The Super Bowl? Vegas? That means prop bets. Also known as "exotics," proposition bets are opportunities to handicap some aspect of a game beyond the usual bets on a side or the total number of points scored. Las Vegas sportsbooks will typically spread about 10 to 12 prop bets on Monday Night Football games and other particularly notable contests, but that's nothing compared to the Super Bowl. The Las Vegas Hotel (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) sportsbook has produced more than 400 prop bets for Super Bowl XLVI, ranging from the identity of the player who will score the first touchdown to well, you'll see.
I've done elaborate analyses of the prop bets available for previous Super Bowls, but those ended up just being long lists of my (unprofitable) opinions on how the game would go. Instead, I've gone through the massive list of LVH prop bets and found ones that fit a number of different categories. Think Super Bowl XLVI will be a blowout? A close game? A shootout? Want to try and identify some sure bets? Hit on a longshot? We've got prop bets on all of those and more, and by more, I mean Big Game-related bets on bare midriffs and golfing scores. Make it through every prop discussed below and you'll deserve a trophy. You'll also probably need a shower.
If you've been reading the betting articles on Grantland throughout this past season, most of these bets will be familiar to you. But if you haven't, don't worry: We'll explain the basics along the way. And where the data allows, we'll provide some math behind how the odds work and where the profitable bets might be.
• Five Prop Bets for a Close Game
• Five Prop Bets for a Shootout
• Five Prop Bets for a Big Giants Win
• Five Prop Bets for a Big Patriots Win
• Five Prop Bets for a Healthy (or Unhealthy) Rob Gronkowski
• Five Possibilities (for Each Team) as to Which Player Scores First
• Five Great Frontrunner Prop Bets
• Five Prop Bets That Say You Have a Problem
• Five Player vs. Player Prop Bets
• Five Offshore Entertainment Prop Bets
• Five Super Bowl vs. Other Sports Prop Bets
Will there be overtime?
Let's start with a simple one and provide a quick reminder of how these odds work. All of the lines we're working with in this piece are within the context of a $100 bet. A bet of $100 on +800 odds, like the "Yes" bet here, means that you'll be betting $100 to receive $800 in profit (plus your original $100 back). Odds of -1100 mean that you'll need to bet $1,100 to win $100; a winning bet of $100 on "No" will return just $9.09 in profit.
What do those odds mean? Well, a line of +800 implies that the game will go to overtime 11.1 percent of the time, while the -1100 line on the other side implies that it will finish in regulation 91.7 percent of the time. Astute readers will note that those two figures add up to 102.8 percent, which is impossible. That extra 2.8 percent is Vegas's juice, the "vig" that the sportsbook extracts for taking the action. We can adjust each of those figures to account for the juice by dividing each figure by 102.8 percent, so the juice-free probability that the game will go into overtime, according to this line, is 10.8 percent.
Vegas's goal isn't to set a perfectly accurate line. It's to set the line in such a way that money will come in evenly on either side of the bet, which should allow them to make a profit by virtue of that 2.8 percent vig. Over the past five years, just 5.8 percent of regular-season games have gone into overtime. The playoffs should eliminate some of the talent mismatches and produce closer games (and with it, more overtimes), but since 1990, only 7.4 percent of playoff games have gone into overtime, and the Super Bowl has never once gone into overtime.
The oddsmakers aren't stupid, of course; they know about those numbers, too. The reality of betting, though, is that they're likely to receive more action on the underdog bet from people hoping to hit for a big payout than they are from those bettors willing to assume a large risk just to ensure a small profit. It's more fun to bet on overtime, but it's going to be far more profitable to bet on a game that ends during regulation.
What will be the largest lead of the game by either team?
Over 13.5 points: -160
Under 13.5 points: +140
In the first game between these two teams earlier this season, the largest lead was 10 points. Super Bowl XLII was even tighter; there, the largest lead of the game was four points. On the other hand, such a lead occurred in 11 of New England's other 17 games this season, and it happened in nine of New York's other 18 games. If you think that this game ends up staying close throughout, well, the +140 looks pretty tasty.
Will the game be decided by exactly three points?
The line for this game sees the Patriots favored by three points. The Spreadapedia database tells us that there have been 587 games since 2000 where one team was favored by exactly three points. One hundred fourteen of those games ended with one team or the other winning by exactly three points. That's 19.4 percent of games just like this one. The odds declare that this game will end with a three-point margin 20.5 percent of the time. This one seems like it lacks value on either side.
Will the game be tied after 0-0?
This bet asks you whether the game will be tied at any point after the first score. There's a catch, though: The tie has to come after an extra point or two-point conversion is scored. So if the Giants go up 6-0 on two Lawrence Tynes field goals and the Patriots score a touchdown to make it 6-6 before kicking the extra point, that tie doesn't count. This did happen at 10-10 during the first game, but again, it seems like a referendum on whether you think the game is going to be close or not.
