Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.
LAS VEGAS — Super Bowl 56. Actually, I’m gonna say it right off the top, and please don’t get mad at me. Can honestly say I’m not really thrilled with this matchup. Not thrilled laying 4 or 4.5 points, but then again, not sure if this dog from Cincy is gonna be able to bark. Why the ambivalence? Because just looking at the numbers, these two teams are pretty even in some very important statistical categories. So, where’s the edge?
Super Bowl Picks
The teams scored exactly the same number of points (460) and the Rams allowed only four fewer (372 vs 376). Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford had almost identical adjusted net yards per attempt rates to go with extremely similar rates of touchdown passes and interceptions per attempt.
Gonna go all geeky for a minute and tell you that the Rams were the No. 1 pass-rushing team and the Bengals were the league’s third-worst pass-blocking team. So Burrow, the NFL’s MOST-SACKED QB this season, might have some issues.
Continuing down the yellow GEEK road, the Rams ranked No. 1 in pass blocking while the Bengals ranked just 25th in pass rushing.
Then we found that Cincy’s special teams had a distinct advantage coming in with a No. 3 in EPA, while the Rams sit WAY down the list at No. 28.
Now you can kinda feel why we’re not really thrilled with the game, so how about playing the middle and winning BOTH SIDES! The line dropped from -4.5 to -3.5 here in Vegas yesterday at Caesars and William Hill. Anyone thinking of betting BOTH SIDES and praying for the game to land on FOUR? We are, and WE DID! It could happen.
Actually, it did happen at Super Bowl 13 when the Steelers beat the Cowboys 35-31 in a game that bookmakers called “Black Sunday” because it was the biggest loss EVER!!! So, got the Rams at -3.5 and the Bengals at +4.5 and will be watching very carefully and praying that the game ends 27-23!
Now, we jump on the train, and the conductor screams, next stop is PROP CITY, BAABBBEEE!!!
Super Bowl Prop Bets
If you can’t put your finger on last week’s column, or were not sitting at the Ecks & Bacon table, we’re LOVING the Evan “Shooter” McPherson prop! Yeah, the Bengals kicker who HAS NOT MISSED a field goal or extra point in the playoffs. Lemme take you for a stroll. Shooter was perfect against the Raiders, hitting on all four field-goal attempts, and was 2-for-2 on extra points. He was 4/4 on FGs and 1/1 on EXP against the Titans.
Then last week, sorry to sound like a broken record, he was, yup, 4/4 and 1/1 on EXP. So, 14 points against Vegas, 13 against Tennessee and 13 against Kaycee. His total of 40 points is just nine off Adam Vinatieri’s record back in 2006 when he put up 49 points in the playoffs. The Rams have a wicked D and should force the Bengals to try a handful of field goals. The listed OVER/UNDER total for McPherson is ONLY 7.5 points, and we’re gonna go HIGH and ROCK the OVER!
Staying on the Bengals side of the field, gonna take a look at RB Joe Mixon’s rushing prop. The OVER/UNDER is 65.5 yards and we are gonna go LOW. Why? Of course we have reasons. In the playoffs, Mixon managed only 48 yards against Vegas, 54 against Tennessee and 88 against Kansas City.
Don’t get TOO excited about that last number because Kaycee was way down at No. 19 against the run this season. Now look at what the Rams have done in the playoffs against the run: They held Arizona to 61 yards, Tampa Bay to 51 and San Francisco to just 50. That SCREAMS UNDER and you can BET on it, BAABBBEEE!!!
Looking at the OVER/UNDER total for combined pass attempts for both teams. The total is 73.5 and we’re gonna roll with the OVER. Looked at the three playoff games for each team, and just one of those went UNDER. In the wild-card round, Matthew Stafford only attempted 17 passes, while Joe Burrow threw it 34 times. Total 51. In the divisional round, Stafford put it up 38 times against Tampa, while Joe Burrow tossed it 37 times against Tennessee. Total 75.
In the conference championships, Stafford aired it out 45 times against San Francisco, while Burrow chucked it 38 times against Kaycee. Total 83. Once Cincy realizes that running on the Rams defense is gonna be problematic, expecting Joe BRRR to start hitting short slants and screens and coil that right arm around 39 times. Not expecting Stafford to drop back and rip 45 times again, but 38 sounds about right. So my number of total attempts is 77, and that’s OVER, baabbbeee!!!
Gonna go with another delicious prop bet and look at Odell Beckham Jr. The prop is an OVER/UNDER for his longest reception, and the number is 23.5 yards. Are you KIDDING ME? My mind flashed back to 2019 in New York when Cleveland was playing the Jets. OBJ took a short little pass from Baker Mayfield and went EIGHTY-NINE YARDS to the house!
The Browns went on to win that game 23-3. Just saying. Don’t believe that’s gonna be the score on Super Sunday with the Rams on top, but MAN, Odell has the tools and the speed to turn a six-yard slant into a freakin’ highlight reel. All he’s gotta do is find one tiny seam, break one tackle and he’s GONE! Which is why this prop is going WAY OVER, BAABBBEEE!
Prop me up, baby. Gonna look at a Matthew Stafford prop and it’s the OVER/UNDER for how many interceptions he will throw. The number is listed at 0.5, or half an interception. Obviously, you can’t throw half an INT, but my bet is he will throw at least one. And that would be an OVER. Looked at Matt’s work this season, and he has gifted the opposition 18 INTs in 20 games.
Yeah, he has been much better in the playoffs, throwing only one in the three games, but past performance is something that speaks very loudly. Not gonna bore you with the specifics of some geeky matchup stats, but you can check out Stafford’s work vs a no-blitz/zone combination, which Cincy uses a bunch. And it AIN’T pretty. So, we go HIGH and predict that Matt will throw at least one interception!
As long as we’re talking Matthew Stafford, let’s look at the OVER/UNDER for total rushing yards, which is listed at 4.5. Now, we agree that no one is calling him “Wheels” Stafford, but let’s take a look at his efforts in the three playoff games.
Matt scrambled six times for 22 yards against Arizona. He had four runs – if you call ’em that – against Tampa Bay, gaining just six yards. Then in the NFC championship game against San Francisco, he took off five times and picked up eight yards. Not confusing him with Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, but Stafford can fall forward a couple of times and go OVER 4.5 yards. MONEY, BAABBBEEE!
And if you want some more winners over the weekend, PLZ hit me on Instagram. I will be doing quick 15- to 30-second picks at www.instagram.com/vegasvigoris
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America's Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his Email...firstname.lastname@example.org.
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