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Super Bowl Countdown
by Jim Feist - 01/21/2013
In the world of eleven to ten, there's nothing quite like Super Bowl week. In this case, it's two weeks, as 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 by each team, who will score first, or how many yards a player has. A year 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).
Two 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). Three years ago, Pierre Garcon scored the first TD at 10-to-1 odds. Four 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.
Six 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. 14 seconds in cashing a 25-to-1 ticket is the best way to watch a Super Bowl!
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 47 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 LeBron James might have as the Raptors/Heat 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 21 "overs" and 16 "unders."
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, for example, 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" the last thirty years, as far as reaching the big game, you can't overlook the importance of defense. The Saints and Packers didn’t win a playoff game last season despite all those flashy offensive numbers, while the defensive-oriented Giants, 49ers and Ravens made it to the Final Four.
In fact, in the Conference Championship games two years ago all four teams in the Top 10 in yards and points allowed met. Remember four years ago in the conference championship games, the Steelers, Ravens and Eagles were 1, 2 and 3 in the NFL in total defense.
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 in their 17-14 and 21-17 victories. Who can forget a decade ago when 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, seven of the last 12 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. Six 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. Seven 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. Eight 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. 13 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!