiley: For a guy who’s only started 8 games and is the No. 3 option at WR, he’s produced nicely in the red zone. Four red zone TDs on 14 red zone targets  only one less target than Robert Woods. For the Patriots, give me James Develin at 37-1? Just kidding. But… 37-1? Hmm. I guess that’s why the house always wins. But really, I’m on Sony Michel at 7-1. Punch them right in the mouth at the goal line.  It’s 6 or 6.5-1 everywhere else I’ve looked.

Casale: I also have Reynolds to score first. The Rams have always targeted the slot receiver in the red zone under McVay, whether it be Reynolds or Cooper Kupp. Like you said, Goff looks for Reynolds in the red zone with 14 targets and remember, he didn’t start until Kupp got hurt. Can’t argue against Michel getting the first score and I’m fine with Develin because it would only add a yard to his rushing total.

Here is my last one, looking at this in reverse:

Fade Todd Gurley to score first touchdown (+700) – FanDuel (or elsewhere at any odds)

Casale: The Patriots are extremely tough to run on near the goal line. They use two nose guards to clog up the middle and dare teams to pass inside the five. That shouldn’t be a problem for Sean McVay, who will gladly throw near the end zone. Toss in the presence of C.J. Anderson and Gurley is being overvalued as the second betting choice to score the first touchdown. Give me Josh Reynolds at +1500 instead.

Smiley: Also we don’t know McVay is thinking in terms of sharing the workload.  That was weird against New Orleans with Gurley apparently healthy but on the sideline. I have no interest in guessing how the Todd Gurley/CJ Anderson usage is going to play out, so I’m not touching that backfield.

Smiley: Okay, last one for me, a fun one to look at. DraftKings Sportsbook has:

Total Players To Attempt a Pass o/u 2.5 (+100) (Including OT)

Total Players To Complete a Pass o/u 2.5 +190 (Including OT)

Smiley: We’re both betting this one, right? Non-QB passer options include Edelman, who attempted passes in the 2014 and 2016 playoffs (one completon, the 51-yard TD Pass to Amendola against Baltimore.) And for the Rams we’ve got PUNTER Johnny Hekker, who’s 12-for-20 passing in his career, although the Rams already did show off Hekker’s arm against the Cowboys.

Casale: Yes, I bet that one every year. One trick play and you win. They play the NFL like Madden now. Odds are in your favor. When you have guys like McVay and Doug Pederson coaching, I’ll take that every time.

Smiley: I’m having second thoughts. The under is priced -134. The Patriots will absolutely be prepared for Hekker on special teams.  I might be talking myself into the u2.5 here. Screw it, I’m going under.

Casale: You do you. Good luck.

Thanks for reading, and follow us on Twitter @RGSportsBetting.