Friday, February 3, 2012

NFL Super Bowl Props Predictions: February 5, 2012

I would not wager more than a half unit on any of these because at the end of the day they are just game props.  They are more intended for some fun for those that like a little bit extra on the games.  The Super Bowl is the most popular game to wager prop bets on so there are nearly 300+ to choose from. I am not suggesting betting on all of the ones listed below, but these are the ones that I can find some justification for.  Many of the other props available are nothing more than a blind coin flip.  These include everything from Madonna's hair color and fishnet stockings all the way to Kelly Clarkson's ability to get the anthem right.  All the following props can be found at Bodog.

How long will it take Kelly Clarkson to sing the National Anthem?   U1 min 34 sec
A lot of people seem to think 1 minute and 34 seconds is too short for the national anthem on the biggest stage.  Based on various reports out there, this is above her average time.  Could she draw some notes out for dramatic effect?  Sure, but I'm going with the law of averages here.

How many times will Peyton Manning be shown on TV during the game? U3.5
I've seen these kinds of props a dozen times over previous seasons and it's not very often that something non-game related gets this much attention during a game.  They might bring up his health status once and a comparison to his brother another time, but I think this number even gives us a little breathing room in case there is a lull in the action. 

How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown on TV during the game? O 0.5
The Super Bowl is all about glitz and glamor.  This game will have a broader audience than any other sporting event of the year and if Gisele makes herself visible you can be sure that they will pan to her at least one time during the broadcast.  The only way I see that they don't is if the "Golden Couple" put in a special request not to prior to the game.

How many times will Jim Irsay be mentioned on TV during the game? U1
I really don't see how Irsay will become a name of topic during a Super Bowl between different teams.  He's been in a news a lot over the last couple weeks, but is that enough reason for them to bring it up?  Irsay might get a throw-away mention in passing, but no way do they revisit his name more than once. 

How many times will David Tyree's 2008 Super Bowl catch be shown be shown on TV during the game? O1
If you weren't lucky enough to get in on this prop while the number was still at 1 then you might want to lean towards U1.5.  My rationale for taking the over is too simple--how can they not show his catch at least one time during the game?  Even if the game isn't close they will air this once, but if it is a close game in the 4th quarter they might even show it an additional time.  We are talking about the most dramatic and amazing catch in Super Bowl history and we have the same teams in a rematch just a few years later. 

How many times will Andrew Luck be mentioned on TV during the game? U1
I took the under on this one for many of the same reasons that I took the under for Peyton and Irsay.  These names just don't come up during the course of a game as often as people think they do.  I think the line on this prop should be set at 0.5, not 1.  At worst I see a push.

How many times will Robert Kraft be shown on TV during the game? U3.5
The money is coming in on the over on this one.  Kraft is always at the center of the Patriots so I can't put up that big of a fight against the over, but as I've said--four times is a lot to show someone during a broadcast.  I could see them showing him once or twice during celebrations and another time if a topic of relevance comes up. 




Will any player get a penalty for excessive celebration in the game? YES
I really like the odds for this prop (+250).  I don't anticipate any players getting cute with celebrations given who the coaches are and what's at stake, but I wouldn't be surprised whatsoever if a player gets caught up in the emotion of the occasion and goes over the top--especially if it's a key score or a blowout.

Who will the Super Bowl MVP of the Game thank first? God, Teammates
Last year I picked the same prop and I chose "God".  It turns out no one was thanked by Aaron Rodgers.  Given that the MVP will likely be either Brady or Manning, I like the odds for "Teammates", but I still think "God" is a decent choice to hedge with--especially if someone else has a big game and walks away with the prize.


What will the TV Rating be for the Super Bowl? U47.5
Last year the over/under for the Nielsen rating was set at 46 and it went under despite setting records for most viewers for a TV rating.  47.5 is high and I'd be very surprised if it went over this total.

How many average viewers will the game have? U117M
Will this game surpass last year's total by 6 million viewers?  The simple answer is "no".

How many viewers will stream the Super Bowl online? U1.5M
NBC averaged 250,000 online viewers for their Sunday Night games this year that also carried an average viewership of 20M television viewers.  This is a bit of an experiment for the NFL and NBC and I'm comfortable with the under--especially since many of the executives have already gone on the record to say they are expecting underwhelming numbers during their first try at this. 

Specials
The books have now come up with a lot of cross-sport props to draw in the casual viewer.  As a big hockey fan, I've rolled with the following...

NYG Total Team Points vs Lundqvist saves - NYG 
The Philadelphia Flyers have the ability to put up a lot of shots, but the NYR are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL.  I like the NYG to score between 20-30 points on Sunday, which could be enough to win this prop alone, but it would only take an extra field goal or touchdown to win this one comfortably.

