The Super Bowl is upon us and time to make wagers. Did you know that half of all money wagered during the NFL season is wagered on Super Bowl Sunday? I remember as a kid, my uncle Rog the bookie, would bring the Super Bowl football cards to my Gramma's house and I'd laugh at the things you could bet on: first team to score, first player to score, coin flip. As I grew older, I figured out that you could make some good money on long shot bets to cover a significant wage on the actual game. They say only fools play prop bets, but it paid off for me with Super Bowl XXVII. Before we get to this year's match up, player props and team prop bets, let's go over some history.
In recent years, my favorite Super Bowl gambling wise was the Titans/Rams Super Bowl. Bookies always make money, but that Super Bowl was a bad one for bookies. The spread started out with the Rams as favorites by more than 7 points. What happened was that so much action was placed on the Titans that the spread came down to 7 points. The Rams won by 7 meaning all of the early Titans wagers won and the late wagers were a push. Last minute wagers make up a majority of the bets placed for Super Bowl Sunday. That's bad for Gambling business. Super Bowl XIII was even worse for Vegas and the Mob. Quick History: The 11/10 vig for wagers usually ensures a small profit margin. Prior to Super Bowl XIII, Pittsburgh was favored over Dallas, the defending champions of the NFL. Due to heavy action on both sides, the line on the game went as low as -3 ½ (Pittsburgh wagers pushed it up) and as high as -4 ½ (Dallas Wagers then pushed it down to 4 points). Pittsburgh won the game by four points, creating a push on wagers, and the Stardust lost $1 million by getting 'middled' on the game. That's $1 mil in '79. The point spread for Super Bowls now always settle on a half.
Because of my acquaintance with one bookie, I can tell you that the last two Super Bowls have been extremely profitable for the gambling industry. The Pats have not covered a Super Bowl as a favorite, and in the case of the Pats/Panthers Super Bowl, 75% of day of the game wagers went to the under and the game blew away the over/under. Since Super Bowl XXXV, I've nailed my bets on the Super Bowl. I've successfully wagered on the winner for 5 straight Super Bowls, and the last two years have called the elusive gap bet. There was a gap of scoring differential that would mean I would win both payouts. The last two years, I have wagered on the Pats to win the SB but not cover, this has been the case for both SBs and has been highly profitable. Last year, I was nervous as Philly needed a late score to cover (every 1/2 point counts). My crowning achievement might be Super Bowl XXXVII. Tampa Bay was the underdog, but I had no doubt that the Bucs would shut down the Raiders. Great defenses shut down great offenses, especially when a coach is playing his old team. Successful calls were made on the game, the Tampa defense scoring a TD, and Derrick Brooks scoring a TD. The Derrick Brooks TD was a great wager as the payout was decent enough that if you only wagered on the game and that one proposition (Brooks TD 12/1), the prop bet would cover your game wager even if you bet as low as 1/12th your game wager on Brooks. Student loans were paid off early.
Why do I bring this all up? Because Super Bowl XL offers an entertaining match up of the #1 NFC seed vs. the #6 AFC seed, and Vegas opened the line with Pittsburgh favored by 4. Do I think the Steelers can cover? Yes. The degree of difficulty rationale will come in, as the Steelers went 14-5 in the AFC. They beat the #1-3 seeds all on the road, and have a healthy team. This team was 11-5 this year and only one year removed from 15-1. They have shut down the Colts and stuffed the Broncos run game, while putting up points early on two good defenses. The health issue is a big one, as they now have Big Ben, Farrior and Porter 100% healthy. The Steelers that struggled in the middle of the year were banged up, and using Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox at QB.
Have not the Seahwaks won 13 games straight? Yes they have. They have won 15 games against one of the easiest schedules in years, with the defeat over Carolina as their best win over a good team all year. This was Carolina using their 5th string RB, a banged up D-line and an offensive playbook which only had plays designed for Steve Smith. I think Seattle's defense is going to have to step up, because their ground game should be able to rack up some yards. While the Steelers played the Broncos' run game excellent, I think that Seattle is slightly better on the ground and will force Pitts to bring their safety up for help. Can Seattle's WRs make plays? I'm not sure. Can Seattle's defense handle the multi-threat offense the Steelers have? I don't think so. I also think that Seattle will have to improve their 3rd down defense, as this has been a huge boon for the Steelers in the playoffs. They are converting 3rd downs at will, and Seattle needs to improve their 3rd down defense and force some 3 & outs.
What does the 2 week layoff mean and who will it help/hurt? I think both teams can gain something from the 2 week break, but I think there is one big problem for each team. The problem for the Steelers isn't as bad. The Seahawks get to rest Shaun Alexander for an extra week, and it will help him rest after nearly 400 carries this year and the concussion in the divisional round. The downside is that they have a week off after synching up offensively last week. The week off before the divisional round put some rust on the offense. When you look at the Seahawks on Super Bowl Sunday, in the last 6 weeks, they will have played 2 meaningful games with a full two week break before and after those 2 games. It's a nice rest for lineman, but can cause some rust for the skill positions, which their WRs already exhibit. The two week break gives 2 weeks for overemphasis on Jerome Bettis. He'll be pulled in 10 directions at all times. That's the downside. Does the Bus really matter that much? Ummmm, I don't think so. He calls himself the closer, but can't the Steelers chew up clock giving the ball to Larry, Moe or Curly? I'd go with Verron Haynes and Willie Parker, and isn't the Bus going to be pumped up for this final game? The 2 week rest is going to help the Steelers lineman a ton because they never got a bye week for the playoffs. The rest is going to help save some of those defensive legs which have been in overdrive. The last 7-8 weeks have been win or go home for the Steelers, so the week off is going to help rest their bodies and minds.
My final pick this year is Steelers -3.5 over Seahawks
Prop Bet wagers: (Ones I feel confident about)
First player to score a TD - The two favorites are Jerome Bettis and Shaun Alexander with 6-1 and 5-1 odds respectively. It's a safer prop bet to lay money down on one of them, as the Seahawks will try to pound the ball and establish their running game early and the Bus will get every opportunity to score at "home".
Team with the most rushing yards - Seahwaks are getting 9.5 yards and have the better running game. This one seems like a no brainer.
Heath Miller - His prop bets are all set very low. Receptions O/U = 2.5, Yards Receiving O/U = 35.5 yards. I would play the over on both of these and watch as Miller hits blows those numbers away in the first quarter.
No matter what you do and what you bet on Super Bowl Sunday, enjoy the game.