Top 10 post-Super Bowl betting tidbits
By Gary Trask
Trailing 28-3 in the second half, the Patriots not only completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history by scoring 31 unanswered points in an implausible overtime victory, but also covered the 3-point spread and pushed the game over the total in the process.
To put it mildly, if you cashed in on the Patriots and over, we hope you donated some of your winnings to a favorite charity because both of those bets were all but dead midway through the second half.
In addition to the astounding events that unfolded on the football field, Super Bowl LI was also fascinating in betting circles, as seen by the following 10 tidbits.
10. Tails (almost) never fails
Super Bowl proposition bets have become increasingly popular in recent years, making up as much as 50% of some sportsbooks' handle.
One of the more popular wagers each year involves the ceremonial coin toss and this year's flip — with President George H.W. Bush, using a wheelchair after his January hospitalization, doing the honors — landed on tails, for the fourth year in a row. Tails now holds a 27-24 edge over heads in Super Bowl history, which is not surprising for a 50-50 proposition. However, the NFC has now won an uncanny 18 of the last 20 coin tosses in the Super Bowl.
9. Dog finally stops barking
The improbable win by New England snapped a number of different recent Super Bowl trends that have favored the underdog. Entering Sunday's game, the underdog had won the Super Bowl outright in five straight seasons and seven of the last nine years.
Despite Atlanta's choke, the underdog remains 12-4 against the spread in the last 16 Super Bowls (Note: Seattle was anywhere from a 1-point favorite to pick'em when it lost to New England in Super Bowl XLIX)
8. A 0.5% chance to win?
Falcons win probability after Patriots TD- 98.9% pic.twitter.com/l8RKJbFRAj— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 6, 2017
How unlikely was the turn of events in the fourth quarter that led to a Patriots victory? Let's put it in perspective.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, when Patriots receiver Julian Edelman threw an option pass that fell incomplete with 6:12 remaining in the third quarter and New England trailing 28-3, the Falcons' win probability peaked at 99.5%.
The live wagering line on the Pats at William Hill soared to +1600, and even after New England scored a TD to make it 28-9, the Falcons were a 16.5-point favorite in the game entering the fourth quarter.
New England didn't lead in the game until James White bulldozed his way into the end zone in overtime, and in the process snapped a streak of 120 NFL playoff games in which a team winning by 17 points or more failed to close the deal with a "W."
This was as bad of a beat for Falcons backers who not only took the team at +3 points or +130 on the money line as it was for those of us who had juicy future tickets on Atlanta to win the Super Bowl.
7. Top defense prevails again
Super Bowl LI marked the sixth time in the game's history in which the league's No. 1 scoring offense (Atlanta, 34.4 points per game) faced the No. 1 scoring defense (New England, 15.7 points per game). Following the Patriots' victory, the defensive team is now 6-1, both straight up and against the spread.
The only loss for the No. 1 defensive team came in Super Bowl XXIV, when the high-flying San Francisco 49ers (-12) routed Denver, 55-10. The Broncos entered that game allowing just 14.1 points per game.
6. Pats survive negative turnover ratio
Turnovers are one of the true predicators of NFL games. Typically, if a team wins the turnover battle, it prevails around 77% of the time, but that number is even more convincing in the Super Bowl. Entering Sunday, a team that had more fumbles/interceptions than its opponent had only won four of the previous 50 Super Bowls.
That number is now five, as New England survived a key fumble by LeGarrette Blount in the first quarter that led to an Atlanta TD and an inexcusable pick-six thrown by Tom Brady late in the second half.
The Falcons only had one turnover in the game, but it may have been the most important play of New England's comeback. Holding a seemingly commanding 28-12 lead with 8:13 remaining in regulation, Atlanta faced a 3rd-and-1 from its own 36. All offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had to do was call for a run and the game may have been over, since the clock would have kept churning and even if they didn’t get the first down, the Falcons could have punted and pinned New England deep in its own territory with about seven minutes left in the game.
Instead, QB Matt Ryan dropped back to pass and got strip sacked by Dont'a Hightower. New England recovered at the Atlanta 25 and five plays later the Pats scored a TD and converted a two-point conversion to make it an eight-point game with 5:56 left.
