An in-depth analysis of Colts, Saints, NFL props

Feb 2, 2010 5:06 PM

Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |

Will history repeat for the Colts? Or will New Orleans fulfill its role as a team of destiny and represent the exclamation point of the city’s recovery from the disaster of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina? We’ll learn the answer as evening becomes night this Sunday in Miami.

Both teams bring excellent credentials to Super Bowl XLIV.

Each is led by an outstanding quarterback. New Orleans’ Drew Brees set an NFL record by completing over 70 percent of his passes in 2009. This followed a 2008 season in which he nearly set the all time record for passing yards. The Colts’ Peyton Manning is considered by many to be the most cerebral QB of all time in addition to being one of the most talented. He won his third MVP Award this past season, one season after MVP honors went to Brees. Manning is a true coach on the field with as much authority as any QB in recent times to adjust the play call based on what he sees as he sets up behind center.

Statistically New Orleans rates a slight overall edge on offense. The Saints led the league in points scored and total offense. Indianapolis ranked seventh and ninth respectively. The Saints had a decidedly better rushing attack, averaging 132 yards per game (sixth) and 4.5 yards per rush. By contrast Indy averaged just 81 rushing yards per game (last at number 32) and just 3.5 yards per rush. While both teams’ potent passing attacks rate almost even, New Orleans’ significant edge in the running game gives them better balance and an ability to control the clock and protect a lead late in the game if they are ahead on the scoreboard.

The Colts have the better defensive stats, ranking number 18 in yards allowed and a solid ninth in points allowed. The Saints ranked a below average 25 and 20 in those categories. The Colts’ significant defensive edge is also evident in many of the secondary statistics including yards per play allowed (5.2, fifth, compared to New Orleans allowing 5.7 yards per rush, number 21).

But stats are just one of the areas to be evaluated in coming to conclusions about how the game might well play out.

Now that the specific matchup is known that hypothetical line has been "adjusted’ to over a FG and is perhaps headed to a touchdown (with or without the extra point). Does that qualify as an overreaction to what occurred in the Conference Championship games? It appears to be the case.

While a shootout is expected such expectations often are not met. Key third down plays often result in field goal attempts rather than conversions or touchdowns. At a Total of 56 we are looking at 8 touchdowns between the two teams or perhaps 7 touchdowns and 3 field goals or maybe 6 touchdowns and 5 field goals. That’s an awful lot of scoring. Turnovers can play a big part in either enhancing scoring opportunities or denying them depending upon where on the field they occur.

The Saints held 12 of 18 opponents to 24 points or less. The Colts did the same to 13 of their 18 foes.

The favored team has won 5 of the last 6 Super Bowls but has covered in just 3 of those wins. Three of the last 6 Super Bowls have been decided by exactly 3 points and last season’s was decided by just 4 points.

Both the Saints and the Colts have quarterbacks very capable of coming from behind and each has done so several times this season. The Colts rallied to overcome a fourth quarter deficit in 6 of their wins this season.

It’s very tempting to call for the Saints to upset the Colts. They certainly have the capability to win every time they take the field. It’s just as tempting to expect Peyton Manning to lead yet another fourth quarter comeback in the biggest game of the season as he did six times this season. Why not both?

It’s even more tempting to suggest that there will be several lead changes in the second half of this contest just as there were two lead changes in the final 3 minutes of each of the last two Super Bowls.

It will be hard to top the drama and climactic endings of the past two Super Bowls but this matchup has very much the ingredients to do just that. In a game that handicaps as being very similar to last year’s Super Bowl the forecast is for Indianapolis to score late and take a 24-20 lead but leaving too much time for Drew Brees to lead his Saints on a game winning touchdown drive with just seconds to spare as New Orleans upsets Indianapolis 27-24.

The NEW ORLEANS SAINTS go marching into the history books as winners of Super Bowl XLIV as the game stays UNDER the Total.

Enjoy the game.

SUPER BOWL PROPS

Much of the enjoyment of watching the Super Bowl here in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada comes from the many additional wagering possibilities offered on the Super Bowl. While a number of these so-called proposition wagers (known simply as "props") have been offered more and more in recent seasons on Sunday and Monday Night games and for Playoff games nothing can match the volume and creativity of the props offered on the Super Bowl.

