2021 Super Bowl Handicapping
I am usually the Super Bowl Grinch.
Every year just about everyone I know shoots me a text or an e-mail in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl with the same question: “Who is going to win?” With rare exception, my answer is usually the same: “How the hell should I know? I’m not a fortuneteller! You shouldn’t be betting big on the Super Bowl anyway!”
In all honesty, Super Bowl handicapping is a completely different beast than handicapping during the regular season. And while I can generally find you better value on a college basketball bet on a random Tuesday in November or in MLB on a Saturday in June, the fact is that people WANT to bet on the Super Bowl.
Who am I to deny the people what they want?
This year Kansas City will take on Tampa Bay at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 7 in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Florida. The Chiefs are currently a -3.0 favorite, and the total in this game is set at 56.5.
And if you are going to try to handicap the Super Bowl, I can at least give you some tips and tricks to help your Super Bowl handicapping. Here are six of the most important tips I can give anyone that is looking to lay down money on this game:
1. Make Up Your Mind Early
Super Bowl hype is ridiculous. With two weeks in between the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl, there is more than enough time for every asshat from Bangor to Bangkok to voice their opinion on who is going to win The Big Game. It’s critical for bettors to block out that noise.
It shouldn’t take you more than 48 hours after the conference title games to decide who you like. If you have to think about it longer than that, then it isn’t a high value situation. By this point you should have been following these teams for months, so you know who’s who and what’s what. An extra week of “research” isn’t going to change what you’ve seen and wagered on for the entire season leading up to the Super Bowl.
Once you’ve made up your mind, don’t change it! Don’t fall victim to second-guessing during that two-week lag in between conference title games and the championship game.
2. Momentum Over Trends
I’m not a huge believer in trends in NFL betting in general. With only 16 games in a season – and massive turnover on rosters from year-to-year – there simply aren’t enough trials for trends to be major indicators. (Compare the 16-game NFL season to an 82-game NBA or 162-game MLB season, and you get an idea what I’m talking about.)
Momentum is more important than any Super Bowl betting trends at this stage of the game. Both Tampa Bay and Kansas City are playing well – I mean, they ARE in the Super Bowl! But you have to ask yourself who is playing better. Which team has looked better throughout the playoffs? Who has been playing better over the last two months? Teams get hot and go on postseason runs all the time. That propulsion usually equals a payday.
3. Keep The Big Picture In Mind
It is easy to get bogged down in individual matchups in the Super Bowl. Again, with two weeks leading up to one game, every bobblehead media member in the country has time to dissect and overanalyze every aspect of this game. That can be poison for a handicapper because once you get into that headspace it is tough to get out.
Instead, you have to take a macro-view of these teams. Do you want to put your money on Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid or on Tom Brady and Bruce Arians? Who cares how Tampa Bay’s third down defense has held up; Do you think the Bucs are going to hold the Chiefs below their three-year playoff scoring average of 34 points per game? Try to keep things simple.
One of my favorite macro angles on handicapping the Super Bowl involves gauging which conference has been better this year. I definitely prefer to have the team that survived a tougher trial to make it to the title game. I think it is pretty clear this year that the AFC has been the better of the two conferences, with more depth and better high-end teams. That gives an advantage to the Chiefs for having survived it.
4. Bet The Team You Think Is Going To Win
People spend way too much time worrying about the Super Bowl spread. During the regular season, the team that wins the football game usually covers the spread around 80 percent of the time. But the numbers are even more excessive in the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl winner has covered the spread 11 straight years. And only three times in the last 24 years has a team lost the game but beat the number. The last time it happened was Super Bowl XLIII when Arizona lost by beat the 7.0 spread.
People have made a big deal about the sportsbooks moving this year’s spread from 3.5 to 3.0. And there is a lot of anticipation over whether or not the books will move it again this weekend. It doesn’t matter. Don’t bet Tampa Bay because you think they can lose by a field goal. You bet the Bucs because you think they are the better team and that they are going to win. If not, lay the points with the Chiefs regardless if the number is 3.0 or 3.5.
5. Dive Into The Props
This is where players have the real advantage in Super Bowl betting. Sportsbooks release hundreds of props in this game to stimulate action, and it has absolutely worked. Roughly one-third of the $7 billion that’s wagered on the Super Bowl comes in on prop betting.
However, the books have left themselves a bit exposed here. The oddsmakers have to set good lines on all of those hundreds of props. You only need to find one or two weak numbers and you can hit them hard.
The bad news is that books usually have low limits on prop bets. The good news is that all the numbers are pretty close across the board, so it is easy to get down on one prop at several books.
One player that I’m looking at hard this year is Leonard Fournette. He’s been running well throughout the playoffs and his numbers are low. Right now he’s listed at just 11.5 carries and 44.5 yards rushing. He’s beaten both of those numbers in all three of Tampa Bay’s playoff games – facing some defenses that were better than Kansas City’s. I think he has the potential for a big day.
6. Bet What You Think Is Going To Happen, Not What You Want To Happen
This might be the most important rule to follow. The public loves to bet the favorite and the ‘over’ in the Super Bowl because that’s what they want to see happen. They want to see greatness and they want to see points scored. The same can be said for player props. The sportsbooks shade them higher on the star players because they know that square bettors are going to overestimate the statistical abilities of the studs.
For example, Patrick Mahomes’ completions over/under is set at 27.5 and his passing yards total is set at 331.5. Now, he very well may throw the ball 50 times and complete 30 of those passes for 400 yards and go way ‘over’. However, in his seven-game playoff career, Mahomes has only completed 28 or more passes one time (his last game, against Buffalo in the AFC Championship) and he has only thrown for over 300 yards twice. He’s never topped 330 passing yards in the playoffs.
Emotion is the enemy of any gambler. You have to try to be objective when you are thinking about laying out your cash. Follow the numbers.
Carpe diem. Good luck.
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