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On Way to Super Bowl, the Patriots Moved the Ball and the Line

At that point, casual fans and smart bettors alike started to realize that “this isn’t a feeble Patriots team,” Cooley said. “Maybe Gronk isn’t doing the damage he once did, but you’d be hard-pressed to bet against them.”

Could the line, now 2 at most places, keep moving to Patriots by 3 or even 4 by a week from Sunday? Probably not, several bookmakers said.

“We’re going to reach peak on the Patriots soon,” Blume said. “Sharp customers may look to get a bargain on the Rams. People are waiting. The sharps have a number in their heads, and as soon as they see a chance, they will pounce on you.”

The Patriots’ current status as 2-point favorites defies computer rankings, though, which are the basis of most lines. In Jeff Sagarin’s main ranking, the Patriots are a mere four-hundredths of a point better than the Rams. In his Predictor rating, in which many bettors put even more stock, the Rams are actually a half-point better.

But the bets keep coming in on New England.

“People love Tom Brady,” Blume said.

It wasn’t always this way. In the first Super Bowl of the Brady era, in February 2002, the Patriots were 14-point underdogs to the 14-2 St. Louis Rams. The Patriots won anyway.

Bettors learned. The Patriots have been Super Bowl favorites six times since then, ranging from 2½ points to 12. In one game, against the Seahawks after the 2014 season, the line was even. The Pats won four of those seven games, but covered the spread in only two of them.

Regardless of who wins on Feb. 3 in Atlanta, one thing seems sure: Points will be scored.

The over-under on the game is between 57 and 58, potentially the highest in Super Bowl history. The previous record was 57, for Atlanta-New England two years ago and New Orleans-Indianapolis in 2010.

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