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Top-10 Super Bowl betting facts and figures

1 February 2010

History was never one of my favorite subjects in school. But one thing I've learned over the years as a sports bettor is that you have to consider what has happened in the past if you want to try and predict the future.

No, past results don't always repeat themselves in the NFL, or any other sports league for that matter. Sports betting brings a human element into the equation, meaning anything can happen at any time, no matter what history says.

But it's always worth looking at past track records. It's why you grab a racing form when you enter the horse track. You want to see what these ponies have done in recent history, and also how others in similar situations have fared.

So, before you do your duty as an American sports fan on Sunday and make sure you have "an interest" when the Colts and Saints finally tee it up in Super Bowl XLIV, here are 10 things to consider and remember. And we had a couple of respected bookmakers in Las Vegas comment on a few of our facts and figures. Hopefully, reading these items will in some way help your bankroll expand, rather than deflate, come Sunday night.

M_Resort_Sportsbook

The sportsbook at M Resort in Las Vegas is primed to host its first Super Bowl party this Sunday, complete with in-game betting. Photo courtesy of M Resort Spa Casino 2009

10. The public is expecting fireworks
As we pointed out in last week's column featuring Lucky's Race and Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro, the total on this year's game is the highest in Super Bowl history at 56.5. Previously the highest over/under for a Super Bowl was in 2008 when the New England and Giants total was 55 and that game came crashing under when the final score was 17-14. (As a diehard Pats fan, I will choose to ignore who won that game and just report the final score).

Despite this unusually high total, money is still pouring in on the over.

"We have it at 56 and a half and I don't see this number going anywhere but up," said the Director of Race and Sports at M Resort in Las Vegas Mike Colbert, who added he wouldn't be surprised if the state of Nevada breaks the Super Bowl record for the amount of money wagered on the game this Sunday. "I don't think we've taken a single bet on the under and if we have, it wasn't a significant one. I actually lean to the over myself because I think the Saints are going to score and Peyton Manning, of course, is going to find a way to put points on the board."

Only six Super Bowls have seen 60 points or more put up on the board and just seven of the previous 43 Super Bowls have had a total higher than 50, with the over coming in three times. When last year's game went over, it snapped a streak of four straight Super Bowl unders and overall we've seen six unders in the last 10 years. Before that, the Super Bowl was trending toward the high-scoring side with 11 overs out of 15 between 1985 and 1999.

9. The Saints aren't used to the underdog role
The Saints come into Sunday's game as a 5.5-point underdog. This line opened at 3.5 at most sportsbooks last Sunday night and was quickly bet up. Before the injury information started to leak out this week regarding Indianapolis All-Pro defensive lineman Dwight Freeney, some bookmakers were predicting the line could have risen as high as seven by kickoff. But that has all changed.

"I think the line will finally settle at around six, but I would have thought as high as seven before the Freeney info," Vaccaro told us on Monday. "At one point we had it at six and it got bet back down pretty quickly. I think if it's announced on Saturday that Freeney is going to try and play, we might get some late action on the Colts again. Freeney isn't a Lawrence Taylor or Troy Polamalu type of player where he can affect the line by a point or two. But he's close."

Meanwhile, Colbert had the line at 4.5 on Monday, the lowest of any book in town, or offshore.

"We're the only ones in the world that have this game under 5 right now," said Colbert, an employee of Cantor Gaming, which handles the sportsbook at M Resort and the "in-game betting" at The Venetian and Palazzo. "I really think that by kickoff, everyone may come back to us and have this game at 4.5."

Either way, New Orleans will be the underdog and that puts the Saints in unfamiliar territory. If you take away the last game of the regular season when the Saints were resting their starters and were listed as a nine-point underdog to Carolina, New Orleans has not been an underdog all season.

In fact, the Saints – long known as "The Aint's" – have been a dog just 10 times in the last three seasons – a span of 50 games – and have only been catching five points or more twice during that same span. Ironically, one of those games in which the Saints were a big underdog was the season-opener in 2007 against the Colts, who prevailed 41-10 as a 6-point favorite.

8. New Orleans has been eating money
Despite New Orleans' recent history of laying points, you can certainly make the case that the team hasn't deserved to be a favorite of any kind.

New Orleans started the season with six straight covers and rewarded their backers in eight out of their first 11 games. But since tearing apart New England in that huge Monday Night Football game back on Nov. 30, New Orleans has covered just once, the divisional playoff game against Arizona. So the Saints will come into Sunday's game on a 1-6 slide where it counts the most.

7. The Colts have been pointspread darlings
Conversely, if you've been backing Peyton Manning & Co. this season, you've been one happy bettor. The Colts finished the regular season 10-6 (or 10-5-1) against the spread, which ranked them third in the NFL behind the Packers and Falcons, who were both 11-5. The Colts have also covered both of their playoff games, meaning they have cashed tickets for their backers 67% of the time this season.

6. 21 is an important number
With these two offenses you wouldn't think that scoring 21 points would be a problem for either side and that's a good thing since teams that score less than 21 points in the Super Bowl are 8-35 straight up and just 10-29 against the spread.

