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Top-10 Super Bowl bets

30 Jan 2012

By Aaron Todd
It's Super Bowl week, which means that online sportsbooks are once again opening up the markets on what you can bet on during the big game. Not only can you pick against the spread, pick the winner, and pick against the over under, but the prop bet opportunities (which have increased quite a bit in recent years even for regular season games) are through the roof.

Here are my top-10 picks for bets on Sunday's game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.

(NOTE: Since I live in the United States, these picks are obviously for entertainment purposes only. But I'm going to pretend that I wager $10 on each, and next week, we'll see how I did.)

10. Length of the National Anthem
It's no secret that this is my favorite prop bet in the Super Bowl. Last year, Christina Aguilera's rendition caused quite a stir, as her fumble in the middle of the song brought into question whether she had gone over or under the line.

This year, Kelly Clarkson will be singing, and Bodog Sportsbook and Racebook has set the line at 1:34. The last time Clarkson sang the anthem at a big venue was last summer's NBA Finals, when it took her about 1:32, and she sang it at a Dallas Cowboys game in 2006 in 1:29.

There almost always is a Super Bowl lag for singers – they know more people will be watching them than ever have before, so many add a few embellishments that increase the amount of time it takes them to complete the anthem. That's the reason why oddsmakers usually add a couple seconds to a singer's average time. But I don't see Clarkson adding much to the embellishments she had at the NBA Finals. I'm going to take the under at -120.

9. Giants to receive the opening kickoff (-270)
Anyone who watches the Patriots knows that Bill Belichick almost always defers to the second half when his team wins the kickoff. In fact, the Patriots have deferred the last 28 times they have won the coin flip. That means the opposing team has to receive the ball to prevent the Patriots from getting an extra possession. Almost every other team (including the Giants) prefers to receive the opening kickoff, because they get the chance to set the tone and, if they can score, take an early lead in the game. This seems like a no-brainer, even though the odds Bodog is offering are a bit rough. The only wild card here is that Belichick may change strategy based on what happened in the two teams' last Super Bowl meeting in 2008, when the Giants had a 10-minute-long opening possession to start the game and took a 3-0 lead on a field goal. But Belichick is almost certainly too stubborn to change his tactics (even though he insists it's a game-by-game decision), and there's only a 50 percent chance that the Patriots will win the coin flip in the first place. That's why I'm taking the Giants.

8. Mario Manningham to score first touchdown (+1400)
Manningham may be the Giants' third receiver behind Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, but he's been clutch in the playoffs, with three of his eight receptions going for touchdowns. Sure, Nicks, Cruz, and even Ahmad Bradshaw have more receptions than Manningham, but Manningham has a touchdown in each of the Giants' three playoff games. Since I think the Giants are going to get the ball first, I like their chances of scoring the first touchdown. And I could take Cruz or Bradshaw, but the price you can get just isn't as good as Manningham's. bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook, Bodog and Betfred Sportsbook all offer Manningham as the first touchdown scorer at 14/1.

7. Highest scoring quarter – fourth (+225)
Most sportsbooks are offering odds on what quarter will produce the most points. The fourth quarter is when the most points are scored in the NFL; there are typically many more plays in the fourth quarter due to changes in the rules on how and when the clock is stopped, and because the team that is behind is hurrying up to get in as many plays as possible while also using time outs to keep the team that is winning from running out the clock. These things apply even more to close games, and I believe this year's game will be close. Even though the fourth quarter offers the worst payout, I like the odds offered by Betfred, so I'll take the fourth quarter as the highest scoring quarter at +225.

6. Over 1.5 million will stream the Super Bowl online (-120)
The NFL is offering live streaming of the Super Bowl online for the first time this year. And Bodog has set a line of 1.5 million as to how many people will tune in to the live stream. This is a no-brainer to me. Take the over. Granted, the Super Bowl is available to hundreds of millions of people on broadcast television in dozens of countries. But there are quite a few people who regularly tune in to their favorite television shows by piping an Internet stream through their television. Add in people who don't have a television available to them, plus people who watch the game both on TV and online, and this number is going to be smashed, assuming the NFL's servers can handle it.

5. Under .5 receptions for Chad Ochocinco (-105)
The New England Patriot wide receiver made a reception in 10 of 18 games this year, but has catches in just five of the last 13 games, with a big fat zero in the playoffs. The Giants are playing tough defense and should be able to lock him down for the limited number of snaps he sees. At Bodog, you can get the under at -105.

4. Under 55.5 total points (-110)
You don't see many shootouts in the Super Bowl. Sure there have been some high point totals, but often those games have been blowouts. The over/under line is set at 55 points for this year's game, and while the Patriots' defense has been lacking, the Giants aren't a quick strike offense. They may have a 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive, but it's going to take six or seven minutes off the clock. The Patriots are similarly not a quick strike offense. They are a high scoring team, but this isn't the Patriots team that would loft up a 60-yard pass and wait for Randy Moss to reach up and grab it. They rely on short passes to tight ends and solid runs in the ground game. Expect to see some field goal attempts as both teams batten down the hatches in the red zone. Most sites are putting the line at 55 points, but if you plan on betting the under, Paddy Power Sportsbook offered the line at 55.5 mid-day Monday.

3. Eli Manning under 320.5 passing yards (-105)
Eli Manning threw for more than 320 yards in just eight of 19 games this year. Of course, this is tempered by the fact that the Patriots had the second-worst passing defense in the NFL during the regular season, allowing 293.9 yards per game. That said, the Patriots have been solid defending against the pass in two playoff games, allowing an average of just 195 yards against sub-standard playoff quarterbacks in games against Denver and Baltimore. Expect Manning to put up more than 200, but not more than 320. Most sites are setting the line at 315.5, but if you like the under, bet365 offers the line at 320.5 at -105 as of press time.

2. New York Giants +3 (+115)
Depending on where you go, you can find wildly divergent odds being offered on the spread of Sunday's game. Bodog is offering the Giants as three-point underdogs at +115 (as of 10 a.m. Monday), while bet365 Sportsbook and Racebook is offering the same spread, but with the Giants at -125. In fact, there was even an arbitrage opportunity for those who can bet on both sites at that time, if you take the Patriots as three-point favorites at +105 on bet365. That said, I'm taking it straight and picking the Giants and the points at +115. I think it will be a close game, but I think the Giants will take advantage of a weak Patriots' secondary, while the Giants defense has really surged in the playoffs and force at least two big turnovers to limit the Pats scoring opportunities.

1. Wes Welker to win MVP (+1800)
Don't get me wrong, I'm picking the Giants against the spread, and if I were making a money line pick, I'd pick them there, too. But the MVP odds for the Giants just aren't that good. You can get Eli Manning at under 2/1, and the best value might be Ahmad Bradshaw at 35/1 at bet365. But I think the best value overall here is Wes Welker at 18/1. While Brady would be the odds-on favorite to win the MVP award should the Patriots win the game, you barely get even money for picking him. I like Welker's chances, especially because he just might end up doing something tricky on special teams.
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