Let all those Super Bowl prop bets begin!

Jan 20, 2009 5:03 PM
Feist Facts by Jim Feist |

In the world of 11 to 10, there’s nothing quite like Super Bowl week. In this case, it’s two weeks, as the champions of the AFC and NFC have 14 days to prepare for the Big Game.

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 ample opportunities for betting with hundreds of creative props by oddsmakers.

For example, you can bet on the exact score of the game by each team or who will score first. Two years ago, if you bet on Chicago return specialist Devin Hester to score the first touchdown of the game, you would have cashed a 25-1 prop ticket after he returned the opening kickoff 92 yards.

Taking 14 seconds to cash a 25-1 ticket is really the best way to watch a Super Bowl!

Last year you could even wager that there would be no touchdowns scored at 50-1. Of course, that has never happened as we head to Super Bowl 43 next week. There also has never been overtime, though you will be able to wager on, "Will there be overtime or not?"

There will be over/under lines offered on how many touchdown passes a quarterback might throw, the first team to turn the ball over and even the coin flip.

And, there will be creative wagers offered such as how many receiving yards one player might get matched up against the number of points the NBA’s Kobe Bryant or LeBron James might have as the Lakers/Cavaliers battle before the Super Sunday kickoff.

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 not as important an issue as in other January playoff games. Super Sunday is always played indoors or at warm weather sites.

This season the game will be outdoors in Tampa, Florida, so there could be a chance of rain. It rained two years ago in Miami when the Colts and Bears met. Since Super Bowl X in 1976 between the Steelers and Cowboys, the over is 19-14, but the past four have gone under the total.

Why so many "overs?" One factor is that coaches with a lead are less likely to sit on the ball in the second half in a Super Bowl. 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 and avoid injuries. In the postseason, it’s the final game of the year and no lead is safe.

No coach wants to play super-conservative and be remembered as the guy who blew a 20-0 lead in the biggest game of his career. Since it’s the last game of the season, coaches often put in trick plays and new offensive wrinkles in an attempt to maximize scoring opportunities.

Despite the edge to the over since 1976, you can’t overlook the importance of defense. Heading into the conference championship games, the Steelers, Ravens and Eagles were 1, 2 and 3 in the NFL in total defense (Arizona was 19th). A year ago, the Patriots, Giants and Packers were in the Top 11 in total defense.

Last season the big story was the unbeaten record of the Patriots and their record-setting offense, but who came out ahead? The monster defense of the Giants kept the game close and was the main reason for their 17-14 upset. Six years ago 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, six of the last eight Super Bowl champs have had statistically better defenses than their offenses, including the 2005 Steelers (fourth in defense). Three of those champs, the 2002 Patriots, the ’03 Buccaneers and the ’08 Giants, were Super Bowl underdogs.

You’ll be able to find creative point spread props, too. Two years ago, the total number of field goals was 3½ over +135. The Colts and Bears combined for four field goals as the over just made it. Three years ago Seattle RB Shaun Alexander had these over/under props: Total yards 89½, carries 21½, and longest rush 19½. The final tallies: 95 yards, 20 carries, with the longest rush of 21 yards.

Four years ago the number of projected passing yards by QB Tom Brady was 237½. The under barely won with 236. Let’s give oddsmakers some credit for those numbers.

Key numbers will come into play, as well, as books are petrified of getting middled. Nine 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 was in 1979, forever known in Las Vegas as "Black Sunday." The Steelers opened a 2½-point favorite over the Cowboys, were bet up to 5, then back down to 4. Books everywhere were sick when the Steelers won, 35-31, landing on the dreaded ‘M’ word!