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NFL betting: Experience gives Patriots the edge

If it was decided purely on experience then Sunday night's showdown between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams would be called off now.

The Patriots are regulars when it comes to the climax to the American football season and are appearing in their 11th big game - no other franchise has appeared in more than eight.

Nine of their appearances have come this century and this is their fourth in five years, but they are not invincible. Their 50-50 success rate will give the Rams hope as they seek their first title since 1999 despite being the underdogs in the NFL betting odds.

Our NFL betting preview looks ahead to the big match and highlights where we think the value can be found with our Super Bowl betting tips.

Game information

When is it? Sunday February 3rd

What time is kick off? 11:30pm GMT

Where is it being played? Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Which channel is it on? BBC One/Sky Sports Main Event

The key men

The gulf in experience is highlighted by the fact that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been coaching in the NFL since before Rams counterpart Sean McVay was born - by some 11 years.

At 66, and with five rings to his name (the first of which came against the then St Louis Rams in 2001), Belichick is very much the old master. He is nearing two decades at the helm of the Patriots and is arguably the finest coach of his generation.

Youth is very much the key for the Rams. McVay was the youngest head coach in NFL history when the Rams appointed him at the age of 30, and he only turned 33 last week.

The comparisons are the same in terms of the opposing quarterbacks on Sunday night. Under centre for the Patriots in all nine season finales has been Tom Brady, who at 41 has defied his age to get the Patriots to the Big Game once again. Opposite number Jared Goff is 17 years younger.

Road to Atlanta

So will youth or experience win the game on Sunday for our NFL betting predictions? The Patriots are the favourites at 8/11 in the NFL Super Bowl odds and the Rams are getting 2.5 points on the spread.

The Rams started their campaign like a freight train, winning their opening eight games. They hit the brakes in week nine with a 45-35 loss to the New Orleans Saints but two weeks later they beat the Kansas City Chiefs 54-51 in a game which saw an NFL team score 50-plus points and lose for the first time.

The Rams went on to win the NFC West and at 13-3 they were tied with New Orleans for the NFL's best record in the regular season.

McVay is an offensive wizard and the 527 points Los Angeles scored in the regular season were second only to Kansas City's 565. Their weakness was in defense, where the 384 points conceded put them down in 13th place.

In the play-offs, the Rams opened with a 30-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys before a dramatic 26-23 win over the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, having trailed 13-0 early on and never leading until Greg Zuerlein's winning field goal in overtime.

Early losses to poor Jacksonville and Detroit teams suggested it could be the end of an era for Belichick and Brady as the Patriots suffered back-to-back double-digit losses for the first time since 2002.

They bounced back in style though with six straight wins, including a 43-40 victory over the previously unbeaten Chiefs in week six. New England then clinched the AFC East title for a 10th straight season and dispatched the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 before going on the road to beat the Chiefs 37-31 in overtime.

NFL predictions

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Where the game will be won or lost

That brings us to Sunday night. Brady is yet to be sacked during this post-season and the Rams will need Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler to have more success in preventing Brady running the show.

New England picked up four sacks and a forced fumble against Kansas City. If the Patriots defense can contain the Rams' running attack and generate pressure, the offense should be able to control the clock and dictate the game tempo.

It should be a close game but Belichick has had two weeks to break down the opposition and prepare a game plan. It's a brave punter that backs against him and we'll take the Patriots to cover the spread at 10/11 as the first of our NFL bet predictions.

The over/under points is set at 56.5 and given how the Rams have been performing this season, we'll take the overs as the second of our picks from the NFL betting odds.

NFL betting tips

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Andrew McDermott
@a_mcdermott in NFL