They’re baaaack … yet again.
Tom Brady, the indefatigable 41-year-old future Hall of Famer, guided the New England Patriots to their third straight Super Bowl, fourth in the last five years and ninth since 2002, beating the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, 37-31.
New England will face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 in Atlanta. The Rams also rallied and won in OT, 26-23, over the New Orleans Saints. These two franchises met in 2002 in Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Rams were located in St. Louis and the Patriots won, 20-17.
At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Rams were installed as 1-point favorites with the total at 58. At Caesars Palace, the game opened as Pick ‘em with the total at 57.5. William Hill also opened the game at Pick ‘em with the total at 58.5.
Prior to Sunday’s conference championship games, Station Casinos had the NFC team favored at -1 with the total at 59.
But things move quickly in Las Vegas and sure enough, the money showed on New England. William Hill moved the Pats to -2 while Station moved the Pats to -2.5
It was the first time in NFL history both championship games were decided in overtime. Both road teams won as underdogs — the Patriots were 3 to 3.5-point underdogs to the Chiefs while the Rams were 3-point ‘dogs to the Saints.
The Patriots-Chiefs game was 14-0 New England at halftime and bettors who had wagered under the total of 55 were feeling confident. Going into the fourth quarter, it was still looking as though the under would prevail as the Patriots led 17-7.
But then all hell broke loose. Thirty-eight points were scored in the final 15 minutes, setting up overtime at 31-31. It also turned all those under wagers to dust.
New England won the coin toss and got the ball first to start OT. Brady, like he has done so many times before, led his team down the field, finishing the 13-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard TD run by Rex Burkhead to advance to Atlanta.
The Rams won the NFC title with a win that was filled with controversy. Los Angeles was a 3-point underdog and the game finished under the total of 55. Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal broke the 23-23 tie in OT to send L.A. to Atlanta.
The Rams will be making their fourth Super Bowl appearance. They lost Super Bowl XIV in 1980 to Pittsburgh, 31-19, defeated Tennessee 23-16 in 2000 in Super Bowl XXXIV and lost to New England.
The officiating was hardly up to the level of play in both games with blatant missed calls both ways and plenty of controversy. Two pass interference calls against the Rams went uncalled along with a facemask penalty on the Saints that ultimately led to the Rams kicking the game-tying field goal on fourth-and-goal from the New Orleans 1.
There were missed calls in the Pats-Chiefs game as well. There were a couple of dubious flags, including a fourth-quarter roughing the passer penalty against Kansas City which helped keep a New England drive alive.
But the road teams overcame the noise, and, in New England’s case, a freezing cold environment at Arrowhead Stadium to advance.
Weather won’t be a factor in the climate-controlled environment of the domed Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But it will be a great contrast between the 41-year-old Brady and the 24-year-old Goff.
This will be the first Super Bowl where legalized sports betting outside of Nevada will be permitted in the United States. Rhode Island, which borders Massachusetts, and has two sports books, figures to do big business on the game.
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