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The betting public has quickly fallen in love with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. The general consensus among fans and bettors has the Panthers cruising past the Denver Broncos en route to their first Lombardi Trophy. The line opened at Carolina -3.5 at most books on the day of the conference championships and within 48 hours had shifted as high as -6. The American Gaming Associate is also predicting that there will be a record-breaking $4.2 billion on the line during Super Bowl 50.
When the Seattle Seahawks crushed the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII, they also helped Las Vegas sportsbooks defeat bettors by a record margin. Sportsbooks took in $119.4 million in bets for the 2014 Super Bowl and won $19.6 million, topping the previous mark of $15.4 million set in 2005. The reason behind the biggest win in Nevada state history? Way too many bettors liked the Broncos and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning to earn his second career Super Bowl win.
The betting public generally likes offense over defense when wagering on football, which is why so many people parlay the favorite and the OVER in prime-time NFL games. Super Bowl XLVIII was no different. Denver closed as a 2.5-point favorite after Seattle opened as 2-point chalk at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, and that large line movement shows just how many bettors were on the wrong side in the biggest game of the year.
The Broncos came into the 2013 Super Bowl as the most prolific offensive team in league history, averaging 37.9 points per game with Manning setting NFL records with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns. But the Seahawks were the league’s best defensive team, allowing just 273.6 yards and 14.4 points per game. In the previous four Super Bowl matchups pitting the NFL’s top offense against the top defense, the team with the best defense had won three times. Make it four of five now.
Bettors may have known to wager on Seattle had they followed the right Super Bowl picks. While the right team was originally favored, the public moved the line the wrong way. Of course you cannot go back in time at this point and bet on something you know was easy money after the fact. Instead, you can learn from your mistakes and put your trust in an NFL betting expert with a proven track record winning Super Bowl picks.
Any good handicapper will try to think like an oddsmaker and go through the same thought process of making lines before they are even released. Keep in mind, the oddsmaker’s goal in setting an opening number is to get equal action on both sides. The best-case scenario for an oddsmaker when it comes to the Super Bowl is for the underdog to cover the spread but not necessarily win the game due to the opportunity bettors have to wager on the moneyline. In the case of the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, the line was so low that there was not a lot of value on betting them to win the game straight-up.
Of course that was not the case in the 2008 Super Bowl when the New York Giants upset the unbeaten New England Patriots 17-14 as 12.5-point favorites. Sportsbooks lost a record $2.6 million in Las Vegas that year, as many bettors hurt them by cashing big moneyline wagers on the Giants to win the game in addition to taking them against the spread.
In fact, the only previous time Vegas books finished in the red in the previous two decades was 1995, when bettors won a little less than $400,000 after the San Francisco 49ers routed the San Diego Chargers 49-26 as the biggest favorites in Super Bowl history at -18.5. Those two scenarios are about as extreme as can be.
The best NFL handicappers and most successful bettors will almost always try to make a case for backing the underdog, and that strategy has worked very well with Super Bowl picks over the past five years. Four underdogs have not only covered the spread but also won the Super Bowl since the Pittsburgh Steelers won as 6.5-point favorites in 2009, including Seattle and New York (+2.5) in a second meeting with New England in 2012. The other teams to win the Super Bowl as underdogs during that stretch were the New Orleans Saints (+4.5) in 2010 and Baltimore Ravens (+4) in 2013.
However, there are only two other comparable periods where underdogs prevailed in a similar fashion during the 48-year history of the Super Bowl. The first stretch took place immediately after the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowls I and II in 1967 and 1967. The New York Jets (+18), Kansas City Chiefs (+12.5), Baltimore Colts (+2.5) and Miami Dolphins (+1.5) won four Super Bowls in five years from 1969 to 1973.
Then the second stretch happened right before the 49ers began the NFC’s dominant reign of winning 13 consecutive Super Bowls between 1985 and 1997, going 10-2-1 ATS. The Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders won two Super Bowls as 3-point underdogs in 1981 and 1984 while the Washington Redskins beat the Dolphins 27-17 in 1983, also as 3-point dogs.
The bottom line when betting Super Bowl picks is deciding whether or not the case is strong enough before putting your money on them. Perhaps the most obvious Super Bowl pick in retrospect came in 2003 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers upset the Raiders as 3-point underdogs.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden had coached Oakland for four years and helped turn quarterback Rich Gannon into a Pro Bowler. Gruden knew Gannon’s tendencies so well and was able to capitalize on his weaknesses as the Bucs trounced the Raiders 48-21. That is a perfect example of a strong handicapping angle and how it can be used to make a winning Super Bowl pick.