Top 10 Super Bowl LII proposition bets
By Gary Trask
According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the state's sportsbooks have made a profit in 25 of out the last 27 Super Bowls, dating back to 1991 when it started reporting wagers separately for the NFL's biggest game of the year. The two exceptions? Super Bowl XXIX, when the 49ers blew out San Diego, 49-26, as an 18-point favorite, and Super Bowl XLII, when the NY Giants shocked the world and took down the undefeated Patriots, 17-14, as a 12.5-point underdog.
What's more, the amount being wagered on the Super Bowl continues to mushroom. Last year, when the Patriots defeated the Falcons in one of the most riveting Super Bowls ever played, Nevada sportsbooks won $10.9 million and enjoyed a new record handle ($138.4 million) for the seventh time in eight years.
With all of the above in mind, we're not going to sit on our proverbial betting hands on Sunday just because the house seemingly always wins. The great thing about the Super Bowl is that with the advent of proposition bets, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of ways to bet the game. In fact, the popularity of these prop bets has exploded over the years to the point where many sportsbooks will have as much, or more, action on props than they will on the game's side, total and money line. And when there are that many options and you're willing to do your due diligence, there is value to be found.
So, below we present 10 Super Bowl prop bets we think are worth a wager this Sunday.
10. Will Brady wear a bandage?
We start with one of the many "novelty" prop bets that are found at offshore books, and we're pretty confident that Tom Brady's right hand will be healed enough by Sunday that he won't have to wear any sort of bandage, like he did during the AFC Championship.
By the time the Super Bowl kicks off it will have been 18 days since Brady sliced his hand in practice on the helmet of a teammate, causing a cut that required 12 stitches. Those stitches were removed earlier this week, and Brady has admitted he doesn't like wearing a glove or bandage on his hand as he guns for a sixth-career Super Bowl trophy. The guess here is that he does everything possible in the days leading up to Sunday to ensure his hand is naked during the game.
Lay $175 to win $100 at Bovada that Brady will not wear a bandage on his throwing hand.
9. Wisconsin vs. Brady
In addition to novelty props like "Color of Liquid Dumped on Winning Coach?" ("Yellow" is the +280 favorite at Bovada Sportsbook) and "Will Pink Display Cleavage During the National Anthem? ("Yes" pays +380 at BetOnline Sports), there are also an array of cross-sport bets you can make on the Super Bowl, involving everything from the NBA to golf to soccer.
We like this one that involves college basketball and asks which will be higher, the amount of points scored by the Wisconsin men's basketball team in the first of half of its game against Maryland on Sunday (-1/2), or Tom Brady's pass completions?
Although Wisconsin is one of the slowest-paced and lower-scoring teams in the nation, we're going to side with the Badgers. Wisconsin averages 30.5 points per first half when playing on the road, and Maryland allows 31 points per first half at home.
If Wisconsin can get to 30 in that first half, we like our chances, since the over/under for Brady completions in the game is around 26 or 27. For the season, Brady averages 24.7 completions per game and has only gone over 30 three times in 18 games this season. Also, the Eagles have the seventh-best pass defense in the league as rated by FootballOutsiders.com, our go-to site for all NFL stats and rankings, and do a good job of covering running backs as pass catchers (No. 10 in the league), which is where Brady gets a ton of completions.
Lay $110 to win $100 at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino Wisconsin will score more points in first half vs. Maryland (-1/2) than Tom Brady will have completions in the Super Bowl.
8. Will either team score three unanswered times in the game?
Here's a prop that has been a profitable one for us over the years and one the public is typically on the other side of, which makes us like it even more. The average person probably thinks that in the Super Bowl it would be difficult for a team to score three straight times. So, when they see they can play the "no" here at a +150 or so price they are inclined to jump all over it.
But the truth is, it happens more often than not. According to the good folks at SportsMemo.com, it's happened in 36 of the 51 Super Bowls and in eight of the last 11 years. Bovada is offering a nice price on the "yes" at -170 (much cheaper than the Las Vegas sportsbooks that are all in the neighborhood of -200), so we'll take advantage.
