By gambling expert Five Star Drae
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.
The thing about the Super Bowl is that you can’t bet on it like a regular season game.
That’s the mistake most casual bettors make. Square bettors bet games based on familiarity and common knowledge. With that said, most casuals that bet the Bengals will fall in the category of actual Cincinnati fans or Joe Burrow believers. The squares that take LA will bet because they recognize the Rams brand as more successful than a traditional loser like the Bengals.
Also, average fans are more familiar with the big names on the Los Angeles roster like Matt Stafford, OBJ, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Von Miller. The bookmakers examine all these factors when setting the lines. They over examine these areas in the Big Game. A line maker’s worst fear is to give out a bad number on the heaviest bet game on the planet. Therefore, the Super Bowl spread is always precise.
The first thing sharps like myself ask when a line opens is, “What is the book attempting to accomplish with the number?”
The line initiated at Rams -3.5 and was quickly bet up -4. My immediate thoughts on seeing this short number were the books want money on the Rams. Anytime a team with an offensive personality that’s publicly regarded as explosive is only laying less than 6 points, it’s always an indicator.
The public perception is the Rams are supposed to be here. They’re playing at home. They’re a public team. They have the offensive and defensive stars. This game almost seems to be Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke’s coronation for bringing football back to LA.
And the Bengals public perception? They’re underdogs. A great story, but still “the Bengals.” Joe Burrow is unbelievable, but my God he has a horrible offensive line. These are all the mainstream and popular narratives. Yet the book only set the initial line at -3.5? Makes sense, right?
Books post numbers in most situations that appear as an easy win to public bettors. The public tends to overlook key factors that traders and professionals account for. For instance, The Rams and Bengals were both division-winning 4th-seeded playoff teams that each won the two most competitive divisions in the NFL, the NFC west and AFC north respectively.
They mirror each other in that both offenses are pass-first with dangerous mismatches outside. Both teams struggle against the pass on defense. Both defenses are top 10 against the run. The Rams do have a better pass rush as they rank 3rd and Joe Burrow was sacked the most times in the NFL. But keep in mind, Cincinnati played the team with the most sacks in the NFL twice this season. The Steelers led the league with 55 sacks. In the Bengals two matchups with the league leaders in sacks, the Bengals only allowed two sacks and scored a combined 65 points.
The Bengals Line will be missing Riley Reid, but I believe Zac Taylor is sharp enough to design a protection scheme that won’t allow Aaron Donald to dominate the game. The best way to beat a pass rusher is run right at them and that’s exactly what Coach Taylor did in prior matchups with the Steelers’ pass rushers.
Joe Mixon ran for 255 yards on 46 carries for 2TD’s in the two matchups against Pittsburgh’s vaunted pass rush. Joe Burrow only attempted 18 passes in the first matchup and only threw 24 times in the second matchup with Pittsburgh, completing 14 and 20 passes, respectively.
Zac Taylor is smart. He won’t allow the Rams to pin back their ears and hit Burrow all game. Joe Mixon is the forgotten man in this game, but clearly the best running back. He’s hard to tackle, tough as hell, elusive, can catch the ball, and has breakaway speed. His backup Perine, another Oklahoma product, is also a bruiser with speed. The Bengals are gonna run the ball to set up the pass and keep the Rams’ pass rush at bay.
It’s been pretty much established that both teams’ advantages are at the wide receivers against the other team’s defensive backs. So, basically which defensive backfield will be more effective will likely win the game. I trust Cincinnati’s corp every day of the week over the Rams.
After you get past Jalen Ramsey, it’s 5’9” Darious Williams, 5’11” Nick Scott, and old and slow Eric Weddle, who just signed last month from retirement. It’ll be big if they get Taylor Rapp back because he’s a solid FS. But he missed all three playoff games in concussion protocols so how sharp and in condition will he be?
That limited group faces one of the deadliest wide receiving corps in the league in Jamarr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. All of these young wide receivers are strong, physical, and fast game-changers. The Bengals literally have three #1 wide receivers, and each has been a #1 in the league before.