What will the final score of the game be?
Any other score: +200
A close game would seem to favor a field goal serving as the final score, since teams playing in a blowout are unlikely to take three points when they need a lot more than three to catch up. Then again, each of the last two games between these two have ended in touchdowns, and the Pats-Ravens nail-biter last weekend culminated in Tom Brady's touchdown run. This is essentially a prop for nostalgic Pats fans wistful for the days of Adam Vinatieri.
Five Prop Bets for a Shootout
How many points will the two teams combine to score?
Over 62.5 points: +200
Over 69.5 points: +400
This game's listed point total is currently at 55 points, which is the second-highest point total for a Super Bowl since 1987.1 There were only four games in 2011 to hit kickoff with a total of 55 points or higher, and just one — the 45-28 playoff win by the Saints over the Lions — went over its listed total. Regardless of the pregame line, just 9.3 percent of games went over 62.5 points, while 4.7 percent went over 69.5 points. Unless you have some serious premonition that a 41-35 thriller is coming (or you expect the teams to combine for 12 points in overtime), you might just want to stick with going over the standard total of 55.
Will either team score in the first 5.5 minutes of the game?
In Week 9, these two teams squared off in Foxborough and did not score during the first 5.5 minutes of the game. They did not score during the second 5.5 minutes of the game, or the third they didn't score once the entire first half. Granted, they promptly went and scored 44 points in a wild second half, and they've had plenty of time to install their scripted plays, so you can probably talk yourself into this one. Such a score has only happened in three of the past 10 Super Bowls, though, and the Giants took 9:59 off the clock on their opening drive in Super Bowl XLII before kicking a field goal.
How long will the longest touchdown of the game be?
Over 49.5 yards: -110
Under 49.5 yards: -110
If neither team scores a touchdown, this bet pushes, which means that the initial investment is returned to bettors without any profit or loss. (If you think that's going to happen, well, wait until we get to that bet a little later.)
These teams have only combined to score 11 touchdowns of 50 yards or more in 37 games this season while allowing just five (in four distinct games). As tempting as it is to want to see Victor Cruz streaking off into the distance as a trail of Patriots wide receivers and special teamers chase him in vain, the under seems like the stronger play here.
How many touchdowns will the two teams combine to score?
Over 6.5 touchdowns: +105
Under 6.5 touchdowns: -125
Through the first 16 weeks of the season (in other words, with starters in place), teams only scored seven or more touchdowns 21.7 percent of the time. This would again seem to lean toward an obvious under, but the feat happened in 13 of the 30 Giants and Patriots games, so maybe there's more upside here than it might seem. Remember that the Patriots have the fourth-best red zone offense in football, while the Giants are ninth. The Pats and Giants rank 17th and 19th, respectively, in red zone defense.
Will at least one quarter be scoreless?
Two quarters were scoreless in the first game! Then again, New England's had just one scoreless quarter (the fourth versus the Redskins) in 40 chances since, while the Giants have just one in their last 32 quarters. It's probably safe to take the "No" bet here, even at -420 odds.
Alternate Giants Lines
Giants -3.5: +210
Giants -7.5: +400
Giants -10.5: +550
Giants -14.5: +800
Don't want to take the points with the initial line of Giants +3? Think you're about to see Eli wipe Brady's face in the dirt for four quarters? Well, you can put your money where your mouth is with one of these alternate lines, each of which add a half-point to the four key numbers in football betting. For those who aren't familiar, the listed line of Giants +3 -110 means that a bet on the Giants wins if they win the game outright or lose by fewer than three points, is a push if the Giants lose by three, and loses if the Giants are outscored by four or more points. That line pays out a profit of $110 for every $100 you bet if you win, so a bet of $100 results in $90.91 in profit with a win.
These alternate lines, on the other hand, allow you to bet on the Giants as favorites with superior payouts as the possible prize. If you're brave enough to bet on the Giants -7.5, you're saying that the Giants will not just win outright, but prevail by eight or more points. If they do that, you'll get $400 in profit back for your $100 bet.
If you're eyeing that 14.5 figure longingly, consider that three-point underdogs have won by 15 or more points just over 4 percent of the time since 2000. The last time a Super Bowl underdog won by that large of a margin was 2003, when the 3.5-point dogs coached by Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay beat the Raiders by 27 points.
In which half will Eli Manning accrue more gross passing yards?
