Big Game Weekend is finally here!
We’ve been busy writing tickets for Super Bowl LVI since the conference championship games ended a week ago Sunday. As I’m putting together this article for you late Friday morning Las Vegas time, we are fully-staffed ... serving lines at every betting window.
Let’s see how sharps and the public have been betting so far ...
Sunday, Feb. 13
Bengals at Rams (-4, 48.5)
NBC, 6:30 p.m. ET
I opened the Rams -4. Early sharp money came in on the favorite. I went to Rams -4.5. Bengals money came in strong from sharps and the public at 4.5. I was the first oddsmaker to go back to Rams -4 because I wanted to stay ahead of the market while balancing our risk. I could see immediately that nobody was going to lay serious money on Los Angeles -4.5.
This past Sunday morning, South Point owner Michael Gaughan instructed me to drop from 11/10 vigorish to -105 both ways (risk $10.50 to win $10 on the point spread, or anything in that ratio). THAT was a big deal. Anyone wanting to bet the Rams could lay -4 at -105 with us. Why lay -4 at 11/10, or -4.5 anywhere else? Especially if you’re a big bettor? Michael’s decision helped us counteract the earlier surge on Cincinnati.
In the past day or so, you’ve been hearing several sportsbook operators talk about being one-sided on the Bengals. They’re trying to find Rams money. Our early move to 4 at -105 vig brought that money our way.
As I write this, we’re fairly balanced. But, everyone knows that the bulk of Super Bowl money hits the market during the 72 hours before kickoff. Anything can still happen. Las Vegas is always jam-packed over Big Game Weekend. My hope is that many additional visitors will also stop by to place some bets on their way to Inglewood.
For those of you interested in the moneyline (betting which team will win straight up), I opened at Rams -180/Bengals + 160. Early money came in on Los Angeles. I went to -185/+ 165, -190/+ 170, and -200/+ 175. Interest in Cincinnati started showing then. I’m now down to Rams -185/Bengals + 165. Basically, “smart money” likes the Rams at -180 or lower to win the game (risk $180 to win + 100, or anything in that ratio), but the Bengals at + 170 or higher (risk $100 to win $170).
My opening Over/Under was 50. Sharps bet Under very enthusiastically. I dropped straight to 49, then 48.5 to stay in line with the market. I’ve been writing even bets both ways at 48.5. You regulars know that the public loves betting Overs in big TV games because it’s more fun to root for points. Sharps clearly like Under 49 or higher.
Earlier this week, I posted a market report describing sharp betting on a variety of props. I’ll include that material below to create one large big-game report. Before getting to those, I did want to mention that we’ve been taking a lot of sharp bets on the Rams to win the first half at -3. My opener had Rams -3 (even money), Bengals + 3 (-120). I’m now all the way to Rams -3 (-115). You only have to lay -105 to get the Bengals + 3 in the first half.
Why sharp support for a first half play? I’m guessing it’s because the “experience factor” favors veteran Matthew Stafford vs. Joe Burrow. As would potential familiarity with the site. This is a home game for the Rams. Which team is more likely to be overwhelmed out of the gate? Everyone watched Cincinnati fall behind Kansas City 21-3 two weeks ago. And, the Bengals should have been down 24-10 or 28-10 at the half. The Rams led at the half 21-0 vs. Arizona, and 20-3 at Tampa Bay. Last week’s 10-7 first half loss to San Francisco was a bit misleading because Stafford threw an interception in the end zone.
INSIDE THE PROP BETTING ACTION
We’ve posted so many big-game props that I can only scratch the surface in an article. I’ll focus on options that sharps were betting early. That will give you a sense of how the most informed money expects the game to play out.
Remember that there’s a lot of fluidity with props once the public starts betting. “Current” lines discussed below may have moved slightly by the time you read this. The crack team at VSiN has gone above and beyond the call all season in getting my articles up quickly (thanks!!). But, any snapshot will be trying to capture an image that’s in constant flux. I encourage all bettors to monitor the prop market as thoroughly as you can between now and Sunday’s kickoff.
We offered a variety of “alternate” point spreads on the game. I took sharp money on the Rams -6.5 with a + 125 return on the moneyline (risk $100 to win $125 or anything in that ratio). Clear sentiment from some sharps that the Rams have a chance to take advantage of an inexperienced underdog quarterback and win by a touchdown or more.
