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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Anthony Quintano

The Super Bowl is the biggest sports betting event in North America, creating incredible volumes of shifting cash on an annual basis. Office pools, bar bets, grudge wagers, Vegas action and sportsbook activity all spike, as casual and hardcore football line up to prove their ability to pick a winner. Since the 1980s, NFL bettors also have access to a variety of Super Bowl prop bets, growing in popularity after the infamous William “The Fridge” Perry touchdown side bet offered by Vegas.

Super Bowl LI features two extremely well-matched teams with elite quarterbacks and solid defense, resulting in a small estimated spread of -3 for the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons. Prior to kickoff, you’ll come across dozens of opinions, some of which you’ll want to vet for yourself. Before you pick the winner of the Super Bowl, consider these five key predictors to verify media opinion.

1. Previous Matchups

Depending on the how the NFL regular season schedule formula unfolded, there’s a chance that the two teams playing in the Super Bowl already faced each other prior to the beginning of the post season. This situation has occurred 13 times in Super Bowl history, with the team winning the regular season matchup earning a ring only six times. When the victor of the regular season matchup does so on the road, the record in the Super Bowl rematch is 3-4. This is a bit of a strange trend, given that the team which won a previous match should be able to do so again – especially if they win on the road.

Since the year 2000, teams which won the regular season matchup are only 1-3 in the championship game. Two of these victories were considered some of the biggest upsets in the history of the game, including the 20-17 Patriots victory over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, and the Giants 17-14 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

The 2012 championship between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants was the last time a regular season matchup repeated in the last game of the season. In Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants bucked the trend, earning their second championship victory over the Patriots in less than a decade, despite winning the regular season matchup on the road.


2. Team and Historical Trends

Regardless of the path that a football team takes to the Super Bowl, they have to play well enough during the regular season to qualify, before winning at least two games in a row against top teams. Wild card entrants must win three in a row to appear in the championship game, which implies that teams making the Super Bowl without a post season bye have to be hotter than non-bye teams.

Team streaks are one of the most important factors when predicting the Super Bowl. The 2011 New York Giants lost five of six in the middle of the season, before their defense kicked into high gear for the last two games, barely qualifying them for the playoffs. However, the Giants defense remained stingy throughout the post season, carrying them to victories over strong offensive squads like the Falcons, Packers and 49ers, before flummoxing the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
In some cases, teams end up being a bit lucky to make the Super Bowl, with clear losing trends that reveal them to be severe underdogs.

Super Bowl XXXI was a fine example, with the New England Patriots earning an appearance at the show despite a feud between coach Bill Parcells and owner Robert Kraft. Anyone who bet against the Packers in this game clearly didn’t pay attention to the Patriots coverage before kickoff.

3. Roster Issues

Similar to other contact sports, injuries and chronic ailments often reduce the abilities of important players in the lineup, reducing the effectiveness of the team as a whole. The violence of football exerts a toll on the human body, making it nearly impossible for any team to be completely healthy by the time they reach the Super Bowl. Keeping an eye out on the injury report during the run up to the Super Bowl ensures that you’re informed of any important changes to the lineup.

You’ll be able to find in-depth injury reports which include the progress of a player’s recovery. It’s also a good idea to do a quick search to see if a key player has dealt with a serious injury earlier in the season, because there’s a chance that full recovery hasn’t taken place. Nagging health problems often result in reduced performance from players. Check out practice roster reports published before the Super Bowl to see which NFLers have been resting as much as possible during the bye week.

The intense media focus that descends on the NFL during the Super Bowl may reveal locker room tension or chemistry problems that were hidden from the public. Unsubstantiated reports should be taken with a grain of salt, but rumors that don’t fade from the spotlight tend to have a kernel of truth.

4. Deep Dive Into Stats

Digital monitoring of sports statistics has enabled advanced tracking and analysis of numbers which empirically express performance data. The NFL is no different, and the proliferation of internet sources allows you to verify information for yourself. Before picking a Super Bowl winner, educate yourself on all the relevant offensive and defensive numbers for both teams.

The amount of data you’ll find will be astounding, so focusing on specific matchup metrics will be more beneficial than trying to discover how the full moon affects Super Bowl underdogs. Raw data provides solid input for game day situations, but contextual information reveals greater insight. If you’re attempting to ascertain the quality of a defense, you’ll be able to find stats adjusted to quality of competition, as well as breakdowns of pass and rush defense.

Discovering these types of details for yourself helps to clarify advice or hunches you receive with empirical facts instead of objective opinions. When the numbers contradict opinion, there’s a good chance you should re-examine your picks for the Super Bowl.

5. Line Movements

Similar to the stock market, wagering markets for the Super Bowl aren’t static. The odds and money lines published can change without notice, drastically altering the betting equation. One of the most obvious catalysts for change would be an injury to a key player. Sportsbooks will respond quickly to push underdog lines for the team suffering the injury, resulting in changing odds and payouts.

Another cause of line movements involves the amount of money that enter betting pools. If bettors flock to wager on one team over another, the odds will improve for the popular team winning, reflecting shifting opinions in the market. A Super Bowl spread of -3 shifting to -3.5 represents a large shift, considering the added difficulty of winning the championship by more than one field goal.

Featured Image Credit: Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Anthony Quintano