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As the AFC champions Patriots rejoiced in their victory, bookmakers scrambled to post the opening line for Super Bowl XXXVIII to be held in Jacksonville on February 6th.
Unlike early Championship games, when the betting options were limited to the game line and/or over/under, the proliferation of proposition wagers has revolutionized the face of Super Bowl wagering. Betting options are now seemingly endless.
Spawned in the early 1980’s, proposition wagers provide an array of betting options as they relate to individual players in addition to offering variations of the conventional line. For example, while the Patriots have been installed seven-point favorites, a gambler that anticipates a New England blowout would be afforded the option to lay more points in exchange for better odds.
In recent years, ‘prop’ wagers have taken on such a creative flavor, that they now link other sporting events, taking place in and around the big game, to players, stats, and events in the game itself.
Immediately preceding the Super Bowl, the NBA will showcase Yao Ming’s Rockets versus Kobe’s Lakers. Count on at least a few props that incorporate those player’s statistics as they relate to the big game and its’ participants.
Last year, there were some 400 prop bets offered on Super Bowl XXXVIII between Carolina and New England. While novices focus in on the straight line or the over/under, savvy betters will look towards capturing edges that are bound to present themselves given the sheer size of the prop menu. The more betting options that the lines maker must address, the more prone he is to an oversight or miscalculation.
Case in point. In Super Bowl XXXVI, a prop wager involving total receiving yards for Ram’s receiver Ricky Proehl opened at 14.5. That year, Proehl played in all 16 regular season games, and tallied 563 yards, an average of some 35 yards per contest. I can only assume that this was a lines maker error given the wide disparity between the two numbers. Gradually, the established total moved up to 16.5, as did ‘the money’. By game time, one had to lay –150 to go ‘over’ the 16.5 yards. In the end, any number was a bargain as Proehl had a huge game.
I cite several keys to enjoying success in proposition betting, aside from finding those very rare miscalculations. In addition to being aware of any injuries that may have an effect, it is essential to understand as many aspects of the coach’s game plan as possible. If, in the above example, it was known that Ricky Proehl had a lingering injury, or had a diminished role, even a minimal amount of yards could have proved to be insurmountable. Situations such as this often change from game to game, depending upon the opposition as well as the health of the team, which may increase or decrease playing time of the player involved in the prop.
Another recommendation is to try to put yourself in a position whereby you will not be eliminated on the strength of one play. In last year’s Super Bowl, those that took the under 15.5 yards for Deion Branch’s longest pass reception, were sent for a cold shower on the games fifth snap when he caught a 16 yard Brady aerial.
Another rule is to look beyond the obvious. Prop lines are often times set without regard to special circumstances that may be in place. For example, in evaluating the strength of the Eagle’s vertical passing attack, one would be foolish to ignore the diminished potency of their aerial game as a result of the Terrell Owens injury. Such an injury would likely be taken in account by a lines maker, however other issues such as Michael Westbrook’s midseason rib problem may be overlooked in setting a proposition line. For several games, the Eagle’s all-purpose superstar played at less than 100%, which resulted in a diminished role, hence, less touches. Situations like these will negatively affect a player’s game average, which is the basis for setting the line.
If you take your props seriously, and are in it for profit, avoid those props are determined by sheer luck. A blatant example of that is wagering on which team will receive the ball first, which obviously relates to the coin toss, a wager which is actually available in the Super Bowl. However, other props such as ‘which player will score the first touchdown’, or ‘whether the QB’s first pass will be complete’, are also based on luck and should be treated accordingly.
Another vital factor of handicapping prop bets is to understand every element of what may affect your wager. If you believed that the Patriots and Tom Brady were superior to the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, a wager on the NE QB to generate more passing yards than the Pittsburgh rookie would have proved to be a losing proposition. In most cases, the losing QB will end up with a greater amount of passing yards as the trailing team is trying to play catch up through the air, while the team that is leading has gone to a clock consuming ground
attack. In the AFC Championship game, Brady tallied a very efficient 207 yards in the air, versus Ben’s 226, much of it coming on the last drive with the Patriots' defense lining up in prevent mode.