Michael Conroy / AP
Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018 | 2 a.m.
We’ve entered the fourth season of the annual South Point-lined Play of the Day competition, effective July 1.
Starting bankrolls have reset to $10,000, with the maximum bet being to win $1,000 and the minimum wager $300. Ray Brewer won back-to-back titles in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, after Taylor Bern prevailed in 2014-15.
New England Patriots minus-4 vs. Philadelphia Eagles: $990 to win $900
They say never gamble with your heart, but when your favorite team is in the Super Bowl, it’s hard to apply cold logic.
As a Boston native, I admit to being a complete homer for the New England Patriots. I live by “The TB12 Method,” I’ll argue against Deflategate until I’m blue in the face, and if I could go back in time, my yearbook quote would read “In Belichick We Trust.” So maybe take the following gambling tips with a grain of salt.
But even from a biased perspective, you have to admit there’s a pretty good case to be made that the Patriots will win (and cover) on Sunday, giving the franchise its sixth championship of the Brady/Belichick era.
Here are the five biggest reasons why New England will win, and win big:
The coaching edge is real. In the playoffs, Bill Belichick is 15-0 against teams that are facing New England for the first time that season. In rematches, that record drops to a more human 12-9. So what does that tell us? If you haven’t been put through the Belichick wringer, you don’t have much of a chance when he throws the kitchen sink at you in a winner-take-all situation. And the Eagles coaching staff hasn’t gone up against anything like Bill before. When this game rolls into the fourth quarter, do you want your money riding with the greatest coach of all-time, or the guy wearing the goofy Eagles visor? Coaching matters. In Bill we trust.
Brady at his best. Tom Brady may be 40 years old, but he’s not slowing down. Statistically, he is putting the finishing touches on the best three-year stretch of his career, and his recent Super Bowl track record can only be described as Bradyesque. Is Philadelphia capable of stopping him? The Eagles’ defensive line has applied a ton of pressure on opposing passers, but Atlanta tried that last year — sacking Brady five times — and it didn’t make a difference. It’s gotten to the point where I truly don’t believe there’s any way for a defense to get the best of Brady.
Underrated defense. New England’s defense doesn’t rate highly in any regular-season metrics, but statistics can be deceiving. The Patriots were terrible on D in the first four weeks, allowing 32 points per game as the team integrated new players and tinkered with its overall scheme. But once they figured it out, they trimmed it to 14 points per game allowed over the final 12 weeks. Now Stephon Gilmore is playing like a true lockdown corner, young pass rushers like Deatrich Wise are heating up (two sacks in two playoff games) and late-season additions like James Harrison have had time to learn the system. Now give Belichick two weeks to prepare, and this doesn’t seem like a good matchup for the Philadelphia offense.
Open all day. Philadelphia has an excellent defensive line, but behind that front are a lot of question marks. The Eagles’ linebackers aren’t known for their coverage abilities, and nondescript cornerbacks like Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills aren’t going to strike fear in Tom Brady. The Eagles aren’t built to defend Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Cooks and James White in man-to-man, but if they play too much zone, Brady will complete 80 percent of his passes and wear out the coverage guys. There is no good option here for Philly.
History. There is a lot riding on the outcome of this game, legacy-wise. Brady can match Michael Jordan by winning his sixth championship. Belichick can further cement himself as the greatest coach in modern sports history. The Patriots can leapfrog the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers as the premier franchise in NFL history. It’s all there for the taking. Is Nick Foles going to stand in the way of that? Lay the points and root for the Patriots for once in your life.
Current Standings: Granger (15-11, $13,009), Brewer (23-19, $10,850), Keefer (21-20-1, $9,726), Grimala (9-16, $5,275)