Tips for betting Super Bowl proposition bets with a few suggested plays
The first Super Bowl prop was offered in Las Vegas in 1986 when Art Manteris decided to put up an offer at Caesars Palace for Super Bowl XX on whether William "Refrigerator" Perry would score a touchdown for the Chicago Bears. Manteris offered 20/1 odds and everyone and his dog bet on it. In fact, by the time the game kicked off the prop was down to 2/1 odds. Bettors were elated when Perry scored on a 1 yard plunge in the 3rd quarter and Manteris estimated that the book lost around $200,000. He expected to be fired or at least reamed out for making the offer but was surprised when head honchos at Caesars called to congratulate him for all the publicity the bet offer provided the company. Manteris said that the book got killed but he started something and in the end Caesars, along with other books, were way ahead because of Super Bowl props. Following that first offer, player props became more popular and then other sports books including most notably the Imperial Palace, Mirage and Las Vegas Hilton offered more unique props. Today bettors can literally wager on hundreds of different props both in Las Vegas and at online sportsbooks. Some props are common everywhere but certain offshore wagering sites like The Greek and 5Dimes, along with Westgate in Las Vegas pride themselves on having unique props that one can only bet there.
Props can be broken into 5 different categories – player props, team props, general props, cross sports props and novelty props.
Player props generally include wagering on a player's performance. E.g. What will be the over/under number of completions by Matt Ryan? What will be the over/under for number of receiving yards by Julian Edelman? How many field goals will Matt Bryant kick, etc.? Along with individual performance props some other popular wagers on which player will score the first touchdown and will a player score a touchdown during the game? These are the most popular props and generally represent the best value.
Team props include wagering on team performances. For example, which team will get the first, first down? Which team will get the first touchdown? Which team will have the most penalty yards? Team props generally compare the two teams playing, although on occasion there could be team props that are geared to one team or the other on their own. These props are also common but as a rule require more guess work than player props, which involve more extensive analysis.
General props are just that. They aren't team or player related but just general to the game themselves. For example, will there be a score in the first 4 minutes of the game? Will the shortest touchdown be over or under 1.5 yards? Will the first score be a touchdown, field goal or safety? Will there be a safety in the game? Will the coin flip be heads or tails? Will the longest field goal be over or under 47.5 yards, etc. Some of these props are pure guesswork, but others can be profitable . . . if history and analysis is done properly. The best thing about general props is that many are decided within the first few minutes of the game, so one doesn't have to sit through a whole game to collect.
Cross sports props try and compare different sports played that day to the Super Bowl. They are intriguing and can be profitable, plus they provide a reason to watch other sports prior to the big one. Examples of this are what will be more, Lebron James points against the Knicks or pass completions by Matt Ryan? What will be more, Calgary goals against the NY Rangers or turnovers by the Atlanta Falcons? What will be higher Phil Mickelson's 4th round score in the Waste Management Phoenix Open or total points in the Super Bowl (+15)?
Novelty props really aren't game related, but aim to provide some sort of fun in wagering and they also are used to help promote the sportsbook offering them. Some examples are what hair color will Lady Gaga have? What color liquid (Gatorade) will be dumped on the coach's head? What will be the length of Luke Bryan's singing of the National Anthem? How many times will Trump be mentioned in the official telecast of the game? Which of the following will the Super Bowl MVP mention first in his speech - God, teammates, coach, family, owner, Donald Trump, none of the above.
Novelty bets may be fun, but represent no value. They are pure guesswork and unless someone has inside knowledge they aren't worth wagering on. After all, why give juice on a bet that is a 50/50 proposition?
That said sometimes a person does have inside knowledge and can take advantage. As an example, a colleague of mine who lived in Las Vegas prior to passing away was employed by an online newspaper and covered the Super Bowl in the late 1990s. He interviewed the coaches prior to the game and in passing asked whether they planned to receive the ball first or defer. One coach told him they planned to receive while the other said they would defer. This interview was conducted almost 2 decades back and one of the props in Las Vegas and offshore was which team would receive first? My colleague decided to use this inside knowledge to his advantage and placed a bet on the team he knew would get the ball first everywhere he could. He also had family members and friends set up offshore accounts and by the time was all said and done he told me he made almost $25,000 (more than half his annual salary) with a ton of $100 to $250 wagers. The books seemed to realize there error the next year however and changed the prop to "which team will win the coin toss?" or "will the coin toss be heads or tails?" The ability to get inside knowledge is rare so it is best laying off novelty props, but if one is told by game staff that only orange Gatorade is being provided during the game then obviously, it's worth taking advantage. Be careful however, as sportsbooks can and will cancel wagers if they have proof you have information ahead of time and many will also blacklist a bettor that uses inside information.
With an understanding of the different prop offers the next question is what are the best strategies to win? I don't have that answer and different websites will try and provide reasoning as to which props you should bet and why, but it's also worth noting that the books always win in the long run. Just because something looks on paper like it should happen doesn't mean it will happen. Still there are some wagers that appear worthwhile, so I'll highlight a few for each prop type bet, excluding novelty bets.
The following are 4 general props that seem to have good value:
The shortest TD under 1.5 yards:
As a rule, this bet usually is usually a pick 'em but this year the YES is favored and for good reason. With the total at 59 points the expectation is that around 7-8 touchdowns will be scored in the game. History shows that just over 15% of touchdowns are from less than 2 yards and that number has increased a little of late since pass interference penalties in the end zone have gone up and more importantly touchdowns being overturned because instant replay showed a player's knee down at the 1 yard line seem to occur frequently. Nevertheless, using the 15% rule then about 1 in 6 touchdowns will be from the 1 yard line. If you believe there will be 7 or more touchdowns, then clearly one of them should be from the 1 yard line. Add to this the fact that LeGarrette Blount holds the NFL record for most touchdowns from 1 yard at 18 and the fact that neither team has the defense to stop a big running back from marching in from 1 yard, this wager seems like a steal. According to sources, wiseguys were all over this prop as soon as it was posted.
