30Jan10:15 amEST

Super Bowl Betting Strategy

Last Sunday before the NFC and AFC Championships games I posted my picks against the spread on Instagram here. With a little more than a week before Super Bowl LV in Tampa, it may seem too early to discuss the big game.

However, I suspect many of you are a bit burned-out from the GME/AMC/Robinhood/Reddit saga of late and can use a change of pace on this Saturday. 

Thus, we will delve into an important aspect of betting the big game if you choose to try your hand at it either for the first time or as a seasoned bettor. 

The Super Bowl, of course, is the most prominent betting event for the year for just about all major sports books (and bookies) around the country. The "prop bets" border on the absurd, down to betting on the coin toss (seriously, head or tails) or what color Gatorade the victorious coach will be doused with by players (also, seriously). If you choose to go down that road, you simply acknowledge that you are essentially pulling the slot machine lever for the sake of having fun and the thrill of gambling if you win. 

But my focus is on the major bets for the game, those being the point spread, money line, and/or the total amount of points scored by both teams. 

Given that the Super Bowl is such a widely bet event with tons of, ahem, liquidity, you simply must acknowledge that you are competing against the sharpest and wealthiest sports betting minds around the world as opposed to, say, a late-night Mountain West Conference football game in Hawaii. 

Therefore, any slight edge you can glean is critical. And so far we do indeed have something with which to work. 

Specifically, over the last 13 Super Bowls, the early money has been on the right side on 10 occasions (with one game resulting in a push). 

The "early money" means right after the Championship games last Sunday, the opening line by most sports books was Chiefs -3.5 (meaning the Chiefs were a 3.5 favorite over Tampa Bay and "spotting" them those points.

Some bettors, who the sports books respected, immediately bet Tampa +3.5 as underdogs, and the sports books responded by moving the line to Chiefs -3, which of course is 1/2 point in Tampa's favor.

Thus, the early action is suggesting that taking the points with Tampa +3 is the play. 

The following graph, courtesy of Jason Logan (@CoversJLo) of Covers.com, illustrates the last thirteen Super Bowls, with ten of those "early moves" proving to be prophetic, and one game (Patriots vs. Seahawks) was a push or tie versus the final spread. I know it may seem like a measly 1/2 point, but you can see how prophetic the early money has been. 

And much like the short squeezes we saw in the market last week perhaps being a distraction to many great earnings reports getting sold (AAPL) and, perhaps, major market distribution by funds, the coming week in Super Bowl betting will feature a ton of "public money" betting on game which will get tons of hoopla. 

However, history tells us it is the early, sharp money which matters most for the Super Bowl, which perhaps makes it a bit unique compared to other sporting events and even other NFL games. 

As for the money line and total bets in the game, understand that the public almost always loves the OVER in big games, especially the Super Bowl.

But also understand that the Super Bowl is a long, drawn-out affair compared to your average NFL game, with extended commercial breaks (gotta squeeze in all those hilarious Super Bowl commercials, right?) and an extended halftime show. So it can break up the rhythm for even the most high powered offenses, which can work in favor of the UNDER. 

That said, even though I bet the UNDER in last year's Super Bowl, I am likely to stay away from betting the total this year. In last year's game, the San Francisco 49ers were a dedicated running team who played strong defense, two factors which help the UNDER in big games. 

This time around, even though both defenses are solid, I do not see either offense over-emphasizing the running game (the Total moved down from 57 to 56.6 despite many bets on the OVER). As for the money line bet (meaning which team wins the game outright with no points given), I expect a tight game between two strong rosters, both of which of course have championship quarterbacks, one ascending into his prime and one defying Father Time. Here, again, I have little interest as I do not see a clear edge yet, especially since Kansas City will be without two key offensive lineman for the game. 

Overall, getting three points with Tom Brady as your quarterback has been the betting theme of this post-season as that was the spread in the Buccaneers wins against both the Saints and then Packers the last few weeks.

Will the third time at +3 be the charm?

Our Super Bowl betting history says it will be, more likely than not, even if Mahomes leads his Chiefs to a narrow 1 or 2 point victory next weekend. 

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