The tradition holiday season may have passed, but Sunday marks one of the biggest sports betting holidays of the year: the Super Bowl.
Just like any other football game, countless individuals will be betting on the spread and the total when the New England Patriots meet the Atlanta Falcons in NRG Stadium in Houston. Unlike most other games, what makes the Super Bowl special is the amount of action a bettor can get down not just on the outcome of the game, but on countless props ranging from ordinary statistical bets to wacky guesses about what halftime performers will be wearing.
Without further ado, we'll break down the game and then analyze what we think might be some fun and hopefully profitable props to get your money down on.
All lines taken from Paddy Power
Fans should be in for a treat if the line and the total are any indication, as this one's expected to be a close, high-scoring battle between a pair of the league's most efficient offenses.
Likely NFL MVP Matt Ryan will lead an array of weapons into battle against a Patriots defense that has shown tons of improvement in recent contests. Once ranked near the bottom of the league, the Pats have stifled their past five opponents, holding them all to no more than 17 points, with even that total padded by the Steelers in garbage time.
However, Pittsburgh is the only one of those that would be termed a good offense, while the Dolphins might generously be regarded as average in the form they finished the season. The Falcons will bring a historically strong offense to bear. Especially potent is WR Julio Jones, who might be the best in the game, and RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. New England brings the league's fourth-ranked run defense to battle those two, but they also ranked 20th against RBs receiving the ball. Ryan will have to find those two in the passing game, and they can create big plays after the catch.
New England let top corner Malcolm Butler shadow Antonio Brown a bunch against Pittsburgh, but that strategy is dicey against Jones. He has been simply impossible to cover, and he's likely the healthiest he's been in awhile after closing the season with some nagging injuries. The Falcons were one of the most effective teams throwing deep this year. If the Pats don't get pressure on Ryan, expect him to find Jones deep a couple of times.
The Pats lack the weapons the Falcons have on offense, but they bring the scheming expertise of Bill Belichick and his top-notch staff. Week after week, they exploit others' weaknesses and minimize their own. It starts at QB, where Tom Brady spent the season dissecting teams with a ho-hum group of receiving options. He's actually got a big-play target back in the fold with the return of Dion Lewis, who represents a key threat against a Falcons defense that was near the bottom of the league in defending receiving backs.
Somehow, the absence of top corner Desmond Trufant due to injury hasn't hurt the Falcons defense at all. If anything, they've looked better since he went down, a tribute to an improving group and a good coaching staff. How the Pats scheme for pass rushing demon Vic Beasley will be key. If Beasley can make Brady uncomfortable, his accuracy could falter, especially if he's looking to hit anything past 10 yards. Brady just doesn't have the ability to evade pass rushers who take good angles and don't overpursue.
What the Falcons did against Aaron Rodgers and an admittedly banged-up receiving corps was mighty impressive. We're going with the +3, and we also think there will be a few more stops in this one than expected as a couple of defensive-minded head coaches will come with good game plans in tow.
Blount could go over this total pretty easily if the Patriots open up a decent-sized lead for a lengthy stretch of the game, especially if they're up a couple of scores in the fourth. However, Blount just isn't that effective of a runner, and if the -3 line is any indication, the Pats won't be turning this one into a laugher. Dion Lewis has cut into Blount's carries significantly of late, and even in the easy win over the Steelers where he got 16 totes, the plodder only managed 47 yards.
For his career, Ryan has thrown picks on 2.3 percent of his passes. His expected number of pass attempts according to the prop line is 38. The Patriots weren't particularly good at forcing picks this year, ranking right in the middle of the league in INT%. So, why are we getting plus money when Ryan should be a slight dog to throw a pick here?
Edelman has hit pay dirt just three times this year. Since he became a high-volume player in 2013, he has scored 20 TDs in 55 regular season games. He's probably a little more likely than normal to score in a game with such a high total, but it still seems like he should be more of an underdog than the 47 percent chance implied by this line.
Under 8 Falcons Catch a Pass
In the past six competitive games the Falcons played, in which they were actively looking to score on most of their possessions, the number of players catching passes was eight (three times), seven, and six. We can expect both RBs, at least three WRs, and at least one TE to catch passes, but that still leaves breathing room to capture this plus money.
Gisele Bundchen Shown Under 1.5 Times (-245)
This prop was available last time the Pats made the Super Bowl and it came in easily. There's just no reason to expect them to show Tom Brady's wife unless they need to kill some airtime with the Pats up big late. If the game line's accurate at all, that won't be the case.
FOX Crew Doesn't Reference Game Odds (+115)
This isn't Brent Musberger or Al Michaels in the booth.
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