Gaborik shots vs Manningham receptions - Gaborik 
Manningham hasn't been incorporated into the offense all that much during the post-season.  Gaborik averages 3.32 shots per game, but given his propensity to shoot he could easily wind up with 5-6 shots on Sunday.  It would take an injury to Nicks or Cruz to get Manningham this many balls. 




Nicks receptions vs Goals in Flyers/Rangers game - Nicks
The average number of goals for an NHL games hovers around 5.5, but NY are one of the stingiest teams in the league allowing just under 2 goals per game.  Nicks is going to be targeted early and often and given how questionable that NE pass defense is...this pick is a no-brainer. 


Brady TD passes vs Bruins Total Team goals - Bruins 
The over/under for Brady TD passes is set at 2.5.  The Boston Bruins average 3.5 goals per game.  Need I say more?

Branch receptions vs Seguin shots - Branch 
Seguin averages 2.8 shots per game.  I see Brady looking Branch's way more times than this on Sunday--especially if Gronk is going to be limited as expected.

If Tom Brady's son is shown on TV during the game will he be wearing a Brady jersey - Yes
Another no-brainer here.  Kids are often wearing their father's jerseys to the game and I think this is no exception.  If I had to wager on it I'd say they don't show Brady's son, but if they do then I like this prop to cash.

NFL Super Bowl Prediction: February 5, 2012

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

New York Giants vs New England Patriots: NE -3

Market Place
Before we get into any kind of analysis for this game, let's take a look at the market place.  To start with, 61% of the public have backed the NYG through the first 12 days of action.  The books that opened with NE as 3.5 point favorites are likely regretting that decision as it was quickly bet down to -3.  Recently, some prominent bookmakers have even moved the line to -2.5!  Apparently, non-stop money has been coming in on NY so they decided they would move off the key number of 3 and see what happens.  As predicted, NE got pounded at that number and there was a lot of back and forth line movement over the last 48 hours.  Yet, despite these trends, there have reportedly been no massive wagers coming in on the NY money line as I write this which could be a tip off that sharps are waiting to see what kind of price they can get NE at.   Another thing to keep in mind is that only 15% or so of the expected action has wagered thus far.  The large bulk of it has yet to weigh in.  I was comfortable taking NE at -3 and I would snatch up -2.5 if you can get it without sacrificing too much juice.  Keep a close eye on this as the weekend unfolds. 

Trends
One other thing that I want to get out of the way before the write-up is an example of trends.  I've probably heard about two dozen trends that other handicappers and bettors are waving around, but I haven't seen one that seems to merit any worthy attention.  For instance, the team that is the better seed in the Super Bowl is 1-11-2 ATS since 1996.  Concerning?  Well before you race to the ticket counter, consider that Bill Belichick is 11-2 ATS against a team after losing to them the same year.  If this was the preseason I'd give these trends some more thought, but we could go crazy trying to debate the merits of these numbers.

Let's get to the game...

Review
In the Conference Championships, BAL was unlucky to not come away with the win for obvious reasons.  What is important for our purposes is the fact that NE was able to come away with the win despite losing the turnover battle (-2) and a subpar game from the Golden Boy.  Another good sign for NE is that they not only won the game with an injured Gronkowski, but they were able to shut down Ray Rice.  This is not getting nearly enough attention as most of the focus has been on the dropped TD pass by Evans and the missed FG.  Rice is usually dominant against a below average defense, but his longest run was 12 yards.

If I'm NY, I certainly won't want to rely on the kind of breaks that they've got to earn their SB berth.  No question they deserve full credit for executing and making enough plays to win games, but vs ATL they were able to ride home field momentum in the 2nd half.  The following week they were lucky to match up with a rusty and flat GB Packers team.  Some would argue that NY forced Rodgers into an off day, but if you've been watching GB all year you'll know that just isn't the full story.  I had a feeling that one of the top seeds would be out of rhythm that weekend, but I didn't expect it to be GB.  Fast forward to the game vs SF and you have two fortunate special teams gaffs that made the difference.  SF was able to sack Manning a bunch of times and threw in a dozen knockdowns for good measure.  Give NY props for surviving their mistakes, but they face a whole different animal when Sunday rolls around.

Matchup
At season's end I had NE #4 in my power rankings and NYG 10th.  Entering the playoffs NE was 2-1 against tough teams - NYG 2-4.  So what gives?  Is NY catching fire at the right time?  Should I ignore all the matchups and rankings and ride the so-called "hot" team?  Is NE a team without momentum?  The last time I checked they had won 10 in a row.

