2015 Super Bowl Wagering: Public Action Betting Report
by Trevor Whenham - 1/28/2015
Unlike most Super Bowls in recent memory, there is not a clear favorite in this year's edition. In fact, we may not know for sure which team will be favored until close to kickoff. It's all but certain, barring a major development, that the final spread will be less than a field goal. There is a chance that this could at least tie for the smallest spread either - we have seen a spread of a single point twice in the 48-year history of this game. That means that there is a much-better-than-usual chance that the team that wins will also be the one that covers the spread. It also means, as we will see later on, that the moneyline is more attractive than usual. Because the public bets so aggressively on this game - far more than usual - we need to be particularly aware of how the public is betting, how the line is reacting to that betting, and what that all means for value.
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Let us, then, look at the public action that is in play in this game:
The movement here has been very interesting. Once the NFC Championship was over, but before the AFC champ was decided, Seattle was set as an early three-point Super Bowl favorite. New England's dominating win - and the fact that the Patriots are generally a very public team - meant that they quickly became favored by as much as two points - a massive and almost instant swing. Since then the action has remained solidly on the Patriots - they have drawn more than 60 percent of bets in the game - yet we have seen the line adjust down slightly. More significantly, we can find a wide range of available lines at this point - as I write this I can find lines online that make New England a favorite of 1.5 and 1 point, a pick'em, and I can find Seattle favored by 1 and 1.5 points. The range isn't particularly wide, but the available options suggest that anything is still possible at this point. Given that the line has moved down somewhat, and that things are so uncertain despite the decided public preference for the Patriots, it seems likely that sharp action has been tilting towards the Seahawks lately.
Because the line is so small, it only makes sense that bettors would be drawn to the moneyline. Why bet on a small favorite if you can get a reasonable price on the moneyline? More significantly, why bet an underdog against the spread when you can bet them on the moneyline for a better payoff with not much more risk? What is surprising here, though, is that several books are reporting dramatically heavier action on the Patriots on the moneyline than on the spread. More than one book has reported taking more than 80 percent of moneyline bets on the Patriots. This disparity is quite surprising and an indication perhaps that the public has a stronger opinion on the game than the spread movement could indicate.
The total has been relatively stable at the current level of 47.5, with only a slight movement downwards of a point or a point and a half in some spots. A solid majority of the action has been on the "over," though - not surprisingly, because the public really loves the over - so we aren't likely to see a significant move down barring an unexpected development or a serious sharp money investment. Similarly, the total isn't likely to move up very aggressively at this point. In other words, what we see is pretty much what we get for the total. This is a reasonable spot for it to be - higher than the average total in Seattle games but below the average in New England games.
What to watch for
We aren't likely to see big movement in any of these areas between now and game time. It would take something significant to have a big move. Based on what we have seen so far, there are two things that could potentially happen that could have a big move. First, though it is very unlikely that the NFL will take any action on Deflate-gate before the Super Bowl, if they were to find a smoking gun, or, as is more likely given what we have seen this year, if TMZ finds a smoking gun and the league is forced to act then things could get interesting. If they took action in the form of a suspension against Brady or Belichick, for example, the line would move rapidly and significantly. Not likely, but at least somewhat possible. We could see a less-significant-but-still-noteworthy line movement if the Seahawks were to announce that Earl Thomas or especially Richard Sherman were going to be unable to play. Sherman is a very public player, so the public would be expected to react - or overreact - significantly.
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