NFL Super Bowl LVI (56) Championship Free Pick

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NFL Super Bowl LVI (56) Championship Pick

All times Eastern

Conference Results: Rick: 0-2; Coin: 1-1
Cumulative: Rick: 133-147-4; Coin: 132-148-4
Playoffs: Rick: 5-7; Coin: 7-5


Super Bowl LVI (56) - Sunday, February 13, 6:30 pm ET (NBC)
SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Los Angeles Rams (-4, 48 1/2) - This is the last pro football game I'll be analyzing after some 30 years of making picks, 22 of those on the internet. I'm calling it quits for a number of reasons, but mainly, because - as many people have suspected - these games appear to be fixed.

The other reasons are that I don't like being wrong, and being wrong causes damage to my reputation. Trying to pick games that might be fixed is an even more difficult task than when they're honest. It's been a tough season. Maybe I'm just not very good at it anymore, or maybe there are other reasons. In any case, I'm not going to expose myself and my reputation to an enterprise - professional sports - that has lots of problems and has lost a lot of its luster in recent years.

Starting with the divisional games two weeks ago and including the conference championships, six straight games have been decided by exactly three points or in overtime (KC over Buffalo, 6 points, and Cincy over KC, 3 points).

The probabilities of that happening are stratospheric. Actually, it's almost impossible to calculate because It has never happened before. Until now, because online sports betting is now legal in 25 states, including some biggies (NY, NJ, LA, PA, IL, MI, CO, TN, VA, NV, OR, AZ) Five other states have retail sports books (MT, SD, NM, MS, NC.

That's more than half of the US offering betting on pro and college sports, from the NBA to the NFL and NCAA football and hoops. The market is probably close to 150 million potential bettors, a huge number. The NFL handle is over $100 billion a year.

The handle on the Super Bowl has ranged from $136 to $158 million the last five years. With more opportunities to bet available, this year's game could top $160 million. That's a lot of money. Sports books usually have imbalances, and lay them off on larger books. Eventually, one or a few will be holding imbalances on the handle (bets on one team more than the other). There's lots of money sloshing around looking to lock in a win.



A case in point was the AFC Conference Championship game, won by the Bengals 27-24 in overtime. One can say anything they like about Patrick Mahomes, but the stats (and the film) do not lie. In the first half, in which Kansas City built a 21-3 lead and could have been more if Mahomes didn't kill it, throwing a pass to McKinnon that had no chance to score inbounds inside the five with five seconds left. The Chiefs were out of time outs, and the clock ran out so KC got nothing when normally they'd at least kick a field goal. They were killing the Bengals. Mahomes even tried to call time out at the end of that play, like he didn't know the Chiefs were out of them. That was some good acting there.

In that first half, Mahomes was 19-for-21, with three touchdowns and no picks. In the second half, he was 2-for-10 until going 5-5 on the final drive, which tied the game (normally, the Chiefs would have won it), but Mahomes was sacked four times in the second half, including twice at goal-to-go at the end of the game. He even fumbled on third down, but a lineman recovered it. The Chiefs kicked a field goal and the game went into overtime.

The Chiefs won the toss, got the ball and Mahomes threw two passes to Demarcus Robinson, the weakest receiver on the squad and to whom Mahomes had only thrown to once in regulation. That pass was picked off by Cincy's B.J.Hill, enabling Cincinnati to tie the score. Both of the two passes in overtime were nearly picked off. Then, on 3rd down, Mahomes lobbed a pass out in the direction of Tyreek Hill, which Vonn Bell intercepted.

The Bengals drove the ball a short distance and kicked the winning field goal, 27-24.

So, Mahomes sparkled in the first half (19-21, 3 TDs), but his second half and overtime was probably the worst of his career (7-for-18, 2 interceptions, 4 sacks) Without the five straight completions on the final drive in regulation, Mahomes was 2-for-13. Yeah, sure. The only questions are how much was he paid or did he just get the tap on the shoulder and the whisper, "lose the game and we won't kill your kids?"

You can decide for yourself, but I know what I saw. One of the best quarterbacks in the league, if not the best, looked like a high schooler in the second half.

Will the Super Bowl be fixed? Probably. There's a good case to be made that the last six games were all fixed, so why not. America has a fake president, we've been through two years of a fake virus panic, there's fake news all the time, fake boobs, fake hair, fake foods, fake stock markets and just about fake everything, so why not fake sports?

With the line at -4 for the Rams, it makes sense to take the Rams straight up, but the Bengals with the points because there's more money being bet on the Bengals to win outright (money line), but the Rams are being bet on the spread line. It's not logical, but sports betting usually isn't. Put your last dollar on the under also because a ton of money is going on the over (people like lots of scoring, but bookies don't like to lose money).

With that, good luck, I'm out.

Peace,

Fearless Rick

Coin Flip: Los Angeles

Prediction: Rams 24 Bengals 21


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