The New England Patriots have been considered a dynasty over the past decade, with four Super Bowl appearances, three of which resulted in wins. But the perception may not be considered to exactly jive with reality.
Although the Pats have won three Super Bowls in the Bill Belichick / Tom Brady era, all were by exactly three points. Their lone loss – to the Giants – was also by that same margin. The 17-14 defeat in Super Bowl XLII capped the 2007 season and denied New England the first perfect 19-0 record in NFL history.
So Super Bowl XLVI is a rematch but under different circumstances. Unlike four years ago, this edition of the Patriots took advantage of a favorable schedule to fashion a 13-3 regular season followed by a pair of playoff victories. Yet in winning 15 of 18 games the Patriots defeated only one team that ended the season with a winning record.
And that win was somewhat fortunate, coming in the AFC Championship game when Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff missed a chip shot of a field goal at the final gun that would have forced overtime, moments after a dropped pass that would have given the Ravens a lead with less than a half minute to play.
This game is also a rematch of a regular season game on Nov. 6 that the Giants won at New England 24-20, ending a streak of 20 consecutive home wins.
This will be the thirteenth Super Bowl that is a rematch of a regular season game. The first occurred when Dallas defeated Denver in Super Bowl XII for a second time in the 1977 season. In the dozen Super Bowl rematches the winner of the regular season game is just 5-7 straight up.
Actually the team with the better record has lost five of the last six Super Bowls, including last season when 10-6 Green Bay defeated 12-4 Pittsburgh.
Will the 9-7 New York Giants continue this recent trend as they face the 13-3 Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI? Or will New England defeat the first team to play in the Super Bowl after having allowed more points than they scored during the regular season?
At most sports books the Patriots have been favored by 3 points for much of the past week after opening as 3½ or even 4 point favorites at some shops.
Early support has shown up for the underdog Giants as several books have flirted with dropping the Patriots to 2½ point favorites while most of the books that have kept the line at 3 have imposed added vig on taking the points so that, in betting parlance, the Giants are +3 at -120 (meaning you would have to bet $120 to win $100) and pricing the Patriots at -3 even money (in which case you would wager $100 to win $100).
The money line, for which the points don’t matter and you simply bet on the straight up winner of the game, has settled into the -135 to -140 range.
The Over/Under is pretty much either 54½ or 55 total points – the second highest total in Super Bowl history. The highest (56) was just two seasons ago for the New Orleans v Indianapolis matchup. That game stayed UNDER as the Saints won 31-17.
When the Giants and Patriots met in SB XLII the Patriots closed as 12½-point favorites with a total of 55. That game was played barely a month after the Pats defeated the Giants 38-35 to close their regular season at 16-0. In that regular season finale New England was a 14 point road favorite and the Total was 47 as the teams combined to score 73 points.
In their earlier meeting this season in New England, the Pats closed as 10 point favorites with a total of 51½. New England opened as 7½ point favorites but the line climbed steadily during the week before closing at minus 10. Recall that the game stayed UNDER due to a scoreless first half. The teams did combine for 44 second half points, however.
The Giants are healthier now than in their first meeting. In that 24-20 win the G-men were without RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Hakeem Nicks and C David Bass, all of whom will be playing this Sunday.
Most observers of the NFL consider that the 2007 Patriots were a much better football team, all around, than the 2011 version. Aside from their 16-0 regular season, those Patriots set a record by scoring 589 points during the regular season while allowing 82 points less (over 5 points per game) than they did in 2011.
At the same time, New England enters the Super Bowl having won (and covered) 10 straight games. Two of the wins were by 3 points and two others by 7. But the other six wins were blowout victories – wins by from 18 to 35 points. The Pats scored at least 30 points in 13 of 18 games.
Statistically New England holds most of the edges, especially on offense. And despite their poor defensive stats in terms of yards allowed (rank 32) the Giants fare only slightly better (rank 27). Yet in terms of points allowed – the ultimate factor that determines wins and losses – New England allowed slightly over a field goal less per game during the regular season (21.4 ppg) than did the Giants (25.0 ppg).
Of course New England’s edges must be considered against the background of having played a much easier schedule. Their AFC Championship game win was their first all season against a team that finished with a winning record.
Most of the scuttlebutt around Las Vegas over the past week, reflected in the line movement, has the vast majority of opinions siding with the underdog Giants.
And with good reason. The Giants, these days, are every bit the public team the Pats have been for more than a decade. Especially since the Giants pulled that huge upset of New England in SB XLVI.
Prior to the start of this season the pick in this column was for New England to win the Super Bowl. But the opponent was expected to be the Atlanta Falcons, the team the Giants eliminated 24-2 in the Wild Card round of the Playoffs.
Recent Super Bowls have shown that more often it is the team hotter down the stretch that wins the Super Bowl, even if, on the basis of the entire season, such team is perceived as the weaker of the two. Green Bay rode a 10-6 record as a Wild Card to last season’s Super Bowl title. Perhaps the Giants will do the same this Sunday, although they were a Division winner that hosted a Wild Card game because of their rather ordinary 9-7 record.
Considering how competitive the past three meetings between the Giants and Patriots have been it’s easy to make a case for the Giants. Heck, it’s easy to make a case that the Giants should be favored in this game.
The prediction here remains on the same horse we backed before leaving the starting gate. The call is for New England to win Super Bowl XLVI and, with the line at a FG or less and rarely coming into play in the Super Bowl, to also cover the pointspread.
And with the teams ranking number 2 and 5 in pass offense and numbers 29 and 31 in pass defense the expectation is for this to be one of the higher scoring Super Bowls in recent memory, especially given the pristine conditions of playing indoors.
Since 1990 the highest combined average total yards gained per game during the regular season by the two Super Bowl teams were the 2009 Colts and Saints who combined for 767 ypg. The Giants and Pats combined to gain an average of 812 yards per game this season, a figure 6 percent higher.
The highest combined regular season average total yards per game allowed ny the two Super Bowl teams also involved the 2009 Colts and Saints, 697 ypg. The Giants and Patriots this past season combined to allow 788 ypg, a staggering 13 percent more than New Orleans and Indy.
Although the Saints defeated the Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV, staying under that record high Total of 56, it should be noted that the game was played on a natural grass surface, outdoors in Miami.
The prediction, although somewhat a square play, is for New England to win Super Bowl XLVI 34-27, making the plays NEW ENGLAND and OVER.
But the final score and total are only a very small part of what makes betting on the Super Bowl the hugely enjoyable phenomenon it has become.
More and more each season, wagering on the multitude of propositions, or “props,” has increased dramatically in terms of offerings, creativity and, most importantly, betting handle.
The origin of the prop bets can be traced back to Super Bowl XX between Chicago and New England in which the 1985 Bears were double digit favorites. In order to generate additional betting handle because of the lopsided spread a proposition was offered as to whether William “the Refrigerator” Perry – the heavy defensive lineman who was occasionally used in the backfield to block for Walter Payton – would score a touchdown.
The fact that the proposition was even offered attracted nationwide attention. And wagering action as well. From odds in excess of 20 to 1 at the open the odds on the “yes” dropped into the low single digits by kickoffs.
While Perry did score a TD and the books lost on that prop, it served, in effect, as a loss leader as an entire new mini-industry was born.
If you like NY, consider playing props which favor the Giants and/or their players to do something positive. If you prefer the Pats, do likewise with the New England props.
But overall, remember, as the professional bettors do, that the Super Bowl is just one game. Both the Pats and Giants deserve to be here.
If this game is anywhere close to being as entertaining or as dramatic as their last three meetings we will indeed be treated to a grand finale to the 2011 season.
Enjoy. And good luck!