Lay $170 to win $100 at Bovada that one of the teams will score three unanswered times in the game.
7. Highest scoring half?
Here's another prop bet where history is on our side. The second half has been higher scoring than the first half in 14 of the last 20 Super Bowls. In addition, the Patriots have been slow starters in Super Bowls during the Belichick/Brady era, failing to score a single point in the first quarter of all seven they have participated in.
Our friends at bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook have the best price on this, as they offer three-way wagering, which means a tie would lose, not push. We're more than willing to take that chance.
Lay $105 to win $100 at bet365 that the second half will be the highest scoring half.
6. What will the Eagles do first? Punt or score?
In a game where we think the Eagles will want to play conservative early and not put their inexperienced QB in any early pressure situations, we like the value here in calling for an Eagles punt at -120 before a score, found at South Point Hotel Casino and Spa.
The Patriots ranked No. 10 in the league in first quarter scoring defense, which adds even more sound reasoning to this wager.
Lay $120 to win $100 at the South Point that the Eagles will punt before scoring.
5. Nick Foles under 37.5 pass attempts
Let's stay at the South Point and play another prop that plays into the Eagles being conservative.
Let's face it, this game isn't just Philadelphia vs. New England. It’s back-up Nick Foles (three career playoff starts) vs. Tom "G.O.A.T." Brady (seven career Super Bowl starts). If I'm the team with Nick Foles under center, I don't want to get in a shootout against Brady and the second-ranked scoring offense in the NFL. The Super Bowl winner has won the turnover battle in all but five of the 51 Super Bowls played in NFL history, so the less Foles has to drop back and pass, the better for the Eagles, who don't make him to put him at risk of making that big mistake.
That means I'm going to try my best to win the time of possession battle and use my No. 5-ranked rushing attack against New England's No. 30-ranked rushing defense. That means fewer pass attempts for Foles, who is averaging just 30 pass attempts in his five starts since taking over for the injured Carson Wentz back in December.
Now, if the Pats build a big lead at some point and the Eagles are forced to pass, this bet could be in trouble. But as you'll see when you get to No. 1 on this list, a large New England lead (and eventual victory) should help our bankroll, so we won't mind sacrificing this bet. And with a point spread of under a TD, this game is supposed to be close. So, we'll take our chances at a more than reasonable price.
Lay $110 to win $100 at the South Point on Nick Foles under 37.5 attempts.
4. Longest completion by Nick Foles: Over 36.5 yards
While we don't expect a lot of drop backs from Foles in this game, when he does take a shot downfield, we're betting he'll connect on at least one or two deep balls. The Pats ranked 24th out of 31 teams this year on allowing pass completions of 20 yards or more with 57. That's an average of 3.5 per game.
Lay $115 to win $100 at BetOnline that Nick Foles' longest completion will be over 36.5 yards.
3. Will the first kickoff by Stephen Gostkowski be a touchback?
3-0.— Only In Boston (@OnlyInBOS) January 21, 2018
Stephen Gostkowski is now tied for third with the most field goals made in the postseason.
Adam Vinatieri - 56
David Akers - 39
Gary Anderson - 32
Stephen Gostkowski - 32 pic.twitter.com/7aoMazYi69
Love him or hate him (yes, I know, most of you hate him), Bill Belichick is the best football coach of all time because his teams consistently do the little things correctly. One of those items is special teams, where over the last eight years the Pats have always had a Top 7 special teams unit and average out to having the third-best in the league during that time.
Most NFL teams simply boom it out of, or into, the endzone for a touchback on kickoffs and give the opposing the team the ball at the 25. But not the Patriots. They prefer Gostkowski to land the kick right around the goal line, or just short of it, so the returner brings it out. The reason? If the New England kickoff team is in position, which they are more often than not, it will make the stop before the 25.