5. Highest total in Super Bowl history squeaks over
You can be sure that anyone with a Falcons and/or under ticket in Super Bowl LI will never forget the aforementioned play, because it not only ignited New England's historic comeback, but cost those poor people both the side and total in the game.
The total on this year's Super Bowl ranged from 59, which is where it was for most of last week, to either 57 or 56.5, which is what it dropped to at most outlets in the hours before kickoff. Either way, it was the largest total in Super Bowl history, topping the 56 that was posted in 2010 when the Saints upset the Colts, 31-17.
While Falcons bettors have to be devastated this morning, folks out there who played the under are just as bewildered. The game was scoreless after the first quarter, and even after a 24-point second quarter, the under was looking good. But Atlanta's dreadful clock management (it ran the ball just five times in 31 offensive plays after taking a 28-3 lead in the third quarter, and repeatedly snapped the ball well before the play clock fell below 10 seconds) extended the game and kept the over alive.
Even when New England scored a TD with 0:57 left to cut the lead to 28-26, all Atlanta had to do was stop the two-point conversion and under tickets likely would have cashed. But the Pats converted, forcing a 28-28 tie, meaning the game would go to OT and, of course, go over.
Second-half under bettors also got stung by that two-point conversion pass from Brady to Danny Amendola, as it pushed the second-half total of 31 to the over.
Final 2-pt conversion by Pats likely the biggest gambling play in sports history - BILLIONS changed hands (Atl/Under ended up NE/Over)— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) February 6, 2017
One more side note about totals: Since 2003, NFL playoff games played inside are now 25-8 (76%) to the over, including 4-0 this season.
Speaking of overs . . .
4. Falcons are the greatest "over" team of all time
While Atlanta may have coughed up the Lombardi Trophy in Houston, it did manage to finish the season as the best "over" team in NFL history, as 16 of its 19 games this season went over the total.
Falcons' games averaged a mind-boggling 61.6 points per game this season and went over the total by a league-best 9 points per game. The Saints were a distant second in that category with their games going over by 5.7 points per game.
3. Pats are the greatest point spread team of all time
Despite being a "public" team, New England continues to cover point spreads at an alarming rate — particularly this season, when they finished 16-3 at the betting window. That ties them with the 1989 Super Bowl champion 49ers for the best single-season point spread record in league history.
What's more, since 2003, New England has been the best point spread team in the NFL, going 141-101-7 ATS, an astounding 59.3% win rate, according to TeamRankings.com.
2. "Will there be OT?" cashes (finally!)
Amateur bettors love to "risk a little to win a lot." That's why the prop bet "Will There Be Overtime?" at appetizing odds as high as 7-to-1 are enticing for the average person walking into a sportsbook.
Professional bettors, or "sharps," are much different. They don't mind laying huge dollars to win a little, as long as the odds are in their favor. So, betting the "No" on the overtime prop at -1100 (risk $1,100 to win $100) is a standard bet for a lot of pros, since the odds of an NFL game going into OT are much higher than that.
Well, up until yesterday, betting the "No" had never lost. There were likely a number of pro bettors out there on Sunday night that were rooting hard against the Pats' final two-point conversion that forced the extra session, while amateur bettors who took a flyer and went against a 50-0 streak rejoiced.
In case you were wondering, the YES on the prop "Will there be OVERTIME?" opened at +550 and got up to +650. 1,222 YES tickets just cashed.— William Hill US (@WilliamHillUS) February 6, 2017
1. The bookies win (again!)
The "guys on the other side of the counter" have enjoyed great success on Super Bowl Sunday, and this year was no different.
According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the state's sportsbooks won $10.9 million on Sunday, and saw a record handle of $138.4 million. This marks the seventh time in the last eight years the Super Bowl has drawn a new high, soaring from $81.5 million in 2008 to $132.5 million last year, to this year's figure.
Since the Board began reporting Super Bowl wagers separately back in 1991, the state's sportsbooks have recorded a handsome profit on the Super Bowl every year, except for two exceptions: Super Bowl XXIX when the 49ers drilled San Diego, 49-26, as a 18-point favorite, and Super Bowl XLII when the NY Giants stunned the undefeated Patriots, 17-14, as a 12.5-point dog.