MATTHEWS: WHY MY SUPER BOWL 53 PICK IS NEW ENGLAND OVER THE RAMS

WHY MY SUPER BOWL 53 PICK IS NEW ENGLAND OVER THE RAMS

I believe the Los Angeles Rams have slightly more front-line talent than the New England Patriots.

But the Patriots have much more big-game experience and slightly more depth.

I think the Rams are learning to win and will be schooled by the more resourceful Patriots.

New England’s coach and quarterback are a combined 107 years old. Bill Belichick’s brain and Tom Brady’s arm still have enough left to win Sunday’s Super Bowl 53.

The Rams coach and quarterback are a combined 57 years old. Sean McVay is an offensive guru and Jared Goff is a fine young quarterback but they haven’t faced a defensive genius quite like Belichick.

Brady won’t need to throw for 400 yards to win this game. The Patriots almost always win when one of them runs for more than 100 yards and Sony Michel figures to have fun against a defense that allowed 5.1 yards per carry this season.

Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh have the strength and talent to keep the heat on Brady but he’s a master at getting rid of the ball quickly to WR Julian Edelman and RB James White.

New England has scored only three points in the first quarter of their last eight Super Bowls. Belichick is a master at making adjustments and his Patriots were 5-3 in those games.

One of these years the Patriots are going to show their age and might get blown out of a Super Bowl. But I’m tired of picking against them.

Bob’s “Best Bet” for Super Bowl 53:New England (2 ½) 28, Los Angeles Rams 20.

Fred Smerlas, who had another excellent record picking winners on our show this season, picks the Patriots 28-10.

BYRON BUXTON: READY FOR HIS BREAKOUT SEASON?

Byron Buxton was the second-overall pick by Minnesota in the 2012 amateur draft and was expected to be the team’s star centerfielder by now.

It hasn’t happened yet.

Instead, the 25-year-old Buxton has been more dud than stud. Plagued by injuries, he has spent portions of the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons with the International League Rochester Red Wings

Buxton was upset when the Twins didn’t promote him from the Wings when the big-league rosters expanded last September.

That snub might have turned Buxton’s career around. He has added 21 pounds of muscle this offseason and expects to have more power and fewer injuries.

With a healthy and productive Buxton, Minnesota might surprise in the American League Central this season. Cleveland is the team to beat. The Chicago White Sox are on the upgrade but might be a year or two away from pennant contention. Detroit and Kansas City figure to stink.

Here is a possible Opening Day lineup for Minnesota:

Jorge Polanco SS

Eddie Rosario LF

Miguel Sano 3B

Nelson Cruz DH

C.J. Cron 1B

Max Kepler RF

Jonathan Schoop 2B

Mitch Garver C

Byron Buxton CF.

Buxton has shown his talents in portions of the last four seasons with the Red Wings. He hasn’t been nearly as productive for Minnesota:

With Rochester – 100 total games; .310 batting average (122-for-393); 77 runs; 25 doubles; 5 triples; 18 HRs; 49 RBI; 13-of-15 stolen bases; 28 walks; 115 strikeouts

With Minnesota – 306 total games; .230 batting average (225-for-979); 137 runs; 44 doubles; 13 triples; 28 HRs; 99 RBI; 46-of-51 stolen bases; 70 walks; 340 strikeouts.

He won the 2017 Platinum Glove as the best-fielding center fielder in Major League Baseball.

ALLIANCE OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL IS READY TO FILL THE VOID

Super Bowl 53 won’t be the end of pro football season. The eight-team Alliance of American Football will kick off Saturday, February 9, with the San Diego Fleet at the San Antonio Commanders. There will be three more games Sunday, Feb. 19.

The new pro league is the brainchild of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian and filmmaker Charlie Ebersol.

The other six teams are the Atlanta Legends, the Birmingham Irons (with 10 former Alabama Crimson Tide and fiver former Auburn Tigers), the Orlando Apollos (29 players from 9 college in Florida), the Arizona Hotshots, the Memphis Express and the Salt Lake Stallions (10 former Utah Utes).

The 10-week season will be followed by four teams in the playoffs. CBS, CBS Sports Network, NFL Network and TNT will provide coverage.

Interesting features will include no TV timeouts (60 percent fewer commercials), two-point conversions (no extra-point kicks), no kickoffs (all drives start at the 25-yarde line) and a 30-second play clock.

Familiar names include former Syracuse wide receivers Amba Etta-Tawo and Ervin Phillips, quarterbacks Christian Hackenerg, Zach Mettenberger, Matt Simms and Josh Johnson, running backs Trent Richardson, Matt Asiata. Akeem Hunt and Bishop Sankey, and linebackers Scoo0by Wright and Quentin Gause.

Vince McMahon’s resurrected XFL is expected to join the Alliance of American Football as post-Super Bowl leagues next year.

For many of us, there is such thing as too much football.

HAVE FUN IN VEGAS BUT DON’T EXPECT TO WIN

Here’s a sobering note for folks looking forward to their next trip to Las Vegas (figures for net wins in Nevada’s casinos in 2018, courtesy of Nevada Gaming Control):

Penny slots $3.3 billion

Baccarat $1.2 billion

Blackjack $1.1 billion

Craps $386.4 million

Roulette $384.1 million

Sports $301 million.

At least you’ll be warmer.

A COUP FOR THE KNICKS? NOT LIKELY

If all goes well for the New York Knicks, as a result of Thursday’s bombshell trade shipping unhappy Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, the Knicks starting lineup next season will include Zion Williamson (the easy part; all the Knicks need to do is finish with the worst record in the NBA this season to “earn” the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft), Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker.

Madison Square Garden would be filled again and New York City would have a team capable of making the playoffs and winning a round or seven two.

But as long as James Dolan owns the team and the ghost of Phil Jackson is roaming the Garden, Williamson, Durant and Irving or Walker seems extremely unlikely.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, February 1

Ronda Rousey 32...Austin Jackson 32...Kevin Martin 36...Geoff Sanderson 47...Tommy Salo 48...Mark Recchi 51...Michelle Akers 53...former Amerk Jimmy Jackson 59...Wade Wilson 60...Debbie Austin 71.

Saturday, February 2

Jean-Luc Grand Pierre 42...Donald Driver 44...Todd Bertuzzi 44...Melvin Mora 47...Ken Dilger 48...Jody Hull 50...Sean Elliott 51...Scott Erickson 51...Artus Irbe 52...Dexter Manley 61...John Tudor 65...Penny Pulz 66...Aleksandr Medved 72...Gary Dornhofer 76.

Sunday, February 3

Rougned Odor 25...Lucas Duda 33...Paul Gaustad 37...Dwayne Rudd 43...Sean Dawkins 48...Keith Carney 49...Retief Goosen 50...Vlade Divac 51...Joe Kowal 63...John Jefferson 63...Tiger Williams 65....Chis Bahr 66...Fred Lynn 67...Walt Patulski 69...Bake McBride 70...Bob Griese 74...Fran Tarkenton 79.

Bob Matthews' Column

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