America’s unofficial National Holiday is at hand.
Super Sunday is just days away. And, if the weather cooperates, it will be the equivalent of the crystal paneled ball coming to a rest atop One Times Square when Super Bowl XLVIII (48) kicks off just a few miles to the west in East Rutherford, New Jersey, at approximately 3:30 p.m. Pacific time.
After arriving earlier in the week, enduring the outlandish hype surrounding the week leading up to the Super Bowl, including the often hilarious and memorable Media Day, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will finally get down to the business of playing football and determining which of these fine teams will hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy a few hours later as winners of the Big Game.
As to the props, if there ever is a sports betting Hall of Fame and Museum, in addition to the wings and exhibits that would honor bettors, lines makers and perhaps even handicappers, there should also be a wing that honors “contributors” to the industry.
William “Refrigerator” Perry was a defensive lineman on the 1985 Chicago Bears. Generously listed at 325 pounds, the “Fridge” was a larger than life character who would occasionally line up as a blocking back for the great RB Walter Payton.
The Bears were 10 point favorites over the Patriots, one of the most lopsided lines at that time (Super Bowl XX) and the second largest line since Minnesota was favored by 13.5 points over Kansas City in Super Bowl IV (won by the underdog Chiefs).
Fearing a blowout because of Chicago’s defensive dominance, several sports books put up a wager that asked bettors whether or not Refrigerator Perry would score a touchdown. Opening in the vicinity of 15 or 20-1, the wagers attracted much betting interest on the underdog, closing around 4 or 5-1.
Although sports books lost on this “proposition bet” when Perry plunged into the end zone late in the third quarter from 1 yard out, a new industry was born.
There are several main types of props. There are head-to-head, which offer just two betting options, props with multiple options of perhaps 3 to 7 possible wagers and so-called “needle in a haystack” props of about a dozen possible wagers on upward, with juicy payoffs if you happen to hit on the right one.
An example of the head-to-head prop might be whether a specific player will have more or less than a specified number of rushing or receiving yards. These props are generally priced with modest vig, and books will generally use a 20 or 30-cent line with many of the props opening at minus 110 or minus 115 on either side of the prop.
The second type of prop will offer at least three possible outcomes such as the combination of the first half result and the full game result (i.e. Denver leading at the half and winning the game, leading at the half and losing the game, tied at the half and winning the game, etc.) The payoffs are often in the range of 4-1 to perhaps 8 or 10-1.
The “needle in the haystack” prop can be as simple as the player to score the game’s first (or last) touchdown to picking within a certain range the total number of points scored in the game or even the specific number of points scored by each or either of the teams. These carry the largest payoffs because of the many possible options offered.
The LVH (formerly the Hilton) has long taken the lead in the number and variety of props offered but virtually every sports book in Las Vegas will have several pages that contain nothing but props. None will come close to matching the 26 pages put out by the LVH but many properties fill from four to 10.
This columnist has annually looked at what are considered “tandem” props – a pair of props that are almost identical in nature with one for each team. For example, one such tandem might involve whether each quarterback’s first pass will be complete or incomplete. The “complete” part of the prop is usually a solid favorite, from -160 to -190 in most instances.
That makes the price of the “incomplete” priced from +140 to +170, using the 20-cent line. By playing the underdog part of the prop (the plus portion) you need only win one and lose one to show a profit.
Other such examples would involve interceptions, touchbacks and other items that are often unrelated to the flow of the game or the outcome but rather to routine parts of the game as it unfolds.
As to the potential players to score the first touchdown some reasonable prospects would include Seattle WR Golden Tate or QB Wilson, both priced at 12-1. For Denver you might consider TE Jacob Tamme (18-1) or WR Wes Welker (10-1). The chances of hitting this prop are low but the payoff is nice if you connect.
With both Denver and Seattle enjoying 13-3 seasons this will mark the first time since 2003 the team with the best regular season record will win the Super Bowl. When the Saints defeated the Colts in Super Bowl 44, despite it being a matchup of number one seeds, Indianapolis had the better regular season record (14-2 vs. 13-3).
Denver’s success was predicated largely on the play of its offense, led by future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning, a traditional pocket passer who rarely runs and, when he does, his speed can be measured by a sun dial.
Russell Wilson, by contrast, is a more mobile QB, much in the mode of the rapidly emerging (read option) style of signal caller that has become more prevalent both in the college and NFL ranks over the past few seasons. But Seattle’s success is much less based in the talents of Wilson than in the overall play of the Seahawk defense.
