By Matt Youmans
VSiN senior editor
At the end of an epic Super Bowl, one significant decision remained unsettled. Would the Most Valuable Player vote go to New England Patriots running back James White?
White was a star in the Patriots’ stunning comeback Sunday. He scored three touchdowns after halftime and added a 2-point conversion run, accounting for 20 points in a 34-28 victory. His 2-yard run finished off the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.
Of course, the other bright star was Tom Brady, who completed 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterbacks tend to get most of the credit for authoring comebacks, so it was going to be no surprise if the vote went Brady’s way.
Still, adding to the dramatic decision was White's presence on stage before the MVP was announced. He had the credentials to win it, with 14 receptions for 110 yards, six carries for 29 yards and his third touchdown being the game winner.
“White should have been the MVP,” Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller said. “That’s another prop we were going to get beat up on, but they gave it to Brady. That’s a bad beat. How would you feel if you bet $50 on White to win MVP?”
A Las Vegas professional bettor, who asked to remain anonymous, showed a ticket that made him feel ill. He bet $300 on White to win MVP at 100-1 odds, so the payoff would have been $30,000. Instead, Brady won the vote and the handshake from humbled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. And the bettor lost $300. White’s MVP odds opened as high as 200-1 at the South Point.
“White was instrumental in the comeback. But I know Brady had a great game, too, so it’s hard to argue too much,” the bettor said. “The media wanted Goodell to give the MVP trophy to Brady.”
The last running back to win Super Bowl MVP was Denver’s Terrell Davis in 1998. Quarterbacks have won the award 12 of the past 19 times.
This was a Super Bowl overflowing with betting bad beats, starting with improbable losing tickets on Atlanta plus-3 and money line, and under the total of 59, the consensus number for most of last week. The side and total decisions went the way of bookmakers who ended up needing New England and the over.
Bad beats are part of the business. The flip side is always a lucky win. All sorts of bizarre proposition decisions developed during a wild Super Bowl. Here’s a review:
Total points scored by the Patriots: 31. With 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, New England was stuck on nine points. Under bettors looked like winners.
Will there be a scoreless quarter? (No minus-550). In a game with 62 points, the teams went scoreless in the first quarter. The shootout that was anticipated finally developed, but only after a slow start for both offenses.
Will the team that scores first win the game? (Yes minus-160). The Falcons scored the first three times, yet somehow lost a 28-3 lead.
Will the game to go overtime? (No minus-900). There were several pro bettors who laid the big price because of perceived value in the line. None of the previous 50 Super Bowls went to overtime, and it took a miracle for this one to get there.
Will there be a missed extra-point kick? (No minus-300). The Falcons’ Matt Bryant was 4-for-4 before the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski shanked a miss with 2:06 left in the third quarter. Again, laying a big price was a costly mistake.
Will there be a successful 2-point conversion? (No minus-330). The Patriots went 2-for-2 in this category, converting on White’s run with 5:56 left in the fourth and Brady’s pass to Danny Amendola to tie with 57 seconds to go. This was a good result for the betting public.
Will there be a defensive or special teams touchdowns? (No minus-180). Brady, who threw only two interceptions during the regular season, tossed a pick-six in the second quarter. Robert Alford returned it 82 yards to give the Falcons a 21-0 lead. It was the first time Brady had an interception returned for a touchdown since Week 13 of the 2015 season, when Philadelphia’s Malcolm Jenkins picked Brady and went 99 yards.
Will a player pass for 400 yards in the game? (No minus-500). Facing a big deficit and forced to let it fly, Brady’s fourth-quarter and overtime performances magically produced a Super Bowl record for passing yards.
(There were several other player props impacted by the New England comeback and Atlanta collapse, but due to time constraints, we move ahead to further action.)
The alternate point-spread props appeared profitable for underdog bettors. The Falcons were plus-450 to win and cover 10½ points and plus-550 to cover 14½. Several bettors were playing Atlanta to win big.
“At one point, we were going to lose on the Falcons, lose under the total and lose all of the special point-spread props on the Falcons,” Miller said.
There was a $1 million bet placed on the Falcons in Sunday's game, and some bettors were holding Super Bowl futures tickets on Atlanta at 100-1 odds.
This fact comes courtesy of the NFL Network: Since 1991, including the playoffs and entering Super Bowl LI, teams trailing by 25 or more points had a record of 4-1,057.
The Patriots won and covered despite never leading for a second. In a game riddled with bad beats, the Atlanta side was the worst.