I expect Tee Higgins to have an enormous day on Darious Williams. If the Rams make the mistake of doubling him and allowing Ramsey to go one on one with Chase, Jamarr may break the Super Bowl receiving yards record. Chase is that dynamic. Ramsey is more name than game. I’ve watched his tape. Much like Richard Sherman, he’s a zone corner whether he recognizes it or not. He’s always peeking at the QB instead of his man. Any lapses like that against Chase and its six points for the Bengals.
However, the Rams probably have the NFL’s current best WR in the game. Cooper Kupp is amazing. It’s no stopping his production. McVay designs his entire offense around the NFL Offensive Player of The Year. Few fans know Bengals head coach Zac Taylor coached and developed Kupp while working as WR coach in Los Angeles. So, although there’s no way of holding Kupp, who will have more insight on slowing down the great receiver more than Taylor?
Meanwhile, Odell Beckham Jr has found his game again, and Van Jefferson is always a threat deep. The Rams’ receiving corp is a handful, but I really like the Bengals’ defensive backs led by Jessie Bates. He’s the QB of that backfield, along with Von Bell, making one of the stronger safety combinations in the league.
The Bengals are versatile at CB. Chidobe Awuzie may be the best cornerback in the league, no one knows. He was one of the highest ranked PFF cornerbacks. Nickelback Mike Hilton is versatile and has been great on slot receivers all season. He’ll surely draw the Kupp matchup. Tre Flowers is long, and the team uses him to cover hybrids and tight ends. Eli Apple is considered the weak link but mostly by perception. He’s played well all playoffs and obviously Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo thinks highly of him since Apple followed his coach from the Giants.
Anarumo’s specialty is defensive back play. The improvement of the Bengals back side proves this. The best defensive minds in the game, like Belichick, Sean Mcdermott, and Nick Saban, all excel at defensive back coaching. That skill is intricate in today’s pass-first NFL. Another plus is Anarumo’s play calling. The DC has been on point all playoffs. He’s the one coach that slowed down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs this season.
The Bengals are also underrated upfront on the defensive line. DJ Reader is the real deal. He’s one of the best interior linemen in the league. But the key to the Bengals stopping the Rams is Tre Hendrickson. He had 14 sacks in the regular season. If they can get him one-on-one on the edge with aging Andrew Whitworth, he’ll be able to force Matt Stafford into some bad decisions.
I’ve watched the Super Bowl week coverage and honestly Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey sound overconfident. After being in the league as stars so long, both think the Bengals are still the “Bungles.” The two stars remember Cincinnati as a doormat for most of their careers. Donald and Ramsey both seem assured the Rams would beat the lowly Bengals. Ramsey is saying he wants Chase one-on-one. No, he doesn’t. Donald said he pretty much feels with their roster against this roster his team should win.
After arrogance comes the fall. If Mattress Mack’s 4 million wasn’t involved, I’d say Bengals moneyline. However, since he’s put the public spotlight on his wager, the safer and sharper bet is Bengals +4.5.
+4.5 is a great line for Bengals backers. The last six Super Bowl teams favored between -3.5 and -4.5 have not only covered, but all five teams have lost straight up. The Chiefs lost to the Bucs, the Patriots lost to the Eagles, the Panthers lost to the Broncos, the Niners lost to the Ravens, the Patriots lost to the Giants and my favorite the Colts lost to The Saints. All were -3.5 to -4.5 favorites.
This is essentially a road game for the Bengals. The Bengals have been the best road team in the NFL this season. Their last real road loss was at Chicago in week two when Joe Burrow was still shaky after knee surgery. They lost at Cleveland 21-15 in the last week of the regular season, but Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, and most of the starters sat out since the AFC North Division title was wrapped up.
At full strength, the Bengals are essentially 7-0 on the road this season and 8-1 ATS overall if you count the Bears game from what seems like a million years ago. Say this with me: The Bengals are legit. They’re the best road team in the NFL. This game being in LA will actually help forge the Bengals’ team. It’s them against the world.
The Bengals are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games. Good teams win, but great teams cover. Rookie kicker Shooter McPherson and Burrow have the most important intangible in this game, the clutch gene. The Bengals cover. So, don’t be surprised if they shock the world in what’s sure to be a great game that comes down to the fourth quarter.
Take the Bengals +4.5.
Catch Five Star Drae daily on THE WAGERING WORLD on ScoonTV and on Twitter @fivestarinvegas