The Super Bowl LI betting strategy


super-bowl-li-betting-strategy-falcons-patriotsI’ve been giving this a lot of thought. There’s a handful of spreadsheets that have shown some expected data, and nothing really stood out to me. After New England slept walk through the AFC side of the playoffs, and Atlanta eviscerated Seattle and Green Bay, we basically knew what we were in for. These are definitely worthy contenders, and that makes it very difficult to develop a Super Bowl LI betting strategy.

The Patriots are currently favored by -3.0 points and I truthfully don’t expect that line to change all that much. The heaviest money will come in over the weekend, but the fact that this line hasn’t really shifted all that much speaks volumes about how well the oddsmakers have done here. In most cases, we’re seeing a 50-50 split. In others, there’s a 66-33 split in favor of the Patriots. It just depends which book you look at.

That makes a ton of sense. Mike McCarthy said it perfectly when he called the Atlanta Falcons a buzz saw. Their ability to score points seemingly at will is incredible to watch. But then again, these are the New England Goddamn Patriots we’re talking about here.

It’s time for the deep dive, folks. Strap in.

Spending the last two weeks pouring through some data on how this game has unfolded historically, I eventually landed on one key fact that has really shaped my overall Super Bowl LI betting strategy.

The underdog in the last 15 Super Bowls is 11-4-1 ATS.

That’s massive. That push, just so you know, is when New England beat Seattle two years ago. The other covers by favorites included Green Bay over Pittsburgh in 2011, Indianapolis beating up Rex Grossman’s Chicago Bears in 2007, Pittsburgh beating Seattle in 2006 and Baltimore squashing the New York Giants way back in 2001.

It’s also worth looking at how insane the OVER is for the game. It’s an absurdly high 59.0 points, which could climb even higher since most people are pushing this game in to OVERdrive (hooray for caps lock puns). I noted in my Super Bowl LI props betting piece that this isn’t a slam dunk.

The last six Super Bowls that had this high of a TOTAL went 1-5 O/U. Historically, the metric is 3-6 O/U all time. Of course, trends such as these aren’t the be all and end all of the conversation. They’re just meant to shape your mental framework.

So keep both of those basic, surface trends in mind. The Super Bowl hardly ever unfolds the way we anticipate. That’s why the dog usually has a bigger bite than usual, and the UNDER is more attractive than it should be. If you’ve been reading me for a while you know that I really hate trying to pin down UNDERS. It’s one of my least favorite things in all of gambling. Why would you cheer for less points?!

We always hear the old adage that the “purpose of the spread is to generate equal sides on both sides”. It’s the most obvious talking point that every betting layman likes to spew out every time they discuss the spread. Further to that however, the Super Bowl spread itself is supposed to generate excitement. “Look at all those points!” “New England is favored!? I knew it!”

Mission accomplished. A lot of the action is sliding towards the OVER and on New England, and that is not a great sign for those who like those two plays.

I’m not saying it’s a death sentence, but I’m just trying to open your eyes a little. And don’t you fret if you’re looking for a reason to bet on New England because I have just the jagged little pill for you.

The Patriots are 15-3 ATS heading in to this game. That’s the best spread record of any Super Bowl entrant in the last 15 seasons. So if there’s any team that can really overcome the odds, so to speak, it’s the Patriots. But you already probably knew that.

The first two dozen reasons are pretty obvious. They’re incredible. The duo of Belichik and Brady is an established institution in the playoffs and in Super Bowls. The bromantic comedy about the two is going to be really, really weird to watch. It’s genuinely difficult to find reasons not to back the Patriots, even with that whole “underdogs covering in the Super Bowl” thing.

The major problem I have with New England is that they’ve had a fairly soft schedule for the past 10 weeks. The last time they played a real, playoff caliber team was Seattle back in Week 10. By the way, they lost that game. The game against Pittsburgh should’ve been better, but the Le’Veon Bell injury was a kick to the torn groin and the Martavis Bryant suspension finally caught up with them.

Speaking of which, isn’t there a time when the absence of Rob Gronkowski should finally be an actual problem? The Martellus Bennett signing was so brilliant and has paid off considerably as insurance, so much that it’s staggering to think that Chicago would let him walk or that other teams would pass up on him so easily.

