The big game is now just about here. Finally. We know who is playing. We have been hearing all the storylines until we are sick of them already, and we are only going to hear them more between now and kickoff. I don't know about you, but I am getting itchy for the game to start. So, ready to have your most successful year of Super Bowl handicapping yet? There is one thing you need to remember above anything else:
This is not just another game.
You can't just treat this like your standard mid-season affair or you are going to make mistakes in your handicapping and cost yourself money. It's as simple as that. So, what makes it different? Pretty much everything, but here are seven big factors to consider:
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The crowd: You would think that the crowd would be a big factor given the magnitude of the game. The truth, though, is that any impact it has isn't positive. Very few tickets are made available to fans, and those that are often are sold through brokers and are very expensive. A huge number of tickets are for sponsors and other corporate entities. The in-the-trenches fans aren't here in large numbers. As a result, despite a very full house, the crowd is much quieter than a typical game - often oddly so. For teams that have a very loud crowd at home - like the Seahawks the last two years - the absence of the intense energy can be a factor. Denver, for example, plays in front of a difference-making crowd.
The game that never ends: This game takes forever. Pre-game ceremonies are endless. Commercial breaks are long to pay for the massive rights fees that networks pay to broadcast the game. Halftime is longer than usual. It can be harder for teams and players to maintain any rhythm in the game and easier for them to get distracted or lose focus.
The halftime that really never ends: The spectacle of the halftime show is long, and then they have to get set up for it and clean up afterwards. The extended time off can be a positive or a negative for teams. On one hand, the extra time means players tighten up and start to feel their bumps and bruises. On the other hand, extra time means more time to gameplan and make adjustments. That can be a huge advantage for teams that excel at that - especially if the opponent isn't as strong at adjusting and improving.
Crushing pressure: Every kid who has ever picked up a football dreams of playing in this game. It's what it's all about. Media attention multiplies every year, and as such the players will be subjected to scrutiny and pressure like they have never seen before unless they have played in this game. There are teams and players that handle that pressure better than others, but there isn't a single player that won't be affected by the enormity of the game in some way. Things will be new for more Carolina players than Denver ones, but there are a lot of guys on both sides here for the first time.
Time to think: During the regular season there are few things tougher than figuring out how a team is going to look after their bye week. Before the Super Bowl is a bye week on steroids. They have time to prepare - or over-prepare. They spend a week at home thinking about what is to come then another week immersed in the circus that is Super Bowl week. It is inevitable that it will have an impact of some sort on teams - and it's all but impossible to accurately know what that impact will be.
The crazy public: Simply put, the more heavily the unsophisticated betting public bets on a game the crazier that game gets from a betting perspective. There is more money - by a very wide margin - bet on this game by the general public than there is on any other game of the year. Because the public action is so intense, smarter bettors need to be very aware of where the public action is most heavily tilted and what impact that has on how lines are set and how they move. You have to constantly watch the action, too. The public can often have a big early impact on the line, but the focus of their action can change if the line moves enough or if breaking news affects how a team is viewed.
Too many temptations: For bettors the Super Bowl is like Christmas, your birthday, and every long weekend of the year all packed into one afternoon. There are an almost countless number of different betting options - sides and totals but also a massive range of prop bets from the value-packed to the ridiculous. If a bettor isn't disciplined and intensely focused on value then it can be easy to bet - and lose - far too much of their bankroll on what, in many ways, is the toughest game of the year to handicap.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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