Season Record ATS (Overall): 7-5 (58% win percentage)
Season Record ATS (Units): 16-7.5 (68% win percentage)
Season Record – Best Bets: 4-1 (80% win percentage)
I can’t lie – throughout the entire playoffs, I’ve been waiting for this moment. Patriots vs. NFC. Super Bowl. I hammer a bet on Philly +7.5. Tom Brady finally gets exposed after feasting on AFC South competition leading up to the Big Game, and we all cash in on the Super Bowl, as the public falls victim to its love affair with New England. Prior to last week, the plan was running to perfection. The Pats were coming off a 35-14 drubbing of Tennessee, and the Eagles offense looked anemic in its 15-10 win over Atlanta.
Fast forward one week later, and everyone can agree that the landscape has changed quite a bit. The Patriots offense was exposed against Jacksonville, needing a monster comeback (with some questionable refereeing on its side) to advance to the Bowl. Conversely, the Eagles offense reached a level no one could have predicted, to the tune of 350+ yards and 3 TDs from the often-criticized Nick Foles. Ahh, what a difference one week can make.
However, if there’s one so-called “rule” of sports gambling I’d like to pass along, it’s this: do not overreact to one game. The Eagles are not as great as they looked last week, and the Patriots aren’t as bad as they looked in its first 28 minutes against Jacksonville. Additionally, Nick Foles didn’t rise from the 45th best quarterback many believed he was prior to the game against Minnesota to a borderline top-10 guy. Essentially, while I was waiting for the entire playoffs to fade Brady and the Pats once they faced a real team in the Super Bowl, I did not envision the scenario playing out like this. The reason I loved the idea of betting against New England wasn’t that I thought New England was incapable of winning the Super Bowl. In fact, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Moreover, I felt that a disrespected Eagles team (assuming it came into the Bowl with a defensive-showdown-type-of win against Minnesota, which everyone thought was their only chance to win), would present significant spread value vs. a Patriots team many thought would roll over Jacksonville. I can assure you that if each of those events occurred, we would be staring that 7.5-point imaginary spread right in the face, thrilled to take advantage of recreational bettors’ recency bias towards New England.
Moving towards this week’s handicap, though, there’s something I’d like to point out: it is no coincidence that teams who put up 40+ points in a playoff win are less than 25% against the spread in their next game. (Note: The Eagles scored 38, but the same effect holds true). Not only are teams in these scenarios riding an emotional high and not paying attention to detail in practice as much to fix mistakes, but they also often become overvalued by the public, who loves what they saw last. Thus, since the Patriots struggled in their last one, and the Eagles crushed in theirs, many bettors feel Philadelphia is primed to repeat last week’s performance.
Not surprisingly, as we stand going into the Super Bowl, Bill Belichick’s team is a mere 4.5 point favorite, a full 3 points less than the projected line said the Super Bowl between these teams would have been prior to the Conference Championship games kicking off.
That is why I must make a 180-degree turn, and steer towards the New England Patriots in this one.
With that being said, this blog won’t only be about New England. I’ve sat in the lab all week coming up with 5 winners for you guys, including some props. Given that this is the Super Bowl, and many of you will be betting your first and only game of the year, it’s time to make it count! Here are the picks:
Best Bet (3.5 units to win 2 units):
New England (MONEY LINE) over Philadelphia (-180)
I mentioned I did my research, right? Well, get this: in a typical regular season game, a favorite of 4.5 points would be about -230 to take straight-up on the money line. However, in a game bet as heavily as the Super Bowl, the money line on the favorite often jumps downward. In this case, we have the Patriots at a bargain-bin low price of -180. The rationale is simple: in big sporting events, the percentage of money wagered is significantly more disproportionate towards recreational bettors vs. an ordinary game dominated by professionals, and recreational bettors who like the Eagles often won’t take the Eagles plus the points, because what’s the fun in that? Instead, they’ll take the money line on the Eagles to win the game straight up, where they’ll be able to receive a larger payout if the bet comes through. This phenomenon happens all the time in huge games like these, and professional bettors around the world lick their chops at the opportunity to back the favorite side in most cases.
Given the reduced rake on the money line, coupled with my feelings on the Patriots mentioned above, we will be taking this bet over swallowing 4.5 points with the Pats. In conjunction with the once-in-a-blue-moon type of deal the money line offers, one major trend makes me far more comfortable taking the money line over the spread here. In the Patriots 7 Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era, the team’s games have been decided by the following point totals: 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, and 6 points (in OT). Thus, while the Pats are 5-2 straight up in the Big Game, the team has not yet led by more than 4.5 points (the spread on this year’s Super Bowl) at the end of regulation in ANY Super Bowl in this era.
Two more quick points trending our way:
- The Eagles no longer have home-field advantage, and if there was ever a team who needed that to advance to the Super Bowl, this was the one. The dog masks, the sloppy field conditions, and the amazing Philly fans all played quite the role in bringing this team to the big game. With the bright lights on in a new city, I don’t expect them to come out as comfortable and free-spirited.
- The Patriots experience factor cannot be understated. The Super Bowl is an event unlike any other, and having a coach-QB combo who have been there together 7 times prior is huge.
