It has been estimated that half of American adults will have some form of gambling action on the Super Bowl, be it squares in an office pool, a legal bet made at a Las Vegas sports book or most likely an illegal bet made with an offshore sports book … or the guy down the block sitting outside the barber shop.
There are no official numbers on something like this, but it’s safe to say that most Americans want some form of action on the game. If to you that means an office pool or betting on the coin flip, then please stop reading this column. But if you’re one of the many who want to read one man’s opinion of the point spread and total, then please read on.
This year’s Super Bowl line has the New England Patriots a three-point favorite over the New York Giants with an over/under of 54 points for the total.
Personally, the Super Bowl is the last in a long string of bets I will make during a football season. Despite all the hype, I see it as just another wager. And in some years, I don’t see it as a wager at all. I’m a hardened football bettor. I’m just as excited to cash a ticket on UNLV-Air Force when nobody’s watching as I am the Super Bowl. Fortunately for you, I just so happen to have an opinion on this year’s game that’s worth backing with my own money.
That doesn’t mean you should follow suit. You should use my thoughts and the thoughts of many others to help form your own opinion. I don’t partake in the enjoyment of your winnings, nor do I feel the pain of your losses. So, do your own due diligence.
Last season, this newspaper asked me to write a Super Bowl prediction column with a gambling focus. I obliged, and laid out the reasons why, despite the strange line, I liked the Green Bay Packers to cover the number against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This season, today’s Super Bowl prediction column marks the launch of a new directive by this newspaper to cover the gambling aspect of sports, horse racing and poker.
What better way to start than the Super Bowl?
What will have me involved in this game is the fact that perception does not match reality when it comes to the point spread. When posting a betting line, a sports book must consider which way the public will bet. It must also hang a number that will attract equal action on both sides so that the house can simply hang on to the “juice”, or 10 percent tax it puts on all losing wager, thus ensuring a nice profit.
The problem with this year’s point spread is that it’s flat wrong. It’s a very dangerous thing to often make such assertions about the numbers the expert odds makers set on a game. If you constantly think they are wrong, it will be you that’s cleaned out. But sometimes they are forced to make lines that don’t necessarily reflect the true difference in the two teams, but rather the difference in perception.
The Super Bowl is a game for the masses. Vegas will see many tourists hit town this weekend ready to plunk down cash on the big game just to be a part of the party. Most of these people are not week-to-week bettors. Most of these people couldn’t name any players in the game beside Tom Brady and Eli Manning. Oh, some might have seen that cute salsa-dancing receiver from the Giants … Victor Somethingorother. But that’s the extent of their knowledge.
That’s where we step in. The books have to make the Patriots a three-point simply due to the presence of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The Patriots’ recent history as one of the NFL’s winningest franchises ever since the “Tuck Rule Game” win over the Raiders in 2002 DOES factor in this line because, right or wrong, it’s part of pubic perception.
The reality of the Patriots, however, is that this has been a team in decline ever since the franchise peaked in 2007 when an undefeated regular season ended in defeat to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
In no year more than this one was the evidence of the Patriots’ decline, especially on defense, so vividly apparent. The Pats own the league’s worst defense. The Pats are a team that’s been out-gained on the season by over 2,000 yards. The Pats are a team that entered the postseason having played just three playoff teams during the regular season and went 1-2 in those games.
The Giants are quite the opposite. New York hails from the much stronger NFC and the wins the Giants have been piling up over the past month is nothing short of spectacular, and it’s eerily similar to what the Packers did last season.
Since Jan. 1, the Giants have beaten Dallas (a near-playoff team), Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco by a combined score of 112-53! It does not get anymore impressive than that.
Meanwhile, the Patriots’ playoff road has been a home win over a Denver Broncos team that left its best game in Mile-High Stadium after upsetting the Steelers in the wildcard round, and a win over the Ravens that almost wasn’t if receiver Lee Evans holds onto the ball a second longer.
Not only have the Giants been the hotter team with the better defense, they also beat the Patriots in New England back on Nov. 8. And in that game, the Giants were nowhere close to as healthy as they are now. Not to mention, receiver Victor Cruz had not emerged as the offensive threat he is now.
And now you have the Patriots possibly without top tight end Rob Gronkowski, who if he does play will be far from full strength.
So, again, why exactly are the Patriots favored? Brady and Belichick and the memory of seasons past. That’s your answer. Obviously, both coach and QB could be enough for the Pats to win the game, cover the small point spread and nobody would be surprised. But a bet on the Giants gets you the hotter team with a better resume, an equally hot quarterback as Brady, the better defense and, oh yeah, an entire field goal in your pocket before the game even starts.
As for the over/under. The natural inclination would be to go “under” such a lofty number. But this is the new era NFL and we’re not about to stand in the way of a rules system that makes quarterbacks un-hittable and receivers untouchable. Pass on the total and make the rooting quite simply a Giants win.
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