2015 Super Bowl Handicapping: Avoid Distractions
by Trevor Whenham - 1/21/2015
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to handicapping the Super Bowl is that there's just too much time leading up to the game. With two weeks to break everything down and only one game to look at, it can be far too easy to be distracted by stories that sound more significant than they are. The fact of the matter is that absolutely no one needs two weeks to break down a single game - or even close. One of the biggest keys to success betting on this game, then, is avoiding those distractions.
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Here are four of the most distracting, mostly irrelevant storylines around us this year. Or, put another way, the mistakes to avoid for this Super Bowl are getting sucked in by these storylines:
Deflate-gate: Do you know what I think of all the controversy around the soft footballs last weekend in New England, and the potential that New England was cheating by doctoring and using the balls? I couldn't care less. I'm skeptical that it's the conspiracy that it is being portrayed as, and I really don't believe that it had a tangible impact on the outcome of the game. More significantly, I don't believe that the team, even if they did cheat with the balls, is going to try to do anything in the Super Bowl. I also don't believe that the league is going to do anything as a punishment - if there even is one - that will cripple the team on the field or even particularly affect them heading into this game. In other words, I don't really see this 'scandal' having a significant impact on the outcome of the Super Bowl - and as a handicapper the outcome is all I care about. What I do know, though, is that this situation has created a lot of strong emotions in fans. They either hate the Patriots and embrace this as further proof that they are terrible cheaters or they love the team and think that the whole situation is a total farce being pushed by jealous losers. When people are emotional they aren't often rational, so the emotions of this situation, and the impact they have on public bettors, is really the only part of this story worth keeping an eye on.
Anything that happened last weekend: What did we see last weekend? The Patriots absolutely humiliated the Colts. It was ridiculous. They were so much better than their opponent that it was almost incomprehensible. Meanwhile, the Seahawks forgot how to play for the first 57 or so minutes of their game and came very close to throwing away this opportunity. Russell Wilson was horrible, and the defense was more vulnerable than they should have been. For the most part, though, it would be a mistake to do anything other than forget that those games ever happened. The only thing that matters is which teams won and advanced. New England was facing a young and very flawed team - something they won't be doing again here. Something clearly got to the Seahawks early against the Packers, but they are too experienced and professional to let themselves look so bad again. It is crucial that we handicap these teams based on their 18-game sample sizes instead of their last 60 minutes. Based on the early line movement and bet distribution - the line dropped by four points almost instantly and the Patriots have drawn more than three-quarters of early action - the early bettors are very much stuck in the recent past.
Seattle on the road: There is no lazier and tired storyline that we are sure to hear lots of than that the Seahawks are a much weaker team on the road than they are playing in front of their 12th Man. It's true but mostly irrelevant. They were 5-3 away from home this year. So were the Patriots. The Super Bowl is a pressure situation, but it's typically far from a hostile environment. The crowd is usually much quieter than a typical one and is filled with supporters of both teams. The Arizona setting is close enough to Seattle that there will be plenty of home faithful there, too. Seattle also plays in Glendale every year, so they are going to be comfortable - more so than New England, likely. This is not a relevant storyline.
The focus on the quarterbacks: The quarterbacks are the stars of this league, and these two are two of the bigger stars. Tom Brady is one of the two biggest stars in the league. Wilson is a fast-rising player, but some will argue he is the best in the league while others think he is a game manager who benefits from his system. Because both guys are so intriguing to so many, and because each team only has a couple of other players who attract significant attention, they are going to get a massive amount of attention leading up to this game. There will be countless storylines about each guy and comparisons of their strengths and weaknesses, Little of it will be significant - or at least not as significant as it may seem. You certainly and obviously need to evaluate these two players as part of your handicapping, but you can't let yourself get too carried away by the fawning - or overly critical - media coverage.
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