Tuley’s Takes on Super Bowl 53

By Dave Tuley  (Point Spread Weekly) 

Super Bowl Week is here and there’s a lot of excitement about this Patriots-Rams matchup and all the prop bets. Of course, this is also the culmination of the season for a lot of people who’ve been holding future-book tickets on these two teams.

As I wrote last week, I’ve been holding an AFC plus 3.5 ticket since early October and I’m loving my position. I’m still deciding whether to let it ride as I have the Patriots plus more than a field goal when they’ve gone as high as -3 this past weekend – or to bet back some on the Rams plus 3 and shoot for a middle.

Patriots (-2.5) vs. Rams (over/under 56.5)

Tuley’s Take: Unlike last year when I loved the underdog Eagles in the Super Bowl, I’ve been wishy-washy when asked for an opinion on this matchup. On the selection pages elsewhere in this issue, I’ve gone with a final score of Patriots 33, Rams 30 as I do believe the betting value is still on the Patriots at -2.5, but I wouldn’t bet them at -3 with your money as I believe any value is gone. However, I wouldn’t call the Rams a best bet at plus 3 either. Fortunately for yours truly, I don’t have to make that ultimate decision with the AFC/Patriots plus 3.5 in my pocket.

I’ve hit over 60% on my over/unders this NFL season, so I understand that followers want my thought on the total. I actually think the Over is the best bet (well, excluding props) on this game. I’m actually stunned that this wasn’t the first Super Bowl with an over/under of 60 and even more surprised that it’s been bet down. We have two high-scoring teams, both of which have defenses that have vulnerable and used to having their offenses bail them out, plus it’s indoors with a Super Bowl-type crowd as opposed to the hostile road environments that both these teams had to face in the conference championship games. Add in the extra-long TV timeouts of the Super Bowl that allows offenses more time to set up big scoring plays and I can’t see how this stays under.

Props Tied to My Picks

Anyway, let’s get to the props as I’m going to have a lot more on those than the actual side/total; however, as I wrote in last week’s Super Bowl prop primer: “I really believe you should tailor your props bets to how you handicap the game overall.” Now, even though I give the edge to the Patriots, you can tell from my final score that I expect it to be a close shootout, so these props fit right in with that narrative.

Will the game be tied after 0-0? (Yes, -110): Last year, we cashed on this at plus 110 when the Eagles kicked a field goal on their opening drive and the Patriots answered with a field goal of their own! That was sweet. This prop opened -125 at the Westgate and -130 at William Hill, but fortunately it’s come back down to a bettable price. The beauty of this is it can happen any time: remember two years ago when the Falcons famously led 28-3 but the Patriots rallied to tie it 28-28, so I expect this back-and-forth game to be tied again at some point.

Largest lead of the game Under 14.5 points (-110): This also plays into a close game as we shouldn’t see either team get up by more than two touchdowns. This prop is often lined at over/under 13.5 points, but with this high game total, it’s shaded above the two-TD mark at plus 14.5, giving us added value.

Tie at halftime to Pats/Rams winner (12-1 and 16-1): This is actually two wagers, but I think of it as one as I bet the “Double Result” of Halftime Winner/Game Winner on both teams but taking Tie/Patriots and Tie/Rams. I know we can only hit one of them, however, if it’s tied at halftime, we’re guaranteed of a juicy profit (note: it would also clinch the “Tied after 0-0” prop) as it pays the equivalent of 6.5-1 on Tie/Patriots and 8.5-1 on Tie/Rams (note: we’ve basically created our own “Will the Game Be Tied at Halftime?” prop here and getting either 6.5-1 or 8.5-1 seems more than fair). We hit this in Super Bowl 49 and just need to hit it every few years to show an overall profit.

My Take on another “close game” prop: One of the most popular props every year is the “yes” on “Will there be overtime?” People who cashed on the Patriots-Falcons overtime two years ago will disagree, but this is known as one of the biggest sucker bets on the board as that was the lone overtime game in the first 52 years of the Super Bowl, so you’re not getting any value at 7-1 or whatever your book if offering. However, since I am expecting a close battle (and, heck, both these teams went to overtime in the conference championship games), I wouldn’t talk anyone out of betting that this year.

Props tied to Patriots doing well/shootout

My Take on individual player props: Before starting this section, I want to reiterate something from my props primer. There is usually more value to be found on the “Unders” in individual player props as the books shade them that way because they know most bettors want to cheer for something to happen. Last year, I nearly swept all my props because I pegged the Eagles’ game plan and had LaGarrette Blount Over in carries, longest rush, total rushing yards and him scoring a TD. This year, while I believe it will be a shootout, I’m less sure of what Bill Belichick’s game plan will be (Will he air it out or focus more on the run? Will he use James White like the Saints did with Alvin Kamara against the Rams’ defense? For that matter, is Todd Gurley hurt and will he be used more than in recent games?). If you believe you know those answers, that should guide you in what to do with a lot of props. Anyway, here’s a smattering of props I’m playing:

Tom Brady to Score 1st Touchdown (60-1): Here’s the coup de grace! Brady is a longshot since he rarely runs with the ball and he’s more likely to pass to someone else (and then the Rams have a bunch of players who could score first). However, based on how emphatic Brady has been in his interviews and take the “no one believes we can do it” attitude, I can see him taking matters into his own hands and scrambling near the goal line (ala John Elway or Jim McMahon) or keeping it on one of his patented QB sneaks. In case he does it later in the game, I’ll back this up on the “Will Tom Brady Score a Touchdown?” prop at 5-1.

Will Rob Gronkowski Score a Touchdown (Yes, plus 170): There’s been a lot of speculation that this could be Gronk’s last game for New England? If so, how do they not send him off in style. I can’t see how he wouldn’t be targeted in the red zone with at least one “50/50 ball” against an undersized defensive back or a linebacker – and probably more.

Longest TD of the Game Over 49.5 Yards (-110): As stated above, I expect a lot of big plays and certainly expect a long TD of some kind – and I’ll predict at least one coming out of one of those extra-long timeouts.

Total Yardage of All Touchdowns Over 87.5 (-110): If I love Over 49.5 for the longest TD of the game, then I gotta love this one, too, as that would put us more than halfway to this total (and could conceivably go Over for both bets on one play with long TD from scrimmage, long defensive TD or kickoff return).


Over 2.5 players to throw a pass (-110): This is another sucker bet (especially as we cashed on it at plus 180 last year when Julian Edelman threw a pass to Brady – and then piled on with Trey Burton’s “Philadelphia Special” TD pass to Nick Foles), but I’m betting it again anyway. While this is usually a bet on a backup QB seeing action, there’s a great chance that Belichick will use Edelman again to throw a pass of that Sean McVay will call on punter Johnny Hekker, whose fake punt got the Rams going

against the Saints.

Vegas Golden Knights playoff wins more than SB53 touchdowns (-110): The over/under for Super Bowl touchdowns is 6.5 -130, but even if there’s seven or eight like I’m expecting, that just means to Golden Knights need to win two playoff series (and even if there’s 10 TDs, that just means VGK would need to win a couple games in the conference finals).

My Take on “Shortest TD of the game Under 1.5 yards”: Regular readers will know we’ve cashed this many times (it’s hit five of the last six years and nine of the last 13) as I felt it was mispriced as it could happen organically in the course of a game as well as benefiting from the ball being placed at the 1-yard line for defensive pass interference in the end zone. We only had to lay -140 last year but now it’s at -200, so I have to pass.

My Take on “MVP” odds: As John Murray, sports book director at the Westgate SuperBook, said recently on VSiN, the MVP usually goes to the winning quarterback (and they have won it seven of the last nine years) and the books usually do well because bettors don’t see value on Brady (plus 105 as of Tuesday) or Jared Goff (plus 225) and would rather take a flier on offensive players that could step up such as Gronkowski (30-1), White (40-1, though if he didn’t win it two years ago…), or even a defensive player like Aaron Donald (25-1) if you trust “Madden.” However, if you really believe a QB is destined to win it, they actually do provide value compared to the money line of Patriots -140 (Brady’s plus 105 is much better than that) or Rams plus 120 (ditto for Goff’s plus 225).

Good luck with whatever you decide to wager on the Super Bowl and enjoy the festivities.

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