The Patriots only have to win 64% of the time for this bet to be profitable, and I like those odds. Give me the Patriots to win straight up.
Other Bets I’ll Dabble With:
Alas, we have the ol’ props section. I’ve scoured the market, and narrowed it down to 4 extremely advantageous goodies for everyone to cash in:
Prop #1: Will a Team Score 3 Unanswered Times? – “YES” (-170) – (2.5 units to win 1.5 units):
I’ve mentioned this in prior columns, and I’ll mention it again: if you’re against Vegas, and something seems too obvious, you’re likely missing something. 94% of bets in this one are on the “NO”, and it’s easy to see why. Casual bettors would look at this prop and think: “wow, these are two even teams and scoring 3 times in a row is hard. I can bet no on this prop AND get more than double my money on the payout!” However, when you dig more into the details, it’s pretty clear why this is one of the most consistent pro-bettor favorites (shoutout to that 6%) in the Super Bowl.
In a typical regular season game, this prop would stand at about -230, because believe it or not, most games end with one of the teams scoring 3 straight times. Just look at last year’s Super Bowl, where BOTH the Patriots and Falcons scored 3 unanswered times. Given the uncertainty around Nick Foles, I think this game is even more likely than an average one to have 3 straight scores, making this my favorite prop of the game. Don’t be afraid to lay the juice. Take the “Yes”.
Correlated Bets I Wouldn’t Mind: Will a Team Score 4 Unanswered Times? – “YES” (+250)
Prop #2: Patriots Alternate Spread (-10.5) + 220 – (2 units to win 4.5 units):
Though the Pats have won a lot of close Super Bowls as I mentioned above, there are a lot of signs pointing to an Eagles meltdown this time around. For one, let’s bring up that stat again about teams who score 40+ in a playoff game (under 25% ATS in their next game in the last 25 instances). While Philadelphia put up 38, I think the same trend applies.
Furthermore, while I’ve gone into why I’m taking Patriots money line over the spread, I’d like to explain why we love this alternate spread as well. It’s easy to picture the Patriots winning a close one if Foles plays well, but let’s put the percentage that he is a total abomination at 20%. In this case, the Patriots almost always cover the spread of 4.5, but also nearly always cover this alternate spread of 10.5. If we take the alternate spread instead, we get a payout of $220 in profits for every $100 we risk, whereas we would get $90 in profit for every $100 risked on a 4.5-point spread. Thus, if I’m going to lay points with New England, I’d like to get some sort of extra reward for it. Additionally, looking purely at the math, if the line at a 4.5-point spread is -110, and the line at a -10.5-point spread is +220, the line is implicitly saying two things:
- The Patriots win by 4.5 points half the time
- The Patriots win by 10.5 points 30% of the time
Based on this math, Vegas theoretically thinks New England would cover this alternate spread in 60% of the instances in which it covers the 4.5-point standard spread. Given our doubt with Nick Foles (he has been super hot and cold), the letdown potential of the Eagles, and the factor of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady with 2 weeks to prepare, I’d venture to say the likelihood is a lot higher than 60%.
Correlated Bets I Wouldn’t Mind: New England -14.5 + 350; New England -17.5 +450; New England – 21.5 +600
Prop #3: LaGarrette Blount Under 29.5 rushing yards (1.5 units to win 1.5 units):
How much money would you risk on a stock you knew had a 70+% chance to increase in value? Wait, let me rephrase that: how much money would you risk if you knew the line on LaGarrette Blount’s rushing yards in the Super Bowl was about 8 yards too high?
Since Jay Ajayi fully immersed himself into the offense in Week 13, the Eagles have played in 7 games. Blount hasn’t yet eclipsed 9 carries and has had under 29.5 yards in 6 of 7 tries in that span. The market clearly hasn’t caught up to this, so take your 70% edge here and pound the Blount under.
Correlated Bets I Wouldn’t Mind: Blount under 8 carries
Prop #4: Philadelphia Eagles under 10.5 points in the First Half (1.5 units to win 1.5 units):
We’ve covered Nick Foles at length so far, but this bet goes beyond our belief that he could fall back to Earth in the Big Game. Everybody and their mother has heard the stat that New England hasn’t scored a point in the first quarter of any of its 7 Super Bowls, but what hasn’t been given as much exposure is the fact that Belichick and Co. have only given up 2.1 points per game in the first quarter of these games. Given New England’s propensity to come out conservatively, coupled with the fact that unders in the first half of Super Bowls are 14-5-1 in the last 20, we love the Eagles first half under here.
Correlated Bets I Wouldn’t Mind: First Half Total under 24; First Quarter Under 9.5; Third Quarter to be Higher Scoring than First Quarter (-135); Eagles under 21.5 for the game
And there we have it – a full playoffs in the books for my column (plus two weeks at the end of the regular season). I hope everyone has enjoyed reading as much as I have writing. We’ll certainly be back next season for some NFL, but in the meantime, be on the lookout for some NBA and March Madness material coming your way! Additionally, follow me on Twitter (@zachzaffos), where I’ll be posting any in-game betting I like during the Bowl.
“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” (The Color of Money). Good luck this weekend and may the picks be with us.