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While the media was obsessed over Tom Brady’s now infamous walking boot, visible as the pedal pushing Patriot QB was observed seeking refuge in the Manhattan love shack of model Gisele Bundchen, bookmakers were looking to generate some action of their own.
The vast majority of Las Vegas and offshore oddsmakers spent the better part of Monday and Tuesday concocting a virtual smorgasbord of proposition wagers which have now been made available to the betting public as Brady’s Patriots will take on the scrappy New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
The game, featuring the three-time champion Patriots and the Giants, winners of 10 consecutive road contests, including a trio in these playoffs, will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Arizona, a state of the arts facility with a retractable grass field that is rolled into the venue only on game day.
Long gone are the days in which the betting action was confined to strictly the point-spread and over/under. Today the proliferation of proposition wagering options has turned the Super Bowl into a gamblers’ dream, with enough options to make Pacman Jones' rap sheet read like Cat in the Hat.
‘Prop’ bets originated in the early 1980’s as a whim and now provide an expansive wagering menu which ties in to individual players, team performance, and specific events that occur within the game, or in the case of the coin toss or duration of the national anthem, ones immediately preceding it. Variations of the point spread and total are also available.
|Tom Brady's injury status shouldn't stop bettors from playing props in his favor.(AP Images)
For example, while the Pats have settled in as 12-point favorites, a bettor that anticipates a New England landslide victory could opt 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 Super Bowl to players, stats, and events in the big game itself.
Last year, one casino went so far as to offer props that pitted players of the then present day Bears against those of the Mike Ditka coached 1985 team that ran off 46 consecutive points en route to their annihilation of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
In a game that will tip off less than four hours before the start of Super Bowl XLII, the NBA will showcase a pair of title contenders from each conference as the Dallas Mavericks take on the Detroit Pistons from The Palace of Auburn Hills in a potential preview of the NBA Finals.
A few props have sprung up to titillate bettors’ fancies by pitting player stats from that contest versus numbers in the gridiron battle from Glendale on Sunday evening.
As props vary from venue to venue, and are often times created by innovative managers striving to set their book apart from the competition, the number of props that are available cannot be pinpointed to an exact number due to the extensive number of betting shops around the globe, though it is safe to say that it easily surpasses 500.
The sheer size of the prop menu will create betting opportunities, as the more options that the lines makers make available, the more prone he is to an oversight or miscalculation.
A classic example of that occurred in Super Bowl XXXVI as an ‘over/under’ prop for then Rams receiver Ricky Proehl, opened at 14.5 yards, which was inexplicably low based on the numbers which he compiled during the regular season.
Proehl played in all 16 regular season games that season and rang up 563 yards, an average of some 35 per contest and more than twice what the ‘over/under’ opened. Gradually the yardage moved up, eventually closing at 16 ˝, as did the ‘money’. By game time, one had to lay 150 to win 100, or 3 to 2, to wager that Proehl would exceed 16 ˝ in terms of receiving yards . In the end, Proehl proved to be a bargain at any number. Kurt Warner found the recently retired 16 year veteran 3 times for 71 yards and delivering ‘over’ bettors some easy cash.
Those rare miscalculations are just that, rare, but there are other keys to enjoying success in proposition wagering.
Keying in on any lingering injuries is obviously essential, but not to be overlooked is dissecting a coaches’ game plan, which often times can spell the difference between cashing a ticket and hurling a few choice obscenities towards anyone that may care to listen.
That knowledge may provide insight as to how a player is utilized, for example, in the case of a tight end, whether for blocking purposes, or for going out on pass patterns.
At first glance, the ‘over/under’ for catches on Giant tight end Kevin Boss appears tempting at 2, if you happen to be of the opinion that the first year player out of Oregon can replicate his four-catch, career best performance against these same Patriots in the regular season finale, a 38-35 win by New England. The Giant game plan will weigh heavily on the outcome on this one as Boss has had five starts since the injury to Jeremy Shockey in Week 15 and exceeded the 2 in only that one contest.
