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February 03, 2019

NFL picks: Super Bowl LIII edition

Eagles NFL
020319SeanMcVay Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

Sean McVay is one of the worst coaches in the NFL at in-game analytical decisions, but he sure can name the players on the opposing defense like a boss.

Super Bowl LIII is, in my opinion, not exactly the most fun matchup that could have emerged from this year's group of playoff teams. It's the team that nobody wants to see there (the recidivist cheating New England Patriots) against a team (the Los Angeles Rams) that cowardly kicked a field goal (for the tie!) on 4th and Goal from the 1 in the NFC Championship Game, but was then bailed out by the one of the worst pass interference no-calls in the history of the sport.

First, from the Eagles' perspective, it's better if the Patriots win this game. Why? Well, over the last 20 years, Super Bowl winners have a combined record of 206-114 (0.644) the following season. Only two teams had a losing record. Super Bowl losers had a combined record of 181-139 (0.566). That's still a good record, but the chance of significant regression is much higher, as eight teams had a losing record the following season. 

Obviously, with the Rams in direct competition with the Eagles in the NFC, it would be more beneficial to the Eagles if L.A. were to experience some sort of collapse the following season.

If you're looking for answers on why Super Bowl losers tend to experience dropoffs more frequently, I don't have them, so make your own determination on if the facts on Super Bowl winners vs. losers are randomly slanted or not.

As for who I think will win, when the line opened at Rams (-1) after both conference championship games were over, I'd have plunked down some money on the Pats immediately, if I were a dedicated betting man. Unfortunately for the late-to-the-party gamblers, the line has since stabilized, at Pats (-2.5).

While the Rams' Sean McVay is indeed a very good coach schematically, he makes passive decisions in big spots. There's an interesting website by the name of that looks at, among other things, in-game situational decision making. Recently, the site looked at the top 10 play call errors of 2018. McVay had two of them.

• First, against the Chiefs Week 11, McVay decided to punt at his own 25 yard line on 4th and 1, while leading 47-44 in the fourth quarter, in a game in which the two teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense. EDJ Sports determined that decision to punt decreased the Rams' chances of winning by 21.5 percent. As it turned out, the Chiefs marched right down on their ensuing possession and scored a go-ahead TD. The Rams ultimately won the game, despite their head coach's passiveness.

• And then of course, as already mentioned, McVay made the ridiculous decision in the NFC Championship Game on 4th and Goal from the 1 (more like the half-yard line), with 6:04 to play in regulation, trailing 20-17, to attempt a game-tying field goal rather than go for the touchdown and a four-point lead. As it turned out, McVay's very wrong decision was bailed out by the pass interference no-call that will be discussed for decades. 

If you've watched your share of Rams games this season, you'll know that McVay's in-game passive decision-making was not limited to those two egregious examples.

One of the idiotic narratives leading up to the Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl last year was the idea that Doug Pederson was going to pee his pants in a big game opposite Bill Belichick


Instead, Pederson was like, "Nah, how about if I have my third tight end throw to my quarterback on 4th and Goal."

I mention that stupid narrative only to point out that it's not something I've heard at all the last two weeks about McVay, when, you know, it would maybe actually be apt this year?

Anyway, I think McVay makes another crucial passive call in this game, except he's not bailed out this time like he was against the Chiefs and Saints. Give me the Pats (-2.5) in a close one.

• Picks against the spread: Patri*ts (-2.5).

• Eagles picks: 11-7

• 2018 season, straight up 173-94-2 (0.647)
• 2018 season, ATS: 41-36-2 (0.532)
• 2017 season, straight up: 181-86 (0.678)
• 2017 season, ATS: 36-32-2 (0.529)
• 2016 season, straight up: 171-94-2 (0.644)
• 2016 season, ATS:  41-34 (0.547)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)

• Last 4 years, ATS: 164-131-6 (0.553)

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