This article is part of our NFL Picks series.
Finally, this Sunday the wait is over and we get a great matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. There are plenty of wagers out there so let's waste no time and see who I like for the best day of the year in football.
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Los Angeles Rams (-4) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
It took some time for me to think about and analyze (as much as I can "analyze" something) who I thought was going to win the Super Bowl. My final answer comes to the Rams and I'll explain why. While I hate laying the points (it's at four right now) I'd rather do that at -110 than go and take the money line at -200. Granted, all of the games during the Divisional and Championship rounds were extremely close but this game is a separate entity that bears no relation to those games. I look at both teams and can't find any significant advantage for the Bengals over the Rams except maybe at kicker. Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine are close to Cam Akers and Sony Michel any way you want to argue it. Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd have similar upside to Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham and Van Jefferson. The starting tight ends are both banged up and even if they suit up there's no way they're going to be close to 100 percent. The difference for me is the offensive and defensive lines for both teams. Here's where I see a significant advantage overall for the Rams. The Bengals gave up nine sacks to the Titans, so think about the field day in store for Aaron Donald and company. The Rams offensive line should open holes in the running game for Akers as well as keep Stafford upright and allow those downfield routes to develop (more on that later). Granted, they play this game 10 times and the Bengals are likely winning two, three maybe at most. I see the chance of a Rams blowout greater here than the Bengals pulling up the upset. Therefore, I'm going to sprinkle a little on the alternate line of the Rams -13.5 (+240) or the Rams -16.5 (+340). The Super Bowl over the years has been no stranger to blowouts and there's definitely a path where the Bengals are dominated on both sides of the ball.
Will There Be An Octopus? - YES +1400 - What am I missing here? Is this hockey? Of course this is a foolish wager but interesting nonetheless. My hope here is someone bets the yes and takes matters into their own hands, brings an octopus and throws it on the field. It will take some arm strength (or a catapult) to get the octopus actually onto the field but I have faith in humanity. There is the logistics of getting the octopus into the stadium undetected (do you disguise it or claim it's your "therapy" animal?) and then keeping it incognito until launching it onto the field. Will there be a calamari special at concessions after it is removed from the field? I have questions. (Yes, I know what an octopus is in football terms).
Jersey Number of 1st Touchdown Scorer UNDER 23.5 (-140) - I'm sure there's at least 2-3 hours of math that goes into this, figuring out what players have which number and then matching that to their odds are to score the first touchdown. I'm only going to go part of the way. If you take the under here you have: Ja'Marr Chase, Joe Burrow, Cam Akers, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, Van Jefferson and Matthew Stafford. If you take the over, you have: Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, Ickey Woods, C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Higbee, Drew Sample and Kendall Blanton. Coincidentally, the Rams to score the first touchdown is -140, essentially the same bet but you get Ja'Marr Chase as some insurance at the expense of giving up the tight end spot. I'd lean here over the Rams to score the first touchdown.
PLAYER PROPS AND TOUCHDOWNS
Tyler Boyd OVER 40.5 Receiving Yards - I took the over for Boyd in the Championship round and while that didn't work out, I'm happy to go back to the well here. The difference in this game is that Jalen Ramsey should cover Ja'Marr Chase a lot (which the Bengals know) and I can see Boyd getting at least five targets Sunday (he had six in the Championship game). I don't see Cincinnati being able to run the ball effectively against the Rams and if they play from behind in the second half they'll have to throw the ball a lot. I also like Boyd's anytime touchdown prop at +275, he'll see softer coverage in the red zone with the Bengals' other weapons and he's capable of getting behind the defense for a long score. Boyd is also +1600 to score two or more touchdowns, something I'd put a few bucks on.
Van Jefferson OVER 29.5 Receiving Yards - It may look like I think there are good games in store for both third wide receivers and you would be correct in that assumption. I looked at over 2.5 receptions for Jefferson (+130) but he's only done that once in his last seven games. Instead, I'll bank on a long reception or two and the beauty is that's all it might take to hit the over. Jefferson is coming off a dismal game (5-2-9) but hopefully, that drove this number down a bit. Before last week he had hit this over in three of his previous four games and has logged 63 and 66 offensive snaps in his last two games, showing he's been on the field. Last week's five targets are encouraging and, like Boyd, he's not going to be the primary focus of the defense leaving him to be watched by the third or fourth defensive back for the Bengals. Like Boyd, I'm definitely interested in his anytime touchdown odds at +245. Jefferson is +1400 to score two or more touchdowns, again, something I'd throw a few bucks on.
