Swami Sez: Chris Berman’s Super Bowl LIII pick

Chris Berman took his Swami Sez NFL picks segment, seen on SportsCenter, to Chalk every week two seasons ago. He’s back for Super Bowl LIII to give his pick for the big game.

New England Patriots (-2.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams

What a surprise. Bill Belichick has the Patriots far and away playing their best football in January, not looking like the team we all thought we had handicapped during the regular season — even though they finished 11-5.

What a shock that it has been led by Tom Brady, a rejuvenated Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and improved play from both the offensive and defensive lines. Remember that New England didn’t have Dont’a Hightower or Edelman in the playoffs last season.

I feel experience will play a big role in this game. It proved to be overrated in Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, but if you’re looking to back New England, you have to factor it in. The majority of the team has been there three years in a row. I think that counts for something. However, in no way will the Rams have stage fright. You can’t overlook that they won the NFC Championship Game in the Superdome after being down 13-0 and 20-10 late. That’s impressive.

For Los Angeles, it’s almost as if the fans know the names of the Rams’ defensive players more than New England’s. Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are a little more household names than Trey Flowers and Lawrence Guy. And if the Rams’ stars play up to their name recognition, it will be a feather in their cap. Donald certainly has this season. And Wade Phillips has been in big games.

We all think Sean McVay is a great coach, and I think back to what it must have felt like for a young Don Shula in the 1960s with the Baltimore Colts facing Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. He did fine, but it’s still an eye-opener (like this comparison with Belichick) in terms of experience.

The elephant in the room, though, is the health of Todd Gurley. If he’s anything less than 90 percent, I believe it tips the balance in the Patriots’ favor.

I think the stage won’t be too big for Jared Goff & Co., but it’s hard to go against the best quarterback and coach in the business. You have to think long and hard about it. I tried it two weeks ago and it didn’t work. I’m not about to do that again.

I made this line Patriots -2.5, which is right where most of the market is right now. It seemed like a mistake that the Rams opened as a favorite or the game as a pick ’em.

The first eight Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era have been decided by one score. Why wouldn’t this be exactly the same? New England by four.

Score: New England 31, Los Angeles 27

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