Handicapping ’Bowl Props is entertaining

Jan 23, 2001 9:23 AM

Super Bowl week is finally here, and bettors have a myriad of propositions to wade through besides normal point spreads and totals wagers. The choices are unique and many — from will Trent Dilfer have more yards passing than the 76ers and Pacers score points on Sunday to what will be the length of the longest rushing touchdown in the game, 1½ yards or more.

Successfully wagering on these kind of plays goes hand in hand with normal game analysis, but goes a step further. For example, if you think the Ravens will try to run the ball down the Giants’ throats, then you might play Jamal Lewis to score the first touchdown of the game, a prop that registers at 5-to-1 at the time of this writing.

Here’s a closer look at some other props that may interest the bettor.

With two of the best defenses in the league, most fans expect a defensive battle. Neither team has proven they can sustain much offense against a quality defense. The Giants were awesome against the Vikings, but the Vikings are certainly not the Ravens. Against defenses like the Eagles, more of an indication of ability than the Vikings, the Giants had trouble moving the ball, both on the ground and through the air.

The Ravens’ offensive problems are just as documented, if not more so, so it figures that both teams will have trouble scoring touchdowns. Early on, both teams should be eager to put any points on the board, so don’t expect either to be too aggressive in the Red Zone.

Since both teams probably will have trouble putting the ball in the end zone, it follows that the first score will be a field goal, especially when one factors in the nerves the players should be experiencing early in the game. The Ravens have a fine kicker in Matt Stover. The Giants’ Brad Daluiso may have a short leg, but he’s accurate.

Jamal Lewis has had a great season for the Ravens. He rushed for over 1,300 yards, and would have been the hands-down Offensive Rookie of the Year if not for the emergence of Denver’s Mike Anderson.

One interesting prop is whether Lewis will be able to top 75 yards in the game. He was shut down last week by the Raiders, and may be slowing down after a long season. But the Ravens will likely go to Lewis often, at least early on, while trying to force their will on the Giants. The Giants have been great against the rush this season, but they’ve had a few games in which they allowed a big time running back to go for big time yards. Eddie George led the Titans to 152 yards rushing. Marshall Faulk led the Rams to 141 yards rushing. In their first meeting, the Redskins’ Stephen Davis led Washington to 110 yards rushing. Lewis is a big time back. The Ravens will be committed to running the ball, which makes the over/under of 75 yards look very reasonable.

Of course, if the Ravens are able to impose their will on the Giants, it will likely force New York to take to the air. This leads us to our next proposition: Who will throw more passes: Kerry Collins or Trent Dilfer — with Dilfer getting seven attempts as an underdog.

Odds are, the Giants’ offensive game plan has plenty of throwing in it anyway. The Ravens are so good against the run, the only way to attack them may be with the pass. Baltimore allowed just 62 yards rushing per game, but 184 yards passing. That’s not a lot of passing yards, but teams like the Jets and Jaguars have proven the defense is vulnerable to a passing offense. The threat of turnovers is much greater when a team throws, especially against the ball-hawking Ravens. But you have to try something. If the Giants run into a brick wall time after time, they’ll try to exploit Kerry Collins’ strong arm. With a strong corps of receivers and the likelihood of the Ravens taking the air out of the ball, it looks like Collins will certainly throw at least seven more passes than Dilfer.

Finally, the last prop we look at is whether the two teams will combine for more or less than five sacks. As we’ve said, this looks like a defensive battle. One of the main reasons is that both teams have outstanding defensive lines.

For the Giants, Michael Strahan has been incredible during the playoffs with four sacks. With Cedric Jones and Keith Hamilton, they form a difficult line to block. The Ravens also have a great pass rush with Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett, and speedy Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper as outside linebackers.

If the Giants have to throw the ball, look for the Ravens to continue to be aggressive. The Giants’ defense should be able to cause havoc against the average (except for Jonathon Ogden) Ravens’ offensive line, when the Ravens are inclined to throw the ball.