But since many observers believe both of these teams will get up and over that 21-point plateau on Sunday, we researched this trend even further and found that when both Super Bowl participants score 21 points or more, the favorite is 5-5 all-time, but is winless at 0-5 the last five times it happened, including last year when the Steelers (-7) beat Arizona, 27-23, and failed to cover.

5. 30 is a key number for Indy
For all the talk we've heard about the "unstoppable" Colts offense over the last few weeks, the fact is that Indianapolis averaged 26 points per game during the regular season, which ranks it seventh in the league. (Am I the only one that remembers Indy scored just 20 points and had only 275 yards of total offense against the Ravens at home a few weeks ago?)

If the Colts want to win and cover on Sunday they'll likely have to do slightly better than their season average since during the last 20 years Super Bowl favorites that score less than 30 points are 3-11 against the spread. One of those three victories, however, was the Colts in Super Bowl XLI when they beat the Bears, 29-17, as a 7-point chalk. Adding more credence to this trend is that the Colts are 7-1 against the number when they score 30 points or more this season. But keep in mind, the Saints only allowed more than 30 points twice this season.

4. Comebacks are rare
While there have been plenty of blowouts on Super Bowl Sunday that have seen the crowd I'm typically with break out the card table and start dealing well before the fourth quarter begins, we've also been treated to some outstanding games. The last two years, in particular, have had fans (and bettors) on the edge of their seats until the final minutes and there hasn't really been a wire-to-wire blowout since the Buccaneers dismantled the Raiders, 48-21, seven years ago.

But one thing we haven't seen much of on Super Bowl Sunday is come-from-behind victories. Teams that hold a first-quarter lead have won the Super Bowl 22 out of 32 times and the team that leads at the half is 33-8. So keep this in mind if you happen to be doing some "in-game" betting this Sunday.

3. Dogs have been barking
If you count Super Bowl XXXI (Green Bay (-14) over New England, 35-21) and Super Bowl XXXIV (St. Louis (-7) over Tennessee, 23-16 ) as pushes, favorites are 24-17-2 in the Super Bowl, which means they cover at a 56% clip. But that trend has been turned upside down in recent years. Following the Cardinals' cover last year, underdogs have cashed in six out of the last eight years, including two of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history – New England (+14) over St. Louis, 20-17, in 2001 and the N.Y. Giants (+12) over New England, 17-14, in 2008.

2. Is a moneyline bet the smart play?
If you've read any of my past NFL gambling columns, you know that I've pointed out that the majority of time in the NFL, the team that wins the game outright covers the spread. And up until 2004 that was certainly the case in the Super Bowl as only five Super Bowls saw the pointspread come into play – meaning in 32 out of the first 37 Super Bowls the team that won the game also covered the pointspread.

That, however, has changed in recent years as three of the last six Super Bowl losers have been winners at the betting window. This year the Colts are around -220 on the money line, even though they are a 5.5 favorite.

"Usually a favorite like that is around -260 or -270 on the moneyline," Colbert said. "A lot of people that like the underdog in the Super Bowl tend to play the moneyline. And people who like the favorite tend to just lay the points. But I think if you like the Colts there is a lot of value in betting the money line."

1. The Saints are the "value" bet
When it comes to betting on sports, I am constantly looking for what I like to call "value bets." They are the kind of spots where the pointspread is out of whack for some reason or another and there is an opportunity to take advantage of a number that is more generous than it actually should be. I think we have one of those situations in Super Bowl XLIV.

I can understand why the Colts are the favorite. They have been impressive all season – particularly in the playoffs – and deserve to be the chalk. But I do not think Indianapolis is a touchdown better than the Saints. And neither does Colbert.

"If this wasn't the Super Bowl, Indy would probably be around a 2 and a half or three-point favorite," he said. "But this is the Super Bowl. The public is betting Indy, because the public always loves the favorite."

The only reason this number is so high is that the public always fixates on what it saw last. And the last time we saw these two teams, the Colts were taking apart a very good Jets defense in the second half of the AFC Championship and the Saints were lucky to beat the turnover-happy Vikings. Quite frankly, the line on this game is inflated and even though I hate to go against a guy like Peyton Manning when he is clicking on all cylinders, I simply can not make the overlay and bet the Colts.

Instead of dwelling on the NFC Championship Game, I'm calling for Sean Payton to get his team geared up to play like he did against the Giants after a bye week on Oct. 18th in a battle of undefeated teams, a game New Orleans won easily 48-27. I'm expecting to see the Drew Brees I saw back on that aforementioned Monday Night Football showdown in which he and his team dominated New England, 38-17. And don't forget the near perfect game the Saints offense played just two weeks against Arizona in an impressive 45-14 victory. If we see anything close to that kind of methodical performance from the Saints, they surely won't get run over by mighty Indianapolis.

My humble advice? (And by "humble" I mean tread lightly since last year at this time I suggested playing the Steelers minus the points). Take the Saints plus the points, and don't be afraid to grab that moneyline at +190. As far as I see it, the Saints will come marching in on Sunday and the party on Bourbon Street will be like Mardi Gras on steroids. New Orleans wins Super Bowl XLIV, 31-23.

Top-10 Super Bowl betting facts and figures is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT