2015 Super Bowl Expert Handicapper: Overrated and Underrated Betting Factors
by Trevor Whenham - 1/28/2015
The Super Bowl, when you really think about it, is ridiculous. It's one game, but we spend two whole weeks obsessing over every possible detail and making sure that the players feel as much pressure and discomfort as possible. In so many ways it isn't a good game to bet on at all, yet we make it by far the most heavily-bet game of the year. It's silly. If we are going to give ourselves the best chances of success then we need to be able to ignore all the distracting stories that sound more important than they are and focus on the stories that are really going to have an impact on how the game turns out. Here are three of the most overrated storylines this year as well as three underrated factors:
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Deflategate: Never in my memory has there been a more ridiculous, overblown, meaningless story than this one. It's just bizarre how this one has played out. The Patriots were tried, convicted and sentenced in the court of public opinion without one thing - no one bothered to prove that Brady or Belichick was actually responsible for what had happened or even that something malicious had happened. The internet is a great thing that has spawned many advancements, but the existence of stories like this show us that the internet has a dark side as well. Why do we care about all this? The coverage is endless, but in terms of what impact this will have on the game it wouldn't be very hard to overestimate it. In fact, I suspect it will have little impact at all. The team, and especially the coach and QB, have had to face too many questions surrounding this, but they will still be more focused than most players are capable of, and now they have anger to fuel them.
Browner the Destroyer: When asked, Brandon Browner explained that he would be telling his new teammates to target the injured parts of former teammates Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Everyone - most notably the media and Seahawks player - responded with shock and outrage. The thing is, though, that Browner mostly just said what any player would do in the situation. His only mistake was saying it out loud. As for an impact on the game, this controversy is one that will mean little.
Marshawn Lynch: The biggest story to come out of media day was, oddly, that Marshawn Lynch had only barely bothered to participate. Again, I really struggle to understand why this is a story. I mean, are we supposed to be surprised at this point that Lynch isn't going to play by the rules? He antagonizes the media, they express outrage, and the whole thing happens again and again. Will it have an impact on how he performs in this game? Well, he had a pretty nice season despite repeating some version of this media non-performance several times. This is only a story because the media needs things to talk about to fill the two-week gap.
Wilson's mindset: For the first 57 minutes of his game in the AFC Championship Russell Wilson looked worse than he ever has as a pro. It was just awful. Then after his heroics and the miracles that made them possible he was as emotional as I have ever seen a quarterback be - and it was only a championship game. There was no real reason for that game to have been as bad as it was, and given how all over the place he was in the game I'm really concerned about his ability to bounce back and have a strong game here. I'm not saying that he can't do it, of course, but I'm not sure that a lot of people are spending enough time considering the possibility that he will have a poor day and what that would mean for the outcome of the game.
Earl Thomas' health: Two weeks after a separated shoulder, it's far from a certainty that he will be able to perform at his typically high level - if he is even able to play at all. If he isn't at his best then it creates all sorts of issues. Thomas is such an asset at safety because he is so fast and tenacious. If he is not at his best then he is not providing the impact he is capable of. The backup situation is not good right now, so if Thomas is not healthy it creates a cascading issue that could be a real problem - and I'm not even talking about the possibility that Richard Sherman isn't right. I don't know about you, but there aren't too many quarterbacks I would rather have on my side than Brady when there is a secondary that needs exploiting.
Seattle pass rush: Seattle's pass rush is decent but far from the best in the league. It relies quite heavily on Michael Bennett, and he has not been quite as sharp as last year. Simply put, it is crucial that they are able to get to Brady early and often. When Brady doesn't have time he is forced to rush his passes, and that means he isn't consistently finding Rob Gronkowski deep. Teams that have had success against the Patriots have mostly done so by bothering Brady. Your faith in the ability of this Seattle defense to do that has to have a huge impact on how you see this game turning out.
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