Kendall Blanton Anytime TD +230 - It's tough to read the tea leaves but right now it's not looking great for Tyler Higbee to suit up Sunday and play for the Rams. That would leave Blanton as the main pass-catching tight end for the Rams and you can take him with touchdown props right now. While there aren't any receiving props out for him, that could change this weekend if Higbee's status becomes clearer. I'd take a look at Drew Sample as well (+350) but C.J. Uzomah declared he will play Sunday when taking questions Monday. If Uzomah ends up sitting out, look for Sample's odds to drop more towards Blanton's, so now would be the time to lock them in if you like him.
Matthew Stafford Longest Completion OVER 39.5 Yards - Stafford is able to hit this mark with any of his top three wide receivers as all are capable of catching a long pass. The Rams have hit this over in three of their last four games and the Bengals defense ranked dead-last in the league this season with a 8.5 YPA allowed. If you go with the over here, it's probably wise to double-up and take at least one of the following for the longest reception prop:
Cooper Kupp OVER 29.5 Yards
Odell Beckham OVER 23.5 Yards
Van Jefferson OVER 17.5 Yards
The great thing about taking the over for one of those players is it can still hit without getting the over for Stafford's longest completion.
Ja'Marr Chase UNDER 4.5 Rushing Yards - I hate taking the under here as one good play could end this prop by halftime. However, the numbers don't suggest Chase makes the over here. He's only rushed more than once in a game three times in 20 games this season and one of those multi-carry games netted him zero yards. He's hit the over here only four times out of those 20 games although he's had at least one rush in every playoff game. The downside of a rush in every playoff game is that the Rams know this and should be ready for the running possibility whenever Chase goes in motion. Given that he may not get a carry or won't get to five yards even if he does, I like the under here.
Rams OVER 3.5 Sacks (-140) - This smells fishy as I can't figure out why this number is this low. I had this number somewhere around five but a closer look at the number shows why it's only at 3.5. The Rams have only a total of five sacks in the playoffs (1,2,2, starting with the Wild Card game) despite seemingly getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback all playoffs. The Bengals might be the weakest front they've seen (they allowed nine sacks to the Titans) so I'm willing to gamble that Aaron Donald and friends should be able to get to Joe Burrow.
Cincinnati Bengals OVER 0.5 4th Down Conversions (-170) - The Bengals had a 66 percent conversion rate on fourth downs this season and should at least get one opportunity Sunday to go for it. They may get multiple chances if they fall behind early and Zac Taylor should be aggressive in going for it knowing they come into the game as the underdog.
Rams Touchdown Yardage UNDER 53.5 Yards (+110) - Either Matthew Stafford or Joe Burrow throwing a 50+ yard touchdown is +200 so there's roughly a 17 percent chance Stafford does this on a long throw if my Euclid-like math skills are correct. That's not a great percentage and look back at the regular season, this number went over only six times in seventeen games. That number didn't improve in the playoffs as the Rams went over only once in three games making that seven times in 20 games this season (35 percent). Getting plus-odds here along with those numbers puts me on the under.
CROSS SPORT PROPS
What will there be more of, Trae Young Points on 2/13/21 or Van Jefferson Receiving Yards?
Van Jefferson Receiving Yards (-125)
Jefferson has an over/under of 29.5 receiving yards and his upside is much greater than Young's point total. Young averages 27.8 points per game but faces a Celtics team who ranks third in defensive rating and allows the fourth-fewest points in the NBA. Young's season-high for points is 43 and he's faced the Celtics twice, scoring only 21 and 18 points. Meanwhile Jefferson averaged over 47 receiving yards per game and had three catches of over 40 yards during the regular season.
Will there be more Steph Curry Points+Rebs+Assists on Saturday February 12th or Joe Burrow Yards of Longest Completion?
Steph Curry Points+Rebs+Assists -1.5 (-110)
I'm more confident in the aforementioned Van Jefferson prop than this but I think this one is a lot of fun for a few reasons. There's plenty of upside for both and if anything, Burrow has the most upside as he could throw an 80-yard bomb while it's tough to see Steph getting anything over 60 with those stats. I also like that this is a Super Bowl bet, yet you get to have action on Saturday and not have to wait until Sunday. I think Steph is the safer play here and his averages suggest he should be around 37-38 points while the book has Burrow's over/under for longest completion at 38.5. However, Curry's game is home, a nationally televised game in prime time and he's facing Lebron James and the Lakers in what should be a high-scoring affair.