This has been a great week so far in the Tuley’s Takes home office, starting with a sweep of our best bets in the NFL conference championships. The Bengals (+ 7) upset the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime and the 49ers (+ 3.5) covered in a 20-17 loss to the Rams.
Back in the old days of Super Bowl betting (which was, frankly, just a few short years ago), I would normally write about something else during the bye week and wait to post my official Super Bowl pick and prop bets during the week leading up to the game. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Imperial Palace on the Las Vegas Strip was known for having the “most props on the planet.” Then, in 2004, sportsbook director Jay Kornegay and his crew moved over to the Las Vegas Hilton, which was then renamed the Las Vegas Hotel and now Westgate. It became standard operating procedure that oddsmakers would wait around for Kornegay’s book to post its prop packet (20 pages printed on both sides of legal-sized paper) on Thursday night. The rest of the books would then release their prop sheets, and shopping around for the best numbers would be in full swing on game week.
Nowadays, with the proliferation of legalized sports betting across the country and mainstream media’s thirst for gambling content, prop bets and odds are widely available much earlier, so we decided we would just go ahead and give our approach to betting the Super Bowl this week. Next week in Point Spread Weekly, we’ll update with more bets (especially for props that don’t have exact prices posted yet).
Side and total
The Rams opened as 3.5-point favorites over the Bengals at Westgate and several other books, with other shops opting for Rams -4. Early money came in on the Rams, and the line went to a consensus -4.5 on Monday and was still sitting there as of this writing Tuesday morning.
It’s not going to surprise anyone that I’m going to be on the underdog Bengals plus the points. I’ll give my full write-up next week, but the short version is I don’t see any more than a field goal difference between these teams (some of my stats have the Bengals as short favorites, just as I had them against the Chiefs), though I’m waiting to see if the line steams any higher.
Now, I’m fully aware of my reputation as a dog-or-pass bettor (especially since I’m the one perpetuating the legend!), but I don’t automatically take the underdog in every Super Bowl. In fact, three years ago, I didn’t take the Rams versus the Patriots because I thought the line was too short (and was proven right with the Patriots’ 13-3 victory). I didn’t like the 49ers against the Chiefs two years ago for the same reason.
However, I did like the Buccaneers last year as dogs against the Chiefs and feel the same way with the Bengals this year.
The total opened as high as 51 at the Westgate and has been steadily bet down to 48.5 as of Tuesday morning. I lean Under but probably won’t bet it with the best numbers gone (though a 6-point teaser on the Bengals + 10.5/Under 54.5 wouldn’t be the worst way to break the rule that Wong teasers should only be played through the key numbers of 3 and 7).
But even if I don’t bet the Under, I’m still going to be looking at most of the individual and team prop bets with a strong Under bias. I have the game landing somewhere around 20-17 or 23-20, and I keep thinking back to Sean McVay’s last Super Bowl and the Rams’ 13-3 loss to the Patriots. Perhaps the Bengals will come up with a defensive game plan and be the first team to figure out how to double-team Cooper Kupp.
Bets based on how I handicap the game
I believe this is going to be a close game, so I’m going to like a lot of props that go along with that narrative.
Score tied at any point other than 0-0: This makes sense in a back-and-forth game as we just need it to get to 3-3, 7-7, 10-10, etc. The “yes” is even money at Westgate. This might even be the year to bet on overtime (around + 700, but shop around to see if you can find it higher) since we’ve seen so much of it this season, especially the past two weeks.
Largest lead Under 14.5 points: Again, a close back-and-forth game with the teams scoring in the 20s or lower should lead to no lead being more than two touchdowns.
Double result of halftime tie/either team winning: This is one of my favorite props as you’re basically getting around 12-1 on a halftime tie/Rams win and 14-1 on a halftime time/Bengals win for a combined + 650 or so that cashes as long as the game is tied at intermission. We’ve hit this a few times in recent years, so it’s been profitable over the long run.
Rams team total Under 26.5: Again, based on my projected scores, this looks like a solid bet at -110. BetMGM also has an appealing Rams Under 21.5 at + 190 available.
Unders in general: As mentioned above, we’ll be leaning toward Unders in individual props. I already mentioned that I’m hoping the Bengals make a concerted effort to slow down Kupp, so I’ll be shopping around for his props on catches, receiving yards, touchdowns, etc. We should get pretty good prices because the public will be pounding the Overs, thanks in part to all of the pregame hype about how no one has been able to cover him this year. I’ll also be shopping for Matthew Stafford Unders as I could see him running for his life (see Patrick Mahomes last week).
On the other side of the ball, I won’t necessarily be looking at Unders for Joe Burrow and his skill players. Those numbers look like they’ll be shaded a little low with a lot of people hyping the Rams’ defense with Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, etc. If I do go Under on anything regarding the Bengals, it might be sacks as that could be shaded high. Most people will point to the Bengals’ offensive line that allowed nine sacks two weeks ago against the Titans, but those same people will ignore the fact that Burrow was sacked only once by the Chiefs. I know some readers will say, “Well, then, why don’t you bet Over on Bengals props?” Similar to my dog-or-pass philosophy with point spreads, I’m mostly an Under-or-pass guy on totals and individual props. We’ll see if anything changes in my update next week.
Props independent of the game handicap
What makes the Super Bowl extra fun is all of the ways you can bet on things that aren’t based on how the game plays out. And I’m not talking about the coin flip, the Over/Under on the running time of the national anthem or the color of the Gatorade poured on the winning coach. Those novelty bets still aren’t offered in Nevada, and I have no problem with that as they’re often shrouded in controversy.
Shortest TD Under 1.5 yards: We used to get a nice, juicy plus price on this each year, but it’s hit so often that it’s now juiced at -150. It happens so often because it can happen multiple ways, either organically with a team moving the ball to the 1-yard line and punching it in, or set up by a defensive pass interference call in the end zone.
Longest TD or FG: These props are not as cut-and-dried. It definitely helps to shop around for the best number as these can vary by several yards (Westgate has Longest TD at Over/Under 41.5 yards and Longest FG at Over/Under 46.5). Both of these teams have big-play offenses, and even though I’m expecting a relatively low-scoring game, there still can be a long touchdown, especially with lengthy TV timeouts that give offenses a chance to draw something up. Both kickers can boot long field goals, but I’ll probably pass on the Over 46.5 yards since both coaches have a tendency to go for it on fourth downs in that range.