Super Bowl Showdown
For millions of Americans who wager on the biggest football game of the year, placing bets is easier than ever. It's betting correctly that's the hard part. Our strategy puts the odds in your favor
From the Print Edition:
David Caruso, Jan/Feb 2007
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In the Super Bowl, the spread is practically a nonfactor. Only five times has the winner of the game failed to beat the spread. That's a record of 32-5-3, or an 86.5 winning percentage. Compare that to 58 percent, which is considered excellent for point-spread handicappers. So forget the point spread and bet who you think will win.
Rule #2 Total points wagering (the combined score of both teams) has become a very popular Super Bowl wager. I suggest that when offensively powerful teams are meeting, bet the under. My reasoning is simple and accurate.
Offensive juggernauts tend to play conservatively early in the game, with the idea being they can score whenever they want. Also factor in that many teams are tight in the first half and often score only after they have felt the other team out. Take the last two Super Bowls, for example. In Super Bowl XXXIX, the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles were both considered offensive stalwarts. The over/under was 47.5 points, but the teams only combined for 45. In Super Bowl XL, Pittsburgh and Seattle scored 31 total points, way off the 47-point over/under.
Conversely, if two defensively dominated teams square off, bet the over. When you have defensive giants meeting, the offenses tend to open up. They figure that any scoring—be it field goals or touchdowns—will help their defense win the game and they are not as apt to fear making mistakes. This works both ways in covering the over. It's hard to stop a Super Bowl team that opens up its offense, which potentially means more scoring. It also can mean more turnovers, which again could mean more scoring. A good example is Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. The Patriots and the Carolina Panthers were thought to have the two best defenses in the league and the over/under was set at 38 points. The teams combined for 61 points, 37 in the fourth quarter alone.
Rule #3 Stay away from proposition bets such as who will win the coin toss, which team or player will score first, and if the first touchdown will be a pass, run or interception. These are sucker bets for neophytes and people lose money on them in every Super Bowl. The one proposition bet that the public won money on was in Super Bowl XX between the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots. The opening odds for William "The Refrigerator" Perry to score a touchdown were 12:1. By kickoff they were 2:1 as everybody and his uncle bet on him to score, which he did. Overall, however, the public lost money on proposition bets on the 1986 Super Bowl, and they will lose money on this year's Super Bowl too.
Rule #4 At halftime, the nation's bookmakers post a new point spread for the second-half action. To come out on top here, bet the team that you think will beat the original Super Bowl line, as the team that has beaten the game's opening point spread has also beaten the halftime spread in 12 of the last 13 Super Bowls. Of course, time is tight, so have your cell phone or computer ready if you want to place a halftime wager.
Danny Sheridan is a sports analyst for USA Today for which he provides the daily odds on all sporting events.
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