I’ve divested a few hours in to trying to dig through the numbers, and the issue is that a Super Bowl LI betting strategy has to be built around those more pliable intangibles. Do you really think that Tom Brady is going to lose another Super Bowl? Do you think Bill Belichik hasn’t spent the entirety of his life over the last two weeks attempting to dismantle Kyle Shanahan’s offence?

The answer to those questions should be “no”. The Pats have done enough since the turn of the century to deserve that kind of faith. And honestly, their lacking strength of schedule has much more to do with their competition not living up to expectation than the Patriots. They can’t force other teams to be better.

So the thing about betting on New England in Super Bowl LI really comes down to the fact that it seems like it’s too obvious. “Of course Tom Brady’s going to win the Super Bowl.” It seems like a hard wired fact at this point. Which is why…

We witnessed it two weeks ago. The Falcons looked straight at Aaron Rodgers, heard everyone talk about how great Aaron Rodgers is, and then they blasted them to kingdom come. I mean, this team is just so freaking good. And the scary part is that they’re absolutely peaking at the perfect time.

I don’t need to spend time talking about how brilliant Matt Ryan has been this season, nor how incredible the impact of Dan Quinn on this franchise overall has resonated. You know these things. And if you’ve been a reader of mine here for a while, you know that I don’t exactly have a lot of love for this team nor Matt Ryan. I’m willing to change my tune after these playoffs. It’s been fun to watch.

My favorite part about Atlanta is that they simply have too many weapons. Julio Jones makes opportunities for every other receiver so much easier, because he completely terrorizes the secondary by himself. And when there’s nobody to pass to, there’s always a running-back to dump to. Matt Ryan simply always finds a way to advance the line of scrimmage.

Instead of backing a dump truck of useless tidbits and stats on your lap, I want to ask you one question. Don’t you expect this game to be close? Don’t most signs point to that? Shouldn’t that really inform your Super Bowl LI betting strategy?

Talking about how well prepared Bill Belichik is going to be for Matt Ryan sort of overlooks the fact that he traded away his second best defensive player to Cleveland halfway through the season, and that the Falcons have also had two weeks to prepare for Bill Belichik.

This is where I drop the reason you should bet on the Atlanta Falcons despite a really tight spread. You’ve already read about the underdog being the best bet historically. You understand how good both teams are. The major stat I will give you is right below:

The average point differential for the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl under the Brady-Belichik era is +1.0 points.

Yup. They lost twice by 4 points and 3 points against the New York Giants, and then edged Seattle by +4.0, Philadelphia by +3.0 and the Panthers by +3.0. Their first Super Bowl victory was also a +3.0 win.

The Patriots have almost always played it tight in the Super Bowl. That’s sort of how they do things. And it’s been against varied competition. The truth is that they’ve never played against a receiver like Julio Jones, nor have they encountered a scoring offence this potent in the Super Bowl.

If the weight of the action continues to move in the direction of New England, this line could conceivably hit +3.5 for the Falcons. That’s what I’m waiting for. That number is categorically the best value for this game because I expect it to be close, hard hitting and tight. It’s the nature of the Super Bowl especially with the Patriots involved.

Still I’ll take anything above a field-goal. Honestly, if the heavy money comes in on Atlanta this number is going to get below where it is right now and that makes this decision so much harder.

Ultimately, I expect New England to win but I don’t believe for one second that Atlanta is going to make it easy. This team is categorically designed to score points by the freighter. And that’s why taking the points on the betting line. Atlanta to cover, New England to win.

Take the Falcons now and wait to see if the line moves up later so that you can take them again. That’s my Super Bowl LI betting strategy in a nutshell.

The football fan in me wants to see Brady win because I want to see things I’ve never seen before. I want to see historical greatness. I really don’t want to get in to anymore arguments about who the best ever is. And even still, I spent a good portion of my life in Atlanta and could certainly be happy for all my friends and family there that would be happy to win the big one for the first time. There’s a lot of perspectives for me when it comes to betting, which can sometimes be problematic.

So I’m trying to shed emotion here and take the logical, handicapping pathway. I suggest you do the same.

Super Bowl LI Betting Strategy: Falcons +3.0 or higher (UNDER 59.0 points)