By Tim Kelly
It’s almost time for Super Bowl LIII, which unfortunately means that as of approximately 10:30 p.m. Sunday night, we will no longer be able to call the Eagles reigning champs.
That fact, coupled with the disappointing way in which the Birds were eliminated from the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the tainted and well-earned view of the League’s officiating, and a lackluster matchup of Patriots vs. Rams, has left most folks with a much less enthusiastic view of this year’s Big Game.
With that said, Super Sunday remains an unofficial national holiday and most folks still have their opinions and will be tuned to CBS for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
This year also marks the first Super Bowl that can be legally wagered on at Atlantic City casinos. The new Sports Book at Resorts was doing a brisk business on Friday as fans laid down cash to secure their action on the game.
New England, (11-5 in the regular season) is installed as a 2.5 point favorite at that time, and will be making a record 11th appearance. They can tie Pittsburgh for most wins (6) with a victory.
On the other hand, a second straight upset loss might further tarnish the Pats’ legacy already sullied by the “Spygate” signal-stealing scandal against the Eagles in 2004, and the “Deflategate” fiasco in 2014-15, during which quarterback Tom Brady was accused of tampering with game balls in the Conference championship game against Indianapolis.
Throw in the miserable demeanor of Patriots coach Bill Belichick and one understands why the New England juggernaut is considered by many fans to be the NFL’s “Evil Empire.”
On the other side of the equation, the NFC representative Los Angeles Rams were the beneficiaries of one of the worst no-calls in league history in their Conference title game, which probably cost the New Orleans Saints a berth in tonight’s game.
What’s more, the Rams are just a few years removed from their relocation from St. Louis, and don’t have much of a fan base.
Despite all of this, local experts and fans were not shy about sharing their thoughts on the game. We reached out to some local folks and also solicited opinions via Facebook.
In no particular order, here’s a sampling of what we learned:
- Bill Whiteside, Ocean City: Whiteside, 90, is a member of Notre Dame’s 1949 undefeated national champions, and is 2-0 in his Super Bowl predictions for this website: “I think the Patriots have too much experience and will perform better,” he said. “The Rams are good, but not at the same level. I’ve got to go with New England.”
- Chuck Hahn, via Facebook: “All men are created equal. Except Tom Brady. Patriots.”
- Ocean City High Head Football Coach Kevin Smith: “I hate to say it, but I think the Patriots will get it done on Sunday. They are so experienced and so disciplined. They never beat themselves and force you to play a nearly perfect game to beat them. Rams are fun to watch but I suspect New England will be too much to overcome.”
- Ann Edmonds, Ocean City, via Facebook: Patriots. They are out for blood and don’t like losing fair and square, even though they cheat.
- Lee Wagner, former (Camden) Courier-Post sportswriter: Multi-dimensional Rams 31, no run game, suspect defense Pats 21.
- Bill McLaughlin, via Facebook: Sorry to say it but I see this game as a blowout win for the Patriots.
- Tom Williams, Ocean City broadcaster, sportswriter and Prime Events proprietor: Patriots. Tom Brady. ‘Nuff said.
- Joe Weinert, Casino Analyst and former Press of Atlantic City sportswriter: “I predict there will be 12 minutes of actual football in a slickly-produced four-hour telecast.”
- Kevin McElroy, former longtime South Jersey journalist: “Pats’ offensive line can’t handle LA’s defensive push. Brady will be injured in first half, won’t return. 37-19 Rams.”
- Todd Parke, via Facebook: “I’m one of those guys who only watches the Eagles. No interest this year.”
- Pete Thompson, ESPN 97.3 Radio: “I do NOT like the Patriots, but I think the stage is going to be too big for Jared Goff and the Rams. Belichick is a mastermind and I believe Brady is extra motivated to win again.”
- Donna Juliani, via Facebook: “Patriots, but don’t tell my friends, they are for that other team.”
- Kevin Hanley, co-host, Quad Brothers Sports Talk, Cleveland: Rams, 31-27. Too much offense for New England to handle and Rams D does just enough to hold on. Marcus Peters will have a big play late in the game and an epic post-game interview.”
- Don Otto, Ocean City, via Facebook: “Home game for the Pats playing the vagabond Rams who have no fans and are playing for the first time under the bright lights. Pats jump out to an early lead and hold on.”
- Augusta Baudy, Atlantic City, via Facebook: “Won’t waste my time. The big question is how many of the key Patriots contributors will be wearing black and white stripes?”
- Ted Taylor, Philadelphia area radio talk show host: “Like 44 percent of the population, I couldn’t care less, likely won’t watch. Having said that, Patriots 42, Rams 12.
- Bill Kehner, Sea Isle City, via Facebook: “A fifth Super Bowl loss will silence Brady GOAT (greatest of all time) talk and elevate Joe Montana back to his rightful claim to that title.”
- Ray Parrillo, retired former longtime Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter: “The Rams will have a two-point lead with time running out when Aaron Donald will get a roughing penalty for breathing on Brady, giving the Pats the ball for a chip-shot field goal that wins the game as time runs out.”
So there you have it, our unscientific poll clearly favors the Pats. But who knows? Feel free to leave your own thoughts on our Facebook page.