The longest field goal under 46 yards:
There's no question that both Stephen Gostkowski and Matt Bryant can kick the long field goal but the question is whether they'll be given the opportunity. If analysts are right and this game is exceptionally high scoring, then chances are both teams will march down the field and either score touchdowns or punt. The thinking must be that field goals will not help win the game so on a 4th and 1 or 4th and 2 at the 38-yard line it's more likely that coaches will go for the first down. In fact, one wiseguy told me that he doesn't expect to see more than 3 field goal attempts in the whole game. This prop opened as a pick 'em, but the under has been bet heavily driving it down to -130 ay many of the top online sportsbooks.
No safety to be recorded in the game:
This prop has killed sportsbooks over the year. The odds are usually about 8/1 in favor of a safety not being made but there were 3 years in a row where a safety was made and 2 of those years the safety was the first score, offered in Vegas at 60/1 and 100/1 respectively. Needless to say, the books got slaughtered as the casual bettors took a shot hoping to win a lot for a small layout. That said, it is unlikely that a safety will occur in this game. Both Ryan and Brady have the smarts to avoid the sack when pinned in the end zone and neither defense is good enough to stop the big backs from getting yards when pinned deep. The YES is only a good bet when at least one team is a defensive powerhouse or there is a QB that holds the ball for too long in precarious situations. The odds for no safety is available generally at around 1/8 odds and a safety occurring is offered at about 5/1.
Less than 1.5 fumbles in the game:
The Atlanta Falcons miraculously have fumbled the ball only 8 times all year while the Patriots have fumbled it over 20 times. Both teams are disciplined with running backs that can hold onto the ball, but more importantly rushing will probably be at a premium with well over ¾ of the plays being passes. As well, neither team has proven to be all that successful at fumble recoveries. It's possible we'll see 1 fumble but 2 is unlikely. The odds on under 1.5 fumbles is 4-7 odds but even at those odds it seems like a good bet.
The following team prop represents good value:
New England to have the first coach's challenge in the game?
This bet is a pick 'em but New England appears to be a good bet. Bill Belichik has shown over and over that he loves to throw the red flag. If he thinks the call was wrong, he'll throw the challenge flag even if it's only for a few yards on his side of the field. Dan Quinn on the other hand, is more reserved and generally is more selective on when he challenges a play. At 10/11 odds I'll take a shot that Belichik will toss the red flag early.
The following cross sports props represent good value:
Total Falcon's points over Demar Derozan points?
DeMar DeRozan is injured but is expected to return on Sunday. When he came back from injury most recently he had limited time and scored 13 points. More than likely if Derozan plays on Sunday it will be more of the same. The over/under for Atlanta points is 27 and it's hard to see DeRozan scoring anything close to that number. Atlanta total points at 5/7 odds is a great bet.
More sacks by the Falcons than points by Alexander Ovechkin?
The Washington Capitals play the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, a team which has been one of the stingiest teams for allowing goals all year. Moreover, Ovechkin has not had his best year. Ovechkin could go on a tear but more than likely he'll be lucky to get 1 or 2 points in that game. Atlanta, on the other hand, should be able to get at least a couple of sacks on Brady and with the number of pass attempts Brady is expected to make the number should be higher. The Falcons at 4/7 odds are a great bet.
Player props are more complicated and require more detailed analysis before betting, but they also represent the best value. Along with individual performance bettors need to look at the defense and determine which defensive backs will be matched up against who and which players will be double teamed. As well will it's important to determine if the defense be playing more nickel spreads or man to man? The answer is not that obvious but here are what appear at first to be good bet opportunities:
Number of receptions by Julian Edelman- over 7.5
Since Rob Gronkowski got injured Julian Edelman has been the go to guy. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh last week they concentrated so much on Edelman that they left Chris Hogan with a lesser corner back and Brady and Hogan picked that defensive back apart. This week it is expected that Jalen Collins will be teamed against Hogan, while Edelman will see Robert Alford. The Falcons will be guarding against the deep ball, which should allow Edelman to get open for several shorter receptions. It's hard not to see Edelman getting double digit receptions.
Total rushing yards by LeGarrette Blount under 60.5
Blount will get a few carries to keep the Atlanta secondary honest but Blount will likely see the ball sparingly as most plays will be passes. Moreover, it is expected that James White will get quite a few carries in the game. Unless Blount blows a few runs wide open it's hard to see him surpassing that number.
Total rushing yards by Devonta Freeman under 56.5
For the exact same reason as Blount, Freeman will likely see very few carries and he isn't the type to break free for a 30-yard run. It's hard seeing him getting more than 50 yards.
The list of player props goes on but the key to winning any prop bets is to do your homework and determine where the value lies. Keep a lookout for any breaking news and be prepared to jump on props if a defensive change is made that provides value to one of the player props. By last count Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas had over 400 props and it could be over 500 by game day. Props are fun, but like picking the game itself to win, one requires extensive research, analysis and finding the best odds. Most importantly it's important not to throw out money on props like the coin flip being heads or tails. It's a 50-50 proposition so why would anyone take 10/11 odds?