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The bad news for the sportsbooks is just one game remains in the 2016 NFL season – Super Bowl 51.

The good news for the sportsbooks is just one game remains in the 2016 season – Super Bowl 51.

Those seemingly diametrically opposite statements are both true.

The Super Bowl is the biggest bet game of the entire season and is the date on which books close out their results for the football season, settling up on the Futures liability that has existed for the past 12 months.

The Super Bowl offers bettors one final chance to profit from their knowledge of or passions for the NFL with a multitude of proposition wagers offered in addition to the standard full game Side and Total, first half and second half.

That is the bad news, as following Super Bowl 51 the sportsbooks will see a significant drop in their handle for the next six months as the volume of dollars bet on basketball, hockey, baseball and the other sports that make up the sporting calendar for February through August is dwarfed by the amount bet during the NFL regular season and Playoffs.

Hence the good news. The books have been taking a beating over the past month or so and especially during the Playoffs. Through the first 10 of the 11 games that comprise the Playoffs Home Favorites have won and covered 8 of those games.

The two underdogs that covered both won outright as in the Divisional round Green Bay won at Dallas and Pittsburgh won at Kansas City. Despite playing on the road many bettors had bet both the Packers and Chiefs on the money line. The Packers had won 7 straight games heading into their showdown with the Cowboys and the Steelers had won 8 in a row prior to their game with the Chiefs.

Those money line bets paid off handsomely for the bettors and 3 of the 4 games went OVER the Total. Some books described the Divisional games as one of their worst weekend in memory. Thus for the Playoffs, in which all 10 home teams were favored, the Home Favorites were 8-2 both SU and ATS with 7 OVER and 3 UNDER.

Hence the bad news for the books is that they must survive one more game in which a cash flush betting public will try for one more score before calling it a season. And current form favors the bettors over the books even with the books having that 11 to 10 edge.

Both conference championship games were blowouts and bring to 8 the number of this season’s Playoff games decided by double digits. Only those two underdog wins were decided by single digits (2 and 3 points). Generally the best scenarios for the sports books are when favorites win the game but lose to the pointspread and when games stay UNDER the Total.

About the only thing in doubt by the late third quarter of both games was whether the games would stay UNDER the Total or go OVER. And both decisions held the attention of many viewers as both Totals results were decided late in the fourth quarter of both games.

NFC Championship

In Atlanta’s 44-21 win over Green Bay, arguably the game got its identity early when, after the Falcons had scored on the game’s opening possession to take a 7-0 lead, Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby missed a 41 yard field goal on the Packers’ first drive. A week earlier Crosby had kicked field goals of 56 and 51 yards in the final minute and a half of the Pack’s last second Divisional win at Dallas.

Crosby’s miss was the first missed FG in this season’s Playoffs following 32 successful attempts. It also ended Crosby’s streak of 23 consecutive made field goals in the Playoffs. Not a good omen. That omen may have been validated on Green Bay’s second drive when FB Aaron Ripkowski fumbled after a bruising run that would have set up the Packers inside the Atlanta 10 but was recovered by the Falcons in the endzone for a touchback.

The final blow came just before halftime when Atlanta’s Julio Jones caught a TD pass with three seconds remaining to give the Falcons a 24-0 halftime lead. Although an Atlanta victory was all but assured when Jones scored on a brilliant 73 yards catch and run after the Packers went three and out to start the second half the Total result remained in doubt well into the fourth quarter. Trailing 44-15 Green Bay scored a TD with just under 7 minutes remaining in the game to send the Total over the consensus closing line of 60.5.

AFC Championship

It was competitive into the second half as New England held a 17-9 halftime lead with the Steelers set to receive the second half kickoff. But after the Steelers went three and out on their opening possession the Patriots got a field goal on their first possession of the second half and, after a short Pittsburgh possession that resulted in a punt New England scored a TD to make the score 27-9 which was extended to 33-9 following a fumble on the Steelers’ first play on their ensuing possession, effectively ending the game with a minute and a half left in the third quarter.

After adding a FG early in the fourth quarter the Patriots led 36-9 when Pittsburgh scored a TD with three and a half minutes remaining to put the total points at 51 which would have resulted in a PUSH for some bettors. But when the 2 point conversion was successful the final score of 36-17 resulted in payoffs for all who bet the OVER. The consensus closing Total was 50.5.

Thus the final scoring play of both games pushed the winning Totals wager from and UNDER to an OVER.

Early SB lines

During the fourth quarter of New England’s win the first Super Bowl lines started to appear with the Patriots opening as 3 point favorites over Atlanta with the Total opening at 58.5. As of mid-morning Monday the line the line remained at a solid 3 both in Las Vegas and worldwide. The Total could be found at 58, 58.5 and 59 at various sports books.