It is literally possible to have a wager decided on every play of the game. In fact, at many properties you can have a wager decided before the game kicks off. At the Las Vegas Hilton, for example, there is a prop that allows you to wager on whether the pre game coin toss will result in Heads or Tails! And although it would be nice if this was a pure even money wager the Hilton has lowered the vig to minus 101 on either side – at least unless some heavy action comes in on one side or the other!

The Hilton and head honcho Jay Kornegay have long been known as the leaders and innovators of Super Bowl props and this year they offer more than 300 different ways to wager on the Super Bowl.

In recent years more properties have joined the party and it’s common to find packets of prop pages stapled together at any sports book in town.

There are several types of props available. Some relate to scoring and involve adjusted pointspreads. For example, if you think the Colts will have little trouble with the Saints and will win in a blowout rather than laying 11 to 10 and giving up the current 5½ points you can lay 10½ points with the Colts and earn 175 dollars for every 100 wagered at plus 175. Conversely you can play the Saints and lay 3½ points at a price of plus 270.

Another type of prop involves picking one of several options such as the player to score the first touchdown. In this prop about a half dozen or so individual players from each team are listed, each at specified odds. For example, you can wager that Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark will score the game’s first touchdown and get rewarded at odds of about 7 to 1 if you are correct. One of the best such wagers in many Super Bowls occurred when the Colts met the Bears and the price on Chicago kick returner Devin Hester was around 30 to 1. He returned several kicks for touchdowns during the regular season and did it again on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI, rewarding his backers at healthy odds less than a half minute into the game.

Most of the creative props are head to head props in which you can bet one of two options. Examples might be whether the Colts will score before they punt of whether Reggie Bush will have more or less than a specified number of rushing yards. In many of these props one side is priced at a healthy minus while the other half is priced at a modest price. Often a 20 or 30 cents line is used so that a prop priced at minus 180 has the other half of the prop at plus 150.

The public, in general, prefers the positive so that they are more apt to play YES and OVER props as opposed to NO and UNDER. And often that tendency is reflected in the pricing.

The wise guys and professionals do considerable work in analyzing these props and often a number of them are pounded within days of being made available. It’s not unusual to see a prop that opens at plus 140 see enough action to be priced at minus 160 a few days later.

And the pros are not shy about laying a price on props they find to be most attractive.

But for the more casual and occasional bettor where the Super Bowl may often be the only game wagered upon each year it would be best to wager on the plus side of these two option props. After all, this is just one game and nobody knows in advance how it will unfold. Sure, there are percentages which govern how the prices are set and betting opinions that dictate how those prices will move.

But with all the props available you should be able to find a few to your liking that will give you an added interest in how the game unfolds and a chance to profit even if you are on the wrong side of the side or total for the full game.

Some of my favorite props over the years have been "tandem" props where you bet on the same event for each team such as whether the first pass by each quarterback will be complete or incomplete. With both Peyton Manning and Drew Brees being so outstanding the "complete" is better than a 2 to 1 favorite for each. Thus by wagering on the "incomplete" you will collect around plus 200 if either tosses an incompletion first.

Another favorite of mine has been to take the plus price on the team to score first. At the Hilton the Saints are plus 120 to have the game’s first score. This is a prop that has little to do with the overall talent of teams or any edges that may exist. The Saints led the league in scoring this season and if they win the coin toss they easily could score on the game’s first possession. The same could be said for the Colts but Indianapolis is priced at minus 140 to score first.

Along the same lines is a prop that allows you to bet whether the team that scores first will ultimately win the game. The ‘No" is priced at plus 165 and the "No" has cashed in 5 of the past 8 Super Bowls (but not last year).

Some props offer extremely attractive plus prices but are best avoided. There has never been overtime in a Super Bowl (plus 850) and safeties are extremely rare (plus 900) although there was a safety in last year’s Super Bowl. Will there be a score in the final two minutes of the first half is priced with the "No" at a generous plus 250. But with two outstanding quarterbacks it would be very risky to suggest that neither team can mount a scoring drive just before recess. A more palatable wager might be that the last scoring play of the first half will be a field goal (or safety) rather than a touchdown. This prop is priced at plus 140.

So in the days leading up to the Big Game, visit the many sports books around town and compare the prices on props that interest you. Be sure to read the fine print and also understand that there are often very subtle differences in the wording of what appear to be the same props at different properties. And often there are different numbers used for individual player props.

But above all, have fun. Enjoy the game. Enjoy the props. Enjoy the parties.

After all, you’ll have to wait another seven full months before the 2010 season kicks off.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe