Tuley's Takes: Best bets for Super Bowl LVI

February 8, 2022 08:36 PM

We’re feeling a bit of deja vu in the Tuley’s Takes home office. Regular readers will know that we got a jump on our Super Bowl bets during the bye week after usually waiting until game week. That’s because with the explosion of legalized sports betting in this country — coupled with the exponential increase in proposition wagers being discussed in mainstream and all other media — it made sense to let our readers know my thoughts on the game as well as a lot of the props I knew I would be looking to play.

So, this week’s column will give readers that same sense of deja vu as I’ll be repeating some of the same points, but I hope it’s helpful for all readers as we’ll also be adding more detail as well as additional props I’ve landed on the past week.

Side and total

Bengals + 4.5: To no one’s surprise, I gave my official best bet on the Bengals + 4.5. I made the point that I don’t automatically take the underdog every year in the Super Bowl. In fact, just three years ago, I didn’t take the Rams against the Patriots because I thought the line was too short and felt the Patriots were the right side — and was proven right with the Patriots’ 13-3 victory. I also 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 I feel the same way with the Bengals this year.

I don’t see more than a field-goal difference between these team. In fact, some of my stats show the Bengals being short favorites, just like I had them against the Chiefs in the AFC championship game despite being 7-point underdogs. A lot of people have been jumping on the Rams’ bandwagon and expecting Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp to put up big numbers. They also talk about how L.A. coach Sean McVay is great at scripting his plays to start the game, but as I told VSiN colleagues Matt Youmans and Jonathan Von Tobel on “The Opening Lines” show on Sunday night, McVay had two weeks to prepare in Super Bowl LIII, but the Rams scored only three points, even though a shootout was expected with an Over/Under of 55.5 points. Granted that was against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but Bengals coach Zac Taylor worked under McVay and I think a lot of people are overlooking the fact that he might be able to guess some of McVay’s early plays and have the defense ready. 

Rams backers also seem to be putting more stock in the fact that the Bengals fell behind the Chiefs 21-0 rather than how Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo adjusted in the second half and had Patrick Mahomes confused and running for his life. Likewise, chalk bettors are focusing more on the Bengals allowing nine sacks to the Titans in the divisional round and assuming Aaron Donald, Von Miller and company will dominate the Bengals’ offensive line and ignoring the fact that Joe Burrow was sacked only once by the Chiefs. All in all, this game should be lined closer to pick-’em and should come down to the wire, so it feels good to have + 4.5 in my pocket.

Lean Under 48.5 (prefer first-half Under 23.5): The Over/Under opened as high as 51 but was quickly bet down to 48.5, where it has sat for more than a week. I lean to the Under but will probably pass because of the lost value. Since we usually see slow starts in Super Bowls with teams feeling each other out before opening up their attacks, I prefer going with the first-half Under 23.5, but I wouldn’t call it a best bet. If a game has a total of 48.5, the first half would usually be 24 or 24.5, but since the oddsmakers know about the tendency of slow-starting Super Bowls, they’ve shaded it lower. Again, if you heard “The Opening Lines,” VSiN Superfan Randy McKay said he found an Under 24 at a rogue shop — that would be the sharper play. Hopefully the total gets bet higher over the weekend and the first half also increases to 24 at more books. I’ve had some people ask me if I also like the first-quarter Under, but that’s also been shaded low at 9.5 instead of 10 and a fluke TD could put that in danger.

Teaser? I wrote last week that since I thought the game total was shaded low, I would actually consider a two-team, 6-point teaser on the Bengals + 10.5 with Under 54.5. That wouldn’t be the worst way to break the “Wong teasers should only be through the key numbers of 3 and 7” rule.

Bets based on how I handicap the game

I believe this is going to be a close game like we’ve seen for most of these playoffs, so I like a lot of props that go along with that narrative.

Bengals to score first + 110: I added this one before “The Opening Lines” show. It’s just a value play as we’re getting plus-money on what is essentially a coin flip and could be decided by the actual coin flip if the Bengals score before the Rams get the ball. It also correlates with my belief that the Rams will get off to a slow start.

Score tied after 0-0 -110: This makes sense in a back-and-forth game as we just need it to get to 3-3, 7-7, 10-10, etc. This might even be the year to bet on overtime — which is around + 700, but shop around to see if you can find it higher — since we’ve seen so much of it this season and the past two weeks.

Largest lead Under 14.5 points + 100 (Even): Again, a close back-and-forth game with the teams scoring in the 20s or lower should lead to no lead being more than 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 halftime tie/Rams win and 18-1 halftime time/Bengals and cash no matter what happens as long as the game is tied at intermission. This would also mean a winner on the “score tied after 0-0” prop unless it’s actually 0-0. 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 + 190 available.

Sacks by both teams Under 5 + 120: As mentioned above, we’re counting on the Bengals having fixed their protection problems and having Burrow get rid of the ball quicker. I wouldn’t go Under 4.5 as the 5 is insurance in case it lands on 5 for a push. Another way to play this would be Rams sacks Under 3.

Unders in general: We also lean to Unders in individual props. Besides our expectation for a relatively lower-scoring game, it’s usually best to look at Unders because most bettors are looking to bet Overs because it’s more fun to cheer for someone to do well. This inherently adds value to the Unders. In addition, if you’re betting the Under, you have potential injuries working in your favor. Over/Unders are mostly set on the assumption everyone plays the whole game, but injuries are possible and can cause a player’s entire set of props to stay Under. Another factor that few other people mention is that the Under has a better chance to hit if a player is benched.

Cam Akers rushing yards Under 64.5 -110: Akers has had fumble issues. If he fumbles in the Super Bowl, there’s a decent chance he’ll get benched, so even though the Under is probably the play anyway, I like it more when I think of that possibility.

Cooper Kupp receptions Under 8.5 -110, receiving yards Under 108.5 -110, no TD + 140: I expect the Bengals to put together a game plan to at least contain Kupp and hold him Under these high props and keep him out of the end zone.

Props independent of the game handicap

What makes the Super Bowl extra fun is all 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.

Matthew Stafford to score first TD 30-1/Joe Burrow 30-1: I’m betting both of these in case a quarterback scores the first TD. We’ve seen QBs in big games like the Super Bowl and College Football Playoff get gun-shy at the goal line and try to take matters into their own hands, plus McVay has been using Stafford more on quarterback sneaks. If you fear one of the QBs doesn’t get the game’s first TD but scores first for his team, you could go with Stafford 16-1 to score the Rams’ first TD and Burrow 14-1 to score the Bengals’ first TD. 

Shortest TD Under 1.5 -150: We used to get a nice, juicy plus price on this every year, but it’s hit so often, seven of the last eight years and I know I’ve been on this even longer, that it’s now juiced at -150. It happens so often because it can certainly happen organically with a team getting the ball inside the 1-yard line and punching it in, but it can also be set up by a defensive pass-interference call in the end zone where the ball is placed at the 1-yard line. Note: it’s much more rare, but it also cashes if an offensive player falls on a fumble in the end zone for a 0-yard fumble recovery TD or a defensive player scores on a fumble recovery or interception in the opposing team’s end zone for a 0-yard score.

Longest TD Over 41.5 yards -110: Again, even though I like the game Under and Under in most props, I like this Over as both these teams have big-play offenses. Also, the Super Bowl has long timeouts, so that allows the offenses more time to set up big plays. I was going to also go with longest FG Over 46.5 yards as both kickers can boot long FGs and the game is being played indoors, but with both coaches’ tendencies to go on fourth downs, the kickers might not get the chance.

Number of players to throw a pass Over 2.5 + 150: I admit this is a sucker bet, but I’m a sucker for it. It just takes one gadget play or a QB to go out with an injury for a play or two. It seems so simple, but it hasn’t cashed the past three Super Bowls. The last time I cashed with it was the Eagles-Patriots game with the “Philly Special” TD pass from Trey Burton to Nick Foles — though it had already gone Over 2.5 as the Patriots tried a similar play earlier in the game with Danny Amendola throwing an incomplete pass to Tom Brady.

Happy handicapping and enjoy the game!

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