I also offered odds for picking the individual team total. It would be too messy to run all the prices here. But, I can tell you that sharps placed bets on the following key numbers for each team…
I opened the Rams to win rushing yardage at -130 on the moneyline. Sharps bet that up to -145. But, I may have overshot the mark for both teams individually. My opening rushing total for the Rams of 108.5 was bet down to 105.5. For the Bengals, my opener of 95.5 was bet down to 92.5.
Total combined net yards was bet up from 727.5 to 740. So, if rushing yardage went down, you can assume that sharps are looking for the quarterbacks to have big games. Note that Cincinnati’s net yardage was bet up from 353.5 to 358.5.
If there’s going to be a lot of passing, bettors need to think about sacks. “Total combined sacks” was bet up from 4.5 (Over -140) to 4.5 (Over -180). Sharps believe that Joe Burrow of the Bengals is more likely to take sacks, while Matthew Stafford of the Rams is more likely to throw the ball away to avoid them. Sacks by the Rams defense opened at 2.5 (Over -175). It was bet all the way up to 3.5 (Over -115). Sacks by the Bengals defense opened at 2.5 (Under -130). It’s been bet down to 2 (Under -115). (By the way, sharps are expecting both QBs to throw an interception. YES on an INT was bet up from -130 to -145 for Stafford, -120 to -135 for Burrow).
Can either of these potent offenses be kept out of the end zone? Some sharps were taking flyers on that possibility for big payoffs. That approach can serve as a partial hedge for bettors rooting for offense. Maybe one quarterback implodes or a head coach gets way too conservative in a close game. I had the Rams at 75/1 for “no touchdowns.” That was bet down to 40/1. I opened the Bengals 50/1. It’s now 25/1.
Betting Over on the punt total is a smart bet for those expecting defense and a possible hedge for bettors expecting scoring/stats to come from sporadic big plays. I opened the total punt prop at 6.5 with the Over laying -140. That moneyline was bet up to -155.
The Rams are perceived as the team most likely to win the “first down” category. But, the Bengals took sharp money at my opener of Rams -2.5 first downs. I had Cincinnati -125/+ 105 for an opening moneyline at that number. It was bet up to Cincinnati -150/+ 130. So, you now have to lay -150 to get the Bengals + 2.5 first downs.
Sharps bet Over 9.5 total points scored in the first quarter at a return of + 105. Some media pundits are expecting a conservative start as these heavyweights feel each other out. But, smart money liked the plus return on reaching 10 or more points early.
Even with that, sharps still expect the second half to be higher scoring than the first. “Which half will be higher scoring” opened with the second half favored at -125/+ 105…it’s now up to -165/+ 145.
"Will the first turnover be a fumble or interception" saw money come in heavily on INT. That opened pick-em, but was bet all the way up to INT -180/Fumble + 160.
"Will the last score be a touchdown or something else (field goal, safety, excludes extra points). That also opened pick-em. Touchdown was bet up to -180/+ 160 as well.
"Will there be a roughing the passer penalty?" saw “No” bet from -120/even all the way up to -180/+ 160. I did start taking “Yes” bets at that point, bringing me back to No -175/Yes + 155 at the moment.
"Will there be a missed PAT kick” opened with NO at -240. That was bet up to -340. (Both teams have good kickers and the game is indoors.)
"Will the longest scoring play be a TD or FG" opened with TD as the favorite at -125/+ 105. That was bet down to pick-em, though the TD started getting some play at the lower price.
"Distance of the first TD” opened with an Over/Under of 8.5 yards (pick-em). Under is now the favorite at -125/+ 105. Distance of the LAST touchdown opened at 7.5 yards. The Over is now favored at -135/+ 115.
*This is a fun one. I asked bettors which would be larger, total points scored in the game…or the length of the longest field goal? There’s a ceiling on field goal length, while a shootout could see points scored all night. So, I opened with total points favored -260/+ 220. Sharps bet the longest field goal hard. I’m all the way down to total points -145/+ 125. I can see the thinking. If one of the kickers nails a 55-yarder (or better), that’s more than the current game total of 48.5.
The most important thing for recreational bettors to remember is that props are there for your entertainment. Bet responsibly. Don’t lose your head because there are so many options.
See you again late Friday afternoon for more big-game news from behind the counter!
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.