This is a matchup of the league’s top offense (Denver) and the league’s top defense (Seattle), the aged veteran old school quarterback (Manning) and the up and coming field general (Wilson).
And those contrasts make for an intriguing handicap and, potentially, a most entertaining and exciting football game.
After an initial flurry of betting action within the first hour or two after opening lines came out, Denver has remained pretty steady as a 2 or 2½ point favorite here in Nevada and offshore. The prevailing stateside line had Denver favored by 2½ but the offshore line is predominantly -2.
Thus far there has been a reluctance to move the line to minus 3 with numerous sports books attaching a vig of -115 or -120 to the Denver -2½, as opposed to the standard -110, as bets continue to come in on Denver, largely from the general public.
The professionals are poised to pounce on taking Seattle if or when the line does move to +3. Although there is strong sentiment that may not occur for most of the week, there is some thought that come game day the public may push the line up to 3. There is no hurry for the professionals to jump in on Seattle at +2½ if this is the side they back. It may be quite likely the pros are just playing the numbers game and waiting for a 3 to show.
If the 3 never does show the pros may just not have much action on this game. After all, to the professional bettor this is just another game and there are other days, games and sports to provide plenty of positive expectation opportunities, including a smattering of basketball to be played prior to the start of the Super Bowl.
In analyzing this Super Bowl one thought that continually comes to mind is whether Denver’s offense can exploit Seattle’s defense or whether the Seahawk defense can contain Manning and Broncos offense.
The oft quoted adage, applicable to all sports, is that while offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. Of course the definitions of a dominant/powerful offense and defense are subjective and there are several examples of Super Bowls in which defenses have been able to win the day.
Perhaps the best example of this came in Super Bowl 25 when the above average but hardly dominant New York Giants defense contained the hurry up potent offense of Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills in the Giants’ 20-19 win.
The victory is known as much for Buffalo’s Scott Norwood and his potential game winning field goal that sailed wide right than for the outstanding game plan devised and implemented by Giants’ coach Bill Parcells and Defensive Coordinator Bill Belichick. In playing keep away the Giants had the ball for 40 minutes and 33 seconds.
Super Bowls have tended to be lower scoring over the past decade. In fact, the UNDER is 6-3 in the last nine Super Bowls. Last year was OVER 48 as Baltimore defeated San Francisco 34-31.
There will be much sentiment for Manning, acclaimed by many as the best “regular season” quarterback of all time, to be acclaimed simply as the best QB of all time, period, with a win in this game.
Naturally, one game should hardly define a career and there are many who will proclaim Manning as the best of all time regardless of the outcome of this game. Others will refuse to alter their opinion even if Manning throws five TD passes and throws for over 400 yards without an interception.
Denver’s defense does not often get the credit it deserves. The statistics show the Broncos as having a rather average defense. But the Broncos did play a much better brand of defense over the second half of the season and in its two Playoff wins, over San Diego and New England.
Seattle’s offense does not pose the same threats as did either the Chargers or the Patriots, although the Seahawk offense has been efficient, especially with its strong running game with RB Marshawn Lynch.
Weather will clearly be a factor in this game and will likely impact Denver more than Seattle. The Seahawks are equipped to play under all weather conditions and will not be negatively impacted by poor weather, including high winds and/or rain/snow as would Denver. At the same time Seattle will not be helped by benign conditions whereas Denver’s offense certainly would benefit from clear skies and little wind.
How the officials call the game will also have an impact, possibly the greatest impact of any external factor. A tightly called game likely works against the physically aggressive Seahawks. Conversely, if the officials “let them play” Seattle can play the game defensively that it prefers.
Even in ideal conditions Wilson, because of his style, can do more with the combination of his legs and arms than can Manning. Of course, Manning has a huge edge when it comes to passing the football. There have been few, if any, better in the history of the NFL. But Wilson’s ability to run the football gives the Seahawks an added dimension the Denver defense has not faced very often.
Seattle’s defense will try to frustrate Manning and pressure him into early throws. Manning will have occasional success but may also make key mistakes as he has in past Playoff games.
As we saw against San Francisco and many times throughout the season the Seattle defense has an uncanny knack for making the big play at critical times.
Final score: Seattle 23, Denver 20.
And remember, the 2014 season starts in just seven months!
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]