SB LVI: Value in defensive, special teams props

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

February 8, 2022 10:06 PM
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Two of the areas I like to attack for the Super Bowl are defensive and special teams props.

Fantasy football is a huge deal across the globe, which means everybody has been paying attention to what the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends have been doing. Offensive players command prop lines for every game these days anyway. Sportsbooks not only have a good idea of where to set those numbers but also how they’ll be bet.

Bookmakers are busy, and some props are bound to slip through the cracks, either when they are set or as they are being bet. Books are going to prioritize the props that matter the most, such as MVP, first/anytime TD or player props for guys like Matthew Stafford, Joe Burrow, Cooper Kupp and Ja’Marr Chase. Player props on defense or for other skill-position players don’t draw as much interest or as much handle, so there are more inaccuracies with those lines. 

Defensive and special teams props are different. What you want to look for during the Super Bowl are areas of high variance or lines that are likely to be inefficient. With thousands of props, you can find ones that fit the bill.

It’s the same reason I prefer to bet smaller conferences in college basketball. If Duke-North Carolina is going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in betting handle, the sportsbooks are going to pay closer attention to those games than the ones with thousands of dollars in handle in the MAAC, WAC or Atlantic Sun. The more attention paid by the other side of the betting counter to a line, the sharper that line will be.

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What I like to do with the Super Bowl is try to get into the minds of the coordinators and determine what their plan of attack will be. That works for both offensive and defensive props, but I’ll focus on the defensive side here.

Here are a few defensive and special teams props I like for Super Bowl LVI:

Vonn Bell Over 5.5 Tackles+ Assists: Most books have this one juiced on the over at -140 or -150, and for good reason. Bell should be a big part of the Bengals’ plan on defense. He averaged more than six combined tackles during the regular season and has gotten to six in each of the last two playoff games.

My guess is defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is going to provide help on Kupp, and that help will be Bell. Not only will Bell help shadow the Rams’ best player, but he’ll also be used in run support when Cam Akers gets some carries. Bell is a guy that Anarumo moves around a lot, sometimes even at linebacker when expecting a run. Even if the Rams use play-action from traditional run formations, Bell will be well-positioned to make tackles.

Something else worth looking at with defensive props is whether or not a guy plays on special teams. Bell played a career-low 16% of special teams snaps this season, but he was still in on 71 of them, so maybe we’ll steal a cheap tackle on punt coverage.

He had a Missed Tackle Percentage of 4.2% last season. That was up to 9.3% this season, but he’s still a pretty sure tackler and a guy Anarumo will depend on a lot.

Shortest Field Goal Under 27.5 Yards: Kicking props are something I look at extensively for the Super Bowl. I don’t think the kicking market is focused on enough. Generally speaking, teams that make the Super Bowl have good kickers because it’s hard to win a lot of games while leaving points on the field.

Evan McPherson and Matt Gay combined to go 60-for-67 on field goals during the regular season. Collectively, they had 11 field goals from 20-29 yards out. The Rams had a top-10 red-zone defense, while the Bengals graded around the middle of the pack. Both teams had average red-zone offenses.

Neither team was aggressive on fourth down. The Bengals had 20 attempts (25th) and the Rams had 19 (27th). The Rams were seventh in third-down conversion rate (43.9%) and the Bengals were 16th (39.6%). Both teams were below average defensively. Taking all of that into consideration, and knowing what we know about these two coaches, I don’t see either team passing up points, even if that means a chip-shot field goal.

Both Teams to Make a 33+ Yard Field Goal (Yes): This is another one I play almost annually. As a general rule, you have two good offensive teams in the Super Bowl and they will move the football. You also have two really good kickers that are accurate from 30+ yards out. Also, you tend to have above-average coordinators, so guys that will help their teams on offense but also defense.

A lot of factors come together to make this a + EV bet. This one has cashed in four of the last six Super Bowls. I would anticipate it cashes again Sunday, especially with the accuracy of both kickers.

There are so many different bets worth digging into during Super Bowl week, and finding some that appear to be off the beaten path may wind up being the best bets you can make.

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