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Brent Musburger: Here’s hoping to ‘middle’ the Super Bowl

Updated February 1, 2019 - 3:18 pm

My Super Bowl betting strategy is simple: I’m picking the Patriots to win a tight game, but I’m going to try for a “middle” by using the Rams in a 7-point teaser.

The tricky part is I also will have to nail the over-under on a two-team ticket. So let me explain.

I’ve already bet the Patriots minus 2½. I’ve been waiting to see if the spread will move to Rams plus 3. If that happens, I will tease the Rams up to plus 10, the over-under up to 63½, take the under and keep my fingers crossed that a close game doesn’t go into overtime.

Coach Sean McVay and quarterback Jared Goff have been together with the Rams for 34 games. There have been only two times in the past two seasons when they weren’t within one score with possession in the fourth quarter. That obviously means that two things can go completely haywire with my “middle” strategy.

First and foremost, the Rams can win this game outright. Secondly, they’re explosive enough to carry the total into the 60s, which could wind up costing me both ends of my “middle” play.

If the Patriots win by at least a field goal but no more than nine points, then we cash both ends, provided the two teams don’t total more than 63.

As for the game, the Patriots must control Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald. Here is where their offensive strategy might help them. New England uses the traditional two backs (fullback and running back) more than any other team in the NFL with the exception of San Francisco. James Devlin is the Patriots’ fullback. Their offensive line will double Donald almost the entire game, but Devlin will be needed to help if Donald, who had 20½ sacks this season, gets free, or if Rams defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh continues his hot hand in the playoffs.

Patriots running backs Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead are not power runners who break a lot of tackles, but they possess great skill at cutting to daylight. So the absolute key to a New England victory will be the performance of their offensive line plus a fullback working together against the Rams’ front.

There’s one intangible that concerns me with the under: the officials. Based on the New Orleans controversy, I expect this crew to call pass interference on anything that’s close. They don’t want to be hung out to dry like the crew that botched the NFC championship game. Much easier to err on the side of throwing the flag.

That presents this problem. Pass interference is so penal in the NFL that it will give these two offenses more scoring chances as the game unfolds. And here I’m counting on Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to come up with something that turns those touchdown opportunities into field goals.

Oh, well. If this strategy fails, there’s always next year. But even as the teams and faces change through 53 Super Bowls, one thing stays the same: Cashin’ tickets is what it’s all about.

Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His show on the Vegas Stats & Information Network can be heard on SiriusXM 204 and livestreamed at reviewjournal.com/vegas-stats-information-network.

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