2015 Super Bowl Betting: Public Bias Can Move Point Spread
by Trevor Whenham - 1/22/2015
When you are betting any reasonably high-profile game you need to be very aware of what biases and tendencies the general public is likely to have so that you can understand what impact that could have on how the lines are set and how they move. For a game as high-profile as the Super Bowl, though - and especially with two popular, strong teams like this - you have to be particularly concerned about what the public could be thinking and what it could mean for your search for value.
Unfortunately, the public biases at play here are particularly tough to decode. This is already a very complicated game to look at, and we are only a few days into the two-week lead up. Early on the betting action has been heavily tilted towards the Patriots. It could stay that way, but there are a number of reasons to believe that it may not.
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Here's a look at four factors to keep an eye on leading to this game because they could have a big public impact on the line:
Deflate-gate: The only story that people are talking about right now is whether the Patriots intentionally deflated the balls they used on offense during the AFC Championship Game - and perhaps the prior game, too - in order to give Tom Brady and the rest of the offense an unfair advantage. Personally, I find it really hard to care. Maybe they did cheat, maybe they didn't. I don't know, and it's more than possible that we will never know decisively. Given that the NFL is in charge of the investigation it's hard to feel too confident that they will get to the bottom of it. From a betting perspective, though, it is totally irrelevant. The league is almost certainly not going to impose a penalty that has a direct effect on the Super Bowl itself - a suspension, for example. All it is in the short term, then, is a distraction. There is no team in the league, and probably the world, better suited to deal with a major distraction than one led by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Those two couldn't care less what others think and are not going to let anything get in the way of being ready. It's irrelevant. Based on how the media, and the public judging by comments on online articles, are responding, though, you would think that no team has ever done anything so vile and inexcusable as what the Patriots have done. They are already a team that many love to hate, and this situation - albeit fueled far more by speculation and supposition than actual fact - is driving some real negativity in the direction of the Patriots. It is very possible that, if this story continues to grow and evolve, and especially if a smoking gun is uncovered, it will have a significant effect on the direction the public throws their cash in this one. It is well worth keeping an eye on - not that you can avoid that at the moment.
Seattle's defense: When you talk about the Seahawks you think about one thing above all others - their defense. It's what defines them. For large stretches of the NFC Championship game, though, that defense struggled. They didn't completely implode, but they weren't impenetrable like they have been - or at least not like the casual public fan expects them to be. Add to that the fact that both Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, arguably the two most public figures in the defense, have health concerns that could pose a problem as the game nears, and you have a reason for the public to panic. Given that the team went from three-point favorites before the AFC Championship started to one-point underdogs after you can already see that the public's faith in the Seattle defense has been somewhat shaken.
New England's offense: Right now people are in awe of the New England offense. They should be - it was an impressive performance. The further away from the domination of the Colts that people get, though, the more they are going to notice that the team was helped by a deeply flawed and tragically underperforming Colts' defense. They'll also notice that, despite allegedly using under-inflated balls, Brady only had a so-so passing day against that weaker defense. The aura of offensive invincibility that surrounded the Patriots right after their last game could start to fade closer to the Super Bowl - and take the public affection for the Patriots with it.
The Patriots in big games: Right now the storyline surrounding the Patriots - aside from air pressure, of course - is primarily that Brady will become the first QB to ever play in six Super Bowls. That is unquestionably impressive and has captured the imagination of the public - especially after Russell Wilson was so impossibly bad for the first 57 or so minutes of his last game. As people start to look at things more objectively, though, they could easily start to again take note and attach significance to the facts that Brady has not won his last Super Bowls, will be five days short of a decade removed from his last Super Bowl win by game time, hasn't covered a spread since his first appearance, and has never covered as favorite. If those storylines start to pick up steam then the fickle public could again shift their affections in this game.
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