Two weeks allowstime for shopping

Jan 25, 2005 5:30 AM

In the world of sports wagering, there’s nothing quite like Super Bowl week — or in this case, two weeks. 
The lengthy buildup provides maximum exposure for players, coaches and fans, like a countdown to Election Day. It’s also one of the most creative weeks of the sports betting season. While there’s only one game left on the football calendar, there are still ample opportunities for wagering on the Super Bowl. There will be hundreds of creative props by various oddsmakers in Las Vegas and the offshore industry. 
For example, you can bet on the exact score of the game by each team. Last February, if you thought the Patriots might score exactly 32 points in the Super Bowl, the odds were 35-1 (which they did). You could bet on who would score the first touchdown of the game (which turned out to be Deion Branch at 8-1) or who would score the last one (Ricky Proehl, 20-1). There will be “over/under” lines offered on how many touchdown passes a quarterback will throw, the first team to turn the ball over, and even the coin flip.
There will be creative wagers offered such as how many receiving yards one player might have matched up against the number of points Kevin Garnett will score against the Boston Celtics on Super Sunday. The Super Bowl brings out the best in the creative minds of oddsmakers. Smart bettors will search through all the props, totals, and side bets offered in an attempt to find an edge and add to their bankrolls.
When examining Super Bowl totals, weather is usually not as important a factor as in other playoff games as it’s always played indoors or at warm weather sites. Although this year the game is outdoors in Jacksonville, with NFL executives praying for no rain! Since Super Bowl X in 1976 between the Steelers and Cowboys, there have been 19 “overs” and 10 “unders.” 
Part of this excess of “overs” is because coaches with a lead in the Super Bowl are less likely to sit on the ball in the second half. If a team is up 17-0 at the half of a December game, a coach might be inclined to go conservative, run the clock, avoid injuries and wrap up the victory quickly. In the Super Bowl, however, it’s the final game of the season and no lead is safe.
No coach wants to play super-conservative and be remembered as the guy who blew a 17-0 lead in the biggest game of his career. Since it’s the last game of the season, coaching staffs will often put in trick plays and new offensive wrinkles in an attempt to maximize scoring opportunities.
Despite the excessive “overs” the last thirty years, defense often rules in Super Bowls. Two years ago was a textbook example. The No. 1 offense (Oakland) faced the No. 1 defense (Tampa Bay). Oakland’s great offense was a 4-point favorite, but Tampa’s defense dominated in a 48-21 rout. In fact, the last four Super Bowl champs have had statistically better defenses than offenses. Two of those champs (the Patriots and Buccaneers) were Super Bowl underdogs. 
Good handicappers know that statistics don’t always tell the whole story, either. Three years ago, the Patriots had the No. 24 ranked defense in the NFL and were a 14-point underdog against St. Louis. A closer look found New England weak on defense in the first half of the season, then getting healthy and coming on extremely strong down the stretch. The Patriots allowed 10, 11, 24, 17, 16, 16, 9, 13, 6, 13, 17, and 17 points over their final 12 games (including postseason), with the “under” going 8-4.
You’ll be able to find point spread props, too. A year ago, you could bet on the Panthers at +3½ (+130 money line), which connected in the Patriots’ 32-29 win. You could also bet on the longest rush by DeShaun Foster (7½), the “over/under” of TD passes by Tom Brady (1½), and who will have more: Deion Branch receptions or Kevin Garnett made free throws? 
Key numbers will come into play, as well, as bookies are petrified of getting middled. Five years ago the Rams were a 7 to 7½-point favorite against the Titans. The Rams won by seven points, 23-16. The most famous example occurred in 1979, forever known in Las Vegas as “Black Sunday.” The Steelers opened a 2½-point favorite over the Cowboys, and were bet up to 5, then back down to 4. Bookmakers all across the country were sweating (and screaming) when the Steelers won, 35-31!