If the 6 6” Boss ends up in the pass patterns on the majority of the snaps as opposed to becoming a designated blocker, and the Patriots elect to double team Plaxico Burress, the over could be easy pickings at +125 for every 100 wagered especially if Amani Toomer lives up to form by allowing an early Manning pass to elude his grasp, which may inspire the Giant QB to look in Boss’ direction. Toomer appears determined to become the football version of Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Duran, known affectionately by his admiring fans as ‘Hands of Stone.’
Two years ago, the impending retirement of Jerome Bettis had odds makers in a tizzy, as it stood to reason that head coach Bill Cowher would spoon feed the ‘Bus’ in an attempt to send the 13-year veteran out a high note, especially if the Steelers opened up a comfortable lead, which is exactly what took place.
Those supporting that theory were rewarded as Bettis finished with 43 yards on 14 carries, in each case roughly twice his season average. However, those that wagered that ‘the Bus’ would reach the end zone were frustrated as he was stuffed short of the goal line on a pair of attempts, as Vegas bookmakers breathed a collective sigh of relief.
On the injury front, with the severity of Brady’s wounded wicket in question, prop bets relating to the Patriot quarterbacks’ productivity have to be considered somewhat of a crap shoot, especially given New England’s tendency to rely almost solely on the passing game this year, even while sporting double digit leads.
A heavier dose of Laurence Maroney appears to be in order, as was the case in the two prior Patriot playoff wins as the second year pro out of Minnesota racked up 122 yards a piece in each of those contests. The Giants figure to use a front seven to create intense pressure on Brady in an attempt to test that tainted ankle, as an early exit by Giselle’s love toy would put the Patriot chance of an undefeated season in severe jeopardy due to the precipitous drop off to their back up QB, Matt Cassel, who has thrown all of 39 passes in his career. Look for Brady’s receivers to run shorter routes behind that front 7, thereby allowing for a quicker release, and thus minimizing the opportunity of a game-ending hit from the ferocious Giants’ pass rush.
As Devin Hester high tailed it into the end zone after running back the opening kickoff 92 yards in last years Super Bowl, won by the Colts by a score of 29-17, groans of pain and screams of pleasure was the order of the moment as no less than five props were decided, including a 20-1 payoff to those that corrected wagered Hester would score the games’ first touchdown.
Exposing yourself to elimination on the strength of one play can be dicey to say the least, and may result in an early cold shower, as was the case for those that wagered the longest touchdown during that impending Colt victory would be less than 43 yards.
Fours years ago, in Super Bowl XXXVII, those that chose to go under 15 ˝ yards on Deion Branch’s longest pass reception found themselves doing just that, as Tom Brady found the then Patriot receiver for a 16-yard reception on the games fifth play from scrimmage..
It’s easy to overlook all of the factors that may affect your wager. When the Steelers grounded the Seahawks by a count of 21-10 two years ago, the final score might lead one to believe that Ben Roethlisberger easily out gunned Matt Hasselbeck in terms of passing yards. Not so fast.
The Seattle signal caller more than doubled the productivity of Big Ben, who managed only 9 completions in 21 attempts in tallying a meager 123 yards. Hasselback, in a losing effort, generated 273 yards while completing 26-of-49 passes.
Nothing unusual here as it is common for a losing QB to pass for more yards than their victorious counterpart, as coaches tend to sit on leads on top of going into prevent defenses, both of which will statistically benefit the signal caller of the team that is trailing. In this spot, the injury to Brady may work itself in to this equation.
If your motivation is merely to enhance your viewing pleasure, then finding a choice amongst the bountiful buffet of options should be fun. If your goals are more financially driven, you will want to dismiss 80-90 percent of these prop bets as merely a flip of the coin, and seek out the best lines, which vary a great deal from shop to shop on these types of wagers.
Speaking of the flip of the coin, the prior 41 Super Bowls reflects a 21-20 edge to heads though tails has been known to play well from behind. And if that is too long a wait to decide your fate, there is always the National Anthem, this year to be sung by American Idol Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, which sports an over and under of 1 minute and 44 seconds.