In the world of 11 to 10, there’s nothing quite like Super Bowl week. In this case, the teams have two weeks 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 still ample opportunities for betting with hundreds of creative props by various oddsmakers.
For example, you can bet on the exact score of the game, who will score first, or how many yards a player has. A year ago the largest lead was projected at over/under 14 (The Ravens led 21-6 at the half and 28-6 when Jacoby Jones returned the third quarter kickoff 108 yards).
RB Ray Rice’s receptions was 3½ – he ended up with four catches for 19 yards. Passing yards by Joe Flacco was set at 247½ (he threw for 287). Two years ago QB Tom Brady was projected over/under 300 yards and 2.5 TDs (he finished with 276 yards, 2 TDs, going UNDER for both).
Three years ago, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers’ TD passes was over/under 2 (he threw 3 against Pittsburgh). His first pass to be incomplete was +210 (it was). Four years ago, Pierre Garcon scored the first TD at 10-to-1 odds. Five years ago, RB Gary Russell was 18-to-1 to score the first TD in the Super Bowl and did on a one-yard run. He finished with minus-three yards rushing but cashed that exclusive prop.
Seven 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-to-1 prop ticket after he returned the opening kickoff 92 yards.
You can wager that no TDs will be scored by either team, often at 50-to-1. Of course, that has never happened as we head to Super Bowl XLVIII 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. 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 Jeff Green might have as the Celtics/Magic 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. Since Super Bowl X in 1976 between the Steelers and Cowboys, there have been 22 overs and 16 unders.
Why so many overs? One factor is 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 excessive overs you can’t overlook the importance of defense. The Patriots got taken down against the defensive-oriented Ravens a year ago, while the 49ers were a powerhouse defensive team. Two years ago the Saints and Packers didn’t win a playoff game despite all those flashy offensive numbers, while the defensive-oriented Giants, 49ers and Ravens made it to the Final Four.
In 2008 and 2012 the big story was the flashy offense of the Patriots as a favorite each time, but who came out ahead? The great defense of the Giants kept the game close and was the main reason for their 17-14 and 21-17 victories.
In fact, seven of the last 13 Super Bowl champs have had statistically better defenses than their offenses, including the 2005 Steelers (4th in defense) and 2008 Steelers (No. 1). Three of those champs, the 2001 Patriots, the ‘02 Buccaneers and the ‘07 Giants, were Super Bowl underdogs.
You’ll be able to find creative point spread props, too. Seven years ago, the total number of field goals was 3½ over +135. The Colts and Bears combined for 4 field goals as the over just made it.
Eight 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. Nine years ago the number of passing yards by QB Tom Brady: 237½. The under ended up being the winner, but not by much: Brady finished with 236 passing yards.
Key numbers will come into play, as well, as books are petrified of getting middled. 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!
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]