The early speculation is that the line would go up before it would move down with the public continuing to support and profit from backing the Patriots as they have all season. Despite their current 16-2 SU record the Patriots have been just as spectacular ATS, fashioning a 15-3 record that includes a streak entering the Super Bowl of 7 straight covers during their current 9 game winning streak.

That, combined with their huge edge in experience, suggests the money will begin to flow in on New England. After all, if you have been betting and winning on a specific team why reverse direction now!

Atlanta also has solid credentials with their current 6 game winning streak that includes a 5-1 ATS mark, including covers in both Playoff wins in which they beat the spread by 9.5 and 17 points.

Super Bowl 51 sets up as an intriguing matchup between the team that led the NFL in points scored in the regular season (Atlanta, 540 points or 33.8 points per game) against the team that allowed the fewest points (New England, 250 points or 15.6 ppg).

In next week’s column an analysis of and forecast for Super Bowl 51 will be presented. But to whet your appetite for the Big Game here are some bits of information for you to consider and use as you wish concerning some history about the Super Bowl and the teams involved.

The Patriots are in their record setting ninth Super Bowl and their seventh in the QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick era that started with their 20-17 upset win over the St Louis Rams in Super Bow 36 that capped the 2001 season.

Having lost to Chicago in SB20 and to Green Bay in SB31 their win over the Rams was the first of their four Super Bowl titles and their only pointspread cover prior to their win and cover against Seattle in SB 49 two seasons ago.

In between were wins in SB 38 over Carolina and in SB 39 over Philadelphia, both of which were won by 3 points in games the Pats lost ATS. And their two other ATS losses were to the New York Giants (SB 42 and SB 46) in which they were also favored.

The Patriots had been tied with Dallas and Pittsburgh with 8 trips to the Super Bowl prior to defeating the Steelers in the AFC title game.

This is only the second Super Bowl for the Falcons who lost to Denver in SB 33. In looking at some generic characteristics concerning the Super Bowl one stands out glaringly and it relates to the record of the two teams that make it to the Big Game.

Since 1990 the team with the better regular season record is just 4-14-1 ATS with 7 Super Bowls matching teams with identical records.

However, since 1995 the team with the better record is an astounding 1-14-1 ATS with 5 Super Bowls involving teams with the same regular season records (the matchups were in SB 33, SB 34, SB 35, SB 48 and SB 49).

The last Super Bowl winner who had a better regular season record than the Super Bowl loser occurred in Super Bowl 37 when 12-4 Tampa Bay defeated 11-5 (and favored) Oakland. Recall that the Buccaneers were coached by John Gruden who had been Oakland’s coach for the previous 4 seasons.

Since 1990 the SU winner of the game has covered the pointspread in 20 of 24 games (83.3 percent) with 3 pushes. New England accounted for two of the SU wins and ATS losses. Dallas’ win over Pittsburgh in SB30 and Pittsburgh’s win over Arizona in SB43 were the others. One of the ATS PUSHes involved New England when the Pats lost to Green Bay 35-21 in SB 31. The other occurred when St Louis held of Tennessee in their 23-16 win in SB 34.

Since 1990, Super Bowl Favorites are 15-11 SU but just 9-15-2 ATS.

Those 26 Super Bowls have produced 14 OVERs and 12 UNDERs. The average score has been 30.9 to 18.7 for an average margin of 12.2 points and an average total points of 49.6.

After three straight seasons in which the No. 1 seeds in both the AFC and NFC met in the Super Bowl this season’s Playoffs results have the AFC’s number 1 seed, New England, facing the No. 2 seed from the NFC Atlanta.

Under the current Playoffs format begun in 1990 to include 12 rather than 10 Playoffs teams there have been 8 prior Super Bowls matching a 1 vs. 2. Interestingly there has been a split with the 1-seed winning 4 times and the 2-seed winning 4 times. The 1 seed is 4-3-1 ATS and there have been 4 OVERS and 4 UNDERS in those 1 versus 2 matchups.

Such a matchup has not occurred in more than a decade and the last three such occurrences each resulted in the 1 seeds (St Louis, Oakland and Philadelphia) losing to the 2 seeds (New England, twice, and Tampa Bay) in Super Bowls 36, 37 and 39. That ended a streak of 4 straight wins by the number 1 seed over the number 2 seed between Super Bowls 29 and 33.

In next week’s column our final forecast of the season will be made with a full analysis of Super Bowl 51 and the POP – Plethora of Props – will also be discussed. Let’s enjoy the buildup to the Big Game and hope that, unlike 9 of the first 10 Playoff games, lives up to the abundant hype.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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