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Not enough Superlatives for being in Vegas

Jan 20, 2003 5:04 AM

Let¡¦s face it: There¡¦s no better place to be than in Las Vegas during Super Bowl week.

Radio shows are discussing what might happen, while newspapers and Internet articles offer thousands of different perspectives on the Big Game. Meanwhile, sports books all over town offer legal wagering on the game ¡X from sides and totals to dozens of different proposition bets.

One of the more unusual props from last year¡¦s Super Bowl was, "What will there be more of: Kurt Warner incomplete passes, or total goals scored in the NHL All-Star game?" It is an atmosphere unlike any other in the world attracting thousands of tourists and endless excitement.

As the Super Bowl approaches, it¡¦s interesting to take a look back at what the odds were on the teams that made it to the conference championship games before the season started. Philadelphia was 9-1 to win the Super Bowl, the Raiders were 10-1, the Buccaneers were 18-1, while the Titans were 25-1.

These odds fluctuate as money comes in, of course, but what¡¦s important to remember is that for future bets, the smart sports bettor will take a stab with a longshot, rather than the heavy favorites. For example, the Rams were 2-1 to win the Super Bowl, offering no value at all. Injuries and a tough schedule caused them to not even making the playoffs.

But bettors who took a chance with Tennessee, Oakland, Philly and Tampa Bay had several profitable options a week ago. Those bettors didn¡¦t have to sit back and hope their longshot kept winning, either, as you can "hedge" in an attempt to guarantee yourself a chance at some kind of profit.

Also, look at some other playoff teams and their odds back in August to win the Super Bowl: The Jets were 30-1, while the Falcons and Giants were 40-1. If a smart bettor had $200 on the Falcons to win $8,000, for example, that provides a wide range of cash to bet against the Falcons in the playoffs, guaranteeing the bettor a profit. On top of that, it¡¦s not unusual to see longshots winning or getting to the Super Bowl. The Patriots were a 55-1 shot last season, the Ravens were 50-1 two years ago and the Rams were 200-1 three seasons ago. All won the Super Bowl.

In the past 10 Super Bowls, the winning teams have scored at least 30 points in eight of those games. This has created an excess of OVERs, although two of the last three Super Bowls have gone UNDER the total. Last year¡¦s game went UNDER, as the Patriots won 20-17. Three years ago, the Rams/Titans game went UNDER. Two years ago, the Ravens/Giants game looked like an UNDER with the Ravens leading 10-0 at the half. But a slew of defensive/special teams touchdowns in the third quarter pushed it OVER.

When it comes to predicting the Super Bowl outcome, the old adage consists of three key factors: defense, turnovers and rushing yards. Turnovers are impossible to predict, while examining team defense and rushing statistics against common opponents and playoff teams can help identify which team might have an edge.

But one note of caution: In the last four Super Bowls, the team that had the most rushing yards is only 2-2 in the Big Game.

The favorite is 19-13 against the spread in the Super Bowl, with two pushes and one game that was pick¡¦em (the 1982 49ers/Bengals game). Over the last six Super Bowls, however, the favorite is just 2-2-2 ATS. Those two dogs (Denver in 1998, New England in 2002) won outright as double-digit underdogs.

Since 1985, 11 of 18 Super Bowls have gone OVER the total.

If you¡¦re not sure which side to take on the Big Game, make sure you look around and examine the prop bets carefully.

Those seeking a head start can bet on next year¡¦s NFL Championship even before this year¡¦s 2003 Super Bowl is played! The Cards, Lions and Bengals are currently 200-to-1 to win the 2004 Super Bowl.

Enjoy the game!