We have the stats to back this up. FootballOutsiders confirms that the Pats ranked No. 1 in the NFL this year in average opponent starting field position. Also, Gostkowski ranked 17th in kickoff touchbacks this year with 44, despite the fact that he had the most kickoff attempts with 99. And since the Eagles rank third in the league in kickoff return yards, it is more likely they'll want to take the ball out of the endzone and return it.
Lay $100 to win $145 at Westgate that Stephen Gostkowski's first kickoff will not result in a touchback.
2. Over 1.5 field goals for Stephen Gostkowski
Speaking of special teams, Gostkowski has been one of the best place kickers in the game for the last 12 years. Yes, he has proven to be shaky at times in recent years (he became the first kicker to miss a Super Bowl extra point in nine years last season and he missed a field goal in the team's divisional round playoff game against Tennessee), but the numbers tell us that over 1.5 field goals is a solid wager here.
Over the last five seasons, Gostkowski has kicked two or more field goals in a game 72% of the time (66 out of 92 games). But in domes, where this Sunday's Super Bowl will be played, that number grows to 80% (8 out of 10 games).
Lay $150 to win $100 at the South Point on over 1.5 field goals for Stephen Gostkowski.
1. Pats on the money line
Over the years when in Las Vegas, I've had the good fortune of having numerous conversations with legendary sportsbook director Jimmy Vaccaro. His stories are both endless and wildly entertaining. These days, "Jimmy V" is at the South Point, where he and his partner Chris Andrews, bring over seven decades of sportsbook experience behind the counter.
Anyway, one thing Jimmy said long ago has always resonated with me: "The public bets teams, but the 'smarts' bet numbers."
With that said, there is incredible value on the number in this Super Bowl. Yes, as both a die-hard Pats fan and bettor, it's concerning that Jacksonville went to Foxboro for the AFC Championship and man-handled New England for most of the game, before fading in the second half of the fourth quarter. Philadelphia's defense is just as good and just as physical as Jacksonville. The Eagles are very good at pressuring the QB without blitzing, which has proven to be the exact formula to beat the Patriots in the playoffs.
But, by the numbers, this is a no-brainer of a bet. First off, take a look below at the hypothetical Super Bowl lines that were posted at BetOnline before Conference Championship Sunday:
New England was projected to be a 7-point favorite over the Eagles, but now, based solely on a Pats close win and a blowout victory for Philadelphia, that line has dropped a full 2.5 points. That's a vast overreaction.
#SuperBowl52 matchups:— Dave Mason (@DaveMasonBOL) January 17, 2018
Eagles +7 v Patriots
Vikings +2.5 v Patriots
Jaguars -2.5 v Eagles
Jaguars +5.5 v Vikings
Which game do you want to see?
Sticking with pure numbers, let's take a look at the Eagles' first two playoff games. They were three-point home dogs to both Atlanta and Minnesota, but now they're just a 4.5-point underdog to New England on a neutral field? It doesn’t add up. Once again, this is a huge overreaction to what happened in the Conference Championship games.
But instead of laying the 4.5 with the Patriots that is widely available both in Las Vegas and offshore, we are going to take advantage of a deflated money line. The NFL is really the only sport where public money can legitimately move a point spread, particularly in the Super Bowl. And when the public goes to the counter to bet the Super Bowl, there's nothing they like doing better than taking the underdog on the money line. Why lay $110 to win a $100 on the Eagles at +4.5 when you can double your money and play them on the money line? I'm going to be rooting for them any way. Why not bet a little to win a lot? That's how the public thinks. And, trust me, the bookmakers know it.
So, to counter all of those Super Bowl underdog money line bets that add up and can put the sportsbooks' bottom line at risk, the bookies adjust the moneyline in their favor. In the NFL, a favorite of 4.5 points is typically -220 or so on the moneyline. But at Bovada Sportsbook, the Pats are only -175 in the Super Bowl.
That means there is incredible value on New England on the money line, and that's why we’ll gladly step in and make our largest Super Bowl wager.
Lay $350 to win $200 at Bovada on New England on the money line.