I'm not going to get too in-depth with the X's and O's because we've heard enough of that over the last two weeks.  I will highlight the key factors that have me leaning towards the Pats though.  Right off the bat it's clear that both teams should have ample opportunity in the passing game. The question everybody wants to know is what is the status of Gronkowksi's ankle.  I'm not doctor, nor do I play one on the internet, but I have seen enough players hobbled with high ankle sprains over the years to know that he won't be able to command double coverage very often. So how does this impact the game plan?  NY is going to be able to roll coverages and be more aggressive with the pass rush/blitzing.  This puts the focus on the battle in the trenches.

There has been so much talk about the NY pass rush that I think it's time we looked at things a little more realistically.  Throughout the season NY ranked in the middle of the pack in the adjusted sack total column.  On the flip side, NE's O-line ranked near the top.  I didn't see enough in the playoffs to dramatically alter my opinion on these stats.   Looking at both O-lines, Diehl has given up the most sacks for NY (5.5), while Solder is the weakest link for NE (5).  Comparatively, NE has the much better rush-passing O-line thanks in large part to Mankins/Waters and I expect them to chip/block Pierre Paul to keep things balanced in protection.

Do I think the lines will be a key factor in the game?  Absolutely, but I think the so-called advantage for the NYG pass rush is getting overblown by the talking heads on TV.  Unless NY can cause a turnover or two from the rush or make a key stop in the red zone--it will be business as usual for Brady and company.  If I was backing NY, there are other areas that I'd be more concerned about.

To start with, NY should zero in on what Brady can do on long drives and in the red zone.  NE rank near the top in red zone efficiency and have the most points from long drives in the entire NFL.  They also rank near the top in turnover differential (last week notwithstanding) and penalties per game.  There is so much talk about how leaky the NE defense is, but they were only 2nd to GB in points-to-yards ratio in the league.  Simply put, this team either toughens up in the red zone or creates turnovers more often than people think.  This stat has been very under-reported in all of the analysis I've seen and usually gets no more than mere lip service. Conversely, NY rank near the middle red zone efficiency on offense and a little worse for red zone defense.  In fact, the only area that the NYG really excel at is their pass protection and points from long drives.  They are average in almost every other meaningful statistical category that is linked to winning.

Is an all-around solid team good enough to beat a NE team that thrives in many important categories?

Like most people, I expect Brady to regress to the mean and have a much better performance than he did vs BAL.  Eli is bound to have a productive day too given his passing options and less than stellar opposition on defense.  NE gave up 20.7 points per game this year, but after adjusting for strength of schedule I'd peg NY to score between 20-30 points.  NE averaged a lot more points offensively, but that also needs to be adjusted down due to their schedule.  The question will be--which NY defense will show up?  NY have been one of the most difficult teams to handicap all year and this game is no exception.  Their units have played very good in the playoffs, but I'd hardly go as far as saying they have been "great".

In reality, the same key categories that dominant most games are likely going to dictate this game.  Getting off the field on 3rd down is vital.  Both teams rank near the bottom in 3rd down defense, but NE rank near the top in 3rd down offense, while NY sit somewhere near the middle of the pack offensively.  Special teams will also be important to secure that "hidden yardage".  NE have the slight edge here, but not enough to crown them with a clear advantage. 

I can understand those who think that the Gronk injury is enough to swing the pendulum the other way, but I can't ignore the rest of the key advantages that favor NE.  Even still, if Gronkowski is able to line up on that field on Sunday, you can be sure that he will have opportunities to make some key plays.  If Brady sees him in a mismatch situation you can be sure that the ball will be going his way.  NY will have to walk a fine line with their approach because the second you sleep on a guy like this, he'll make you pay--even if he is significantly hampered with his route-running and getting off the line.  The guy put up 17 TD's this year and the next closest TE was Jimmy Graham with 8.  Not many Patriots have earned double digit receiving TDs over the years, so just being on the field will be enough to take advantage.

When comparing these teams head-to-head, the culmination of key factors puts a strong lean towards NE--even after accounting for the strength of schedule discrepancy.   NY will have their opportunities to make plays and give NE all they can handle, but there are just too many areas where NE can compensate and do damage.  Both teams are flawed, but NE are best in the areas that matter most.  If the game is question in the waning moments on Sunday, I want to have my money on the side that has been the most consistent and done it all year.  With all due respect to the inspiration of David Tryee and Eli Manning, I don't anticipate a repeat of 2008.  I like NE to win yet another Super Bowl in what should be a fascinating matchup.