The Big Dance

Handicapping the Big Dance

The Super Bowl is the easiest game of the entire NFL season to handicap, and lends itself to being handicapped more accurately than any other game all season. The reasons are two-fold. First, everything imaginable about the game is known. Secondly, many of the variables that must be considered in handicapping other games, and which often can only be guessed at, simply don’t exist for the Super Bowl.

It has often been said (usually by Sports Touts looking for an excuse, in advance, should they lose the one game that will be most remembered next season) that precisely because the Super Bowl is just one game about which everything is known, the line is the most accurate of any line all year. That’s sheer nonsense! It exhibits a complete lack of understanding of the nature of the line-maker, and probably indicates a tout who does not bet, and who knows nothing about an important part of his profession.

The line on the Super Bowl would be the most accurate line all year if it were the line-maker’s job to pick the final outcome of the game. Picking the final outcome of the game, however, is NOT the line-maker’s job. The job of the line-maker is to evenly divide public action. It is his job to get as much money bet on one side as on the other, so that the bookmaker can come as close as possible to achieving the ideal of winning the vig with no risk. It is the job of the handicapper and of the bettor to pick the final outcome of the game. It is, as everyone admits, that job (the job of the handicapper and the bettor and not the line-maker) that becomes the easiest and most accurate because there is only one game about which everything is known.

The Super Bowl is also the easiest and best game to handicap because many of the variables that plague the handicapper in other games don’t exist for the Super Bowl. Every injury and its effect on the team is dissected endlessly by coaches, players, and doctors. There is no question about whether either team will come to play. The handicapper need not even consider it. Both teams will be playing their hardest. There is no danger of a look-ahead, a sandwich, or lack of preparation. Neither coach is going to decide to take a look at some third stringers because his team is way up or way down. There won’t be any let up. There is no question as to when each team got into town or how practices are going. No player capable of playing will be left on the bench to heal for next week, or fail to see substantial minutes in order to conserve him. It is these variables that make handicapping during the regular season so fraught with pitfalls, but in the Super Bowl the handicapper need not give them so much as a passing thought.

Now that we understand how easily and accurately the Super Bowl can be handicapped, let’s look again at the job of the line-maker. The line set in the Super Bowl is often the least accurate of any line all year! That’s right. The exact opposite of what you’ve been told. Why least accurate? Remember, the job of the line-maker is to evenly divide the betting action on the game, and in no other game all year is there so much hype affecting the opinions of so many amateur, once-a-year gamblers, betting so much money as in the Super Bowl. The amateurs tend to bet the favorite and the over, or to run to one side or the other like lemmings, reacting to media hype without regard to the line. More suckers and squares are accommodated in the Super Bowl betting line than in any other game all year. The line simply does not matter to these people. They can’t and don’t handicap. If they believe or are told that Team X is the best, then they will bet Team X

with both hands at any line. This is their one sports bet all year! They’re not going to change sides or pass because they get a bad line. If you’ve ever been to a casino you know these people. They’re on their first trip to Las Vegas, walk over to a new game, ask the rules, and then proceed to sit down and bet black ($100) chips in a game they don’t know how to play! They wear shorts, money pouches, a hotel tea shirt, and peak hats with little beer cans on them. If there is allot of hype on one team, they will bet that team. The line-maker knows this, and he sets the line accordingly. The best example of this was the Denver “Orange Crush” several years ago. They named a soda after them, composed songs about them, the public bet them, and the “Orange Crush” got crushed 55-10!

Absent any special hype, the line-maker knows that the public will bet the favorite and the over. They bet the favorite because they see the favorite as the best team, and they bet the over because they hate to lose in the middle of the game, and they hate to root against themselves. Betting the under, they could be required to root against it if their team needs another touchdown to win or cover the game. For that reason the line on the favorite, and on the total are set way too high in many Super Bowls. The line-maker also knows that the public will bet the NFC team because of History. The NFC has dominated recent Super Bowls (13-0 SU and 11-2 ATS with an average winning margin of 21 pts.). As a result, in most recent Super Bowls the line is also set too high on the NFC team (in this case GB).

As you will see from the write up and selection below, this year is no exception. The line is simply too high on the NFC favorite and on the total. This has been exaggerated even more by GB’s easy win over SF. To understand just how much the line has been skewed consider this: (1) GB laid fewer points against every team this season except St. Louis, and Chicago when they played them at Lambeau Field. Take away GB’s home field advantage in those games and the only game in which they laid more points was against Chicago (minus 13.5 adjusted). (2) Denver has only been an underdog once all season and that by only 3 pts. to SF at SF. On a neutral field the game would have been pick, yet GB was only favored by 2 ½ over SF and is now favored by 12 over a team recently considered by the line-maker to be equal to SF. (3) No total in any game all year has been set above 47, despite many games between teams with much worse defenses that the two in this Super Bowl.

All this, however, only means that Denver is the value team, and the under is the value play. It does not mean that GB does not have the ability to romp. It does not mean that these two teams can’t score 60 points. From the results against SF last week, perhaps it was the line on SF that was too low and GB is better than the line-maker originally thought. The first thing you’ve got to do is forget Super Bowl history. That’s exactly what history is, history. You’re concerned with today. History was other teams at other times in other places. These two teams are your concern. What they do and how they play is not dependent on what happened last year or over the past 13 years or over the past 31 Super Bowls. The human mind can always find endless patterns after events take place, but if there is no connection between the events then there is no validity to using those events to predict the future, and each Super Bowl is an unconnected event in a different season with different participants. There is no more reason to believe that any pattern will continue between the games than there is to believe that the pattern of the stock market rising if the NFC wins and falling if the AFC wins will continue. The events don’t relate. It is the amateurs belief that history is a basis for betting that causes the line to be skewed.

If there were endless Super Bowls then you could take advantage of the value. Since, however, most bettors are more concerned with this Super Bowl than with how they fare on the next 50 or 100 Super Bowls, then value doesn’t matter either. If I offer you 7-5 if tails come up, tails would surely be the value play. If you could bet 100 coin flips you’d be a big winner, but the fact that tails is the value does not make it any more likely that tails will come up on a single flip.

History can be interesting and its nice to get value, but don’t be fooled. Plenty of sports services will try to tout you on the game based on nothing but history or an argument about value. Many will fail completely to consider the two teams playing on Sunday. Some will try to tell you that they have special information. There is no unknown information when it comes to the Super Bowl. It is the most over-examined sporting event all year! When it comes to the Super Bowl there is no substitute for straight statistical handicapping, without regard to history, but with a healthy respect for value and the intentional inaccuracies in the line. Value alone, however, does not pick the side, it merely serves to make the final bet stronger or weaker depending on whether the side that you select is getting value. As for history, when it comes to betting, history is best left to the historians. | September 1st, 1999

– – – – – – – – – – – –About the writer
Rob Crowne is a professional level sports bettor and owner of the Crowne Club. His free pick line was the impetus for the creation of our site.

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