First Half: +115
Second Half: -135
This is a bet you can take advantage of if your read on the Giants winning by a large margin is correct. 53.4 percent of Eli Manning's passing yards during the regular season this year came during the second half, which is part of the reason why this line is slightly tilted toward the second half. The other part is that the Giants are underdogs and, as a result, likely to be trailing during the second half. When teams trail, they throw the ball to try and score quickly; when they're in the lead, they run the ball and try to eat up the clock. In the playoff win over the Packers, as an example, Manning had the lead for most of the second half and threw just nine times after 24 first-half attempts. If the Giants get out to an early lead, they'll run the ball up and down the field during the latter stages of the game. With that in mind, a hefty Giants victory would point to the +115 bet as a superior option.
How many carries will Brandon Jacobs have?
Over 7.5: +105
Under 7.5: -125
This goes in concert with the Manning bet. A reduction in second-half passing means more carries for Jacobs (and Ahmad Bradshaw), which should bump him well over the eight-carry total.
How many different Giants will score?
Over 3.5: -140
Under 3.5: +120
No, a field goal doesn't count as half of a score; it counts as a whole one! With this bet, you get to include any points accrued by the kicker and by players on two-point conversions, but Eli Manning needs to score as a runner (or, gulp, a receiver) to qualify. So three touchdowns by three different players would kick this bet into the win column. If the Giants win by any sort of margin in this game, it's hard to imagine that this bet wouldn't go over.
How many points will the Giants win by?
39 or more: +7500
Imagine, if you will, a world where the Giants are up 40 points with three minutes left to go in Super Bowl XLVI. Your fellow Giants fan friends have been celebrating for the better part of two hours, ever since Tom Brady fell on his arm halfway through the first quarter and has mysteriously tried to throw all his passes underhand ever since. Every Super Bowl party more than an hour away from a New Jersey Turnpike exit has ended prematurely, as millions of people nationwide have simultaneously gotten out of their chairs, yawned, stretched, and said, "Well, I've got to get up early for work tomorrow." You, on the other hand? You are glued to the television as Brian Hoyer tries to march the Patriots down the field for an otherwise-meaningless touchdown, turning your incredible $7,500 profit on the Giants winning by 39 points or more into the worst $100 loss of your life. You probably don't want to be in that situation, right?
Alternate Patriots Lines
Patriots -7.5: +195
Patriots -10.5: +290
Patriots -14.5: +500
Patriots -17.5: +750
Just like the Giants, you can bet on a Patriots blowout if your heart is truly motivated to do so. Did you bet on the Patriots -12 in Super Bowl XLII and think that they have come to get revenge on your behalf? Getting +290 on Patriots -10.5 might be for you, then. The problem with making this sort of bet, to me, is that the Patriots' secondary can't be expected to stop the Giants to score in the dying stages of a blowout. The backdoor cover on a line like -14.5 or -17.5 is way too strong of a possibility.
How many carries will BenJarvus Green-Ellis have?
Over 13.0: +115
Under 13.0: -135
Green-Ellis has averaged 12.1 carries per game in Patriots wins this season and nine carries in the three New England losses. We're not arguing cause and effect here, of course, but that the Patriots tend to turn to guys like Danny Woodhead when they are behind and need to throw to catch up. Remember — Birdman outed the Law Firm as his nephew before offering to bet $5 million on the Patriots against anybody who would take his action. And that dude has a platinum football field. This line might move quickly.
What will happen first?
Patriots score: -120
Patriots punt: EVEN
Well, this one's a poser. The Patriots have played 18 games this year, including their two playoff contests, and scored before punting in nine of them. Interestingly, though, that's subject to a big first-half/second-half split. Despite the fact that they're on a 10-game winning streak, the Pats have scored before punting in just four of those games, and the Giants forced them into four punts before New England scored against them in Week 9.
Will the Patriots score in all four quarters?
The Patriots have done this in 17 of 35 games over the past two seasons, but the Giants represent a better pass defense than most of that opposition, and they held the Patriots scoreless for two quarters during the first tilt. In a big Patriots win, though, it seems unlikely that Belichick would take his starters out or stop throwing the ball. Remember what he did to Tim Tebow.
Who will score more points?
Patriots during the first half +12.5: -110
Giants during the entire game -12.5: -110
Here's a fun challenge. This spread adds 12.5 points to the Patriots' first-half point total and then compares it to the number of points put up by the Giants through the entire game. If the Patriots who dropped 31 first-half points on the Broncos in the first half during the divisional round show up, you're going to look real smart. If the ones who couldn't even put a field goal through the uprights against the Giants during the first half of Week 9 make an appearance, though, you will spend halftime stewing and wishing you had bet on the Puppy Bowl.2
Let's all play "How much do you believe Rob Gronkowski's dad?" If you really trust Mr. Gronk and believe that his son suffered a high ankle sprain in the victory over the Ravens, well, there's not going to be much production from Gronkowski during the Super Bowl. We've seen high ankle sprains keep players like Adrian Peterson out for weeks and severely limit the effectiveness of Ben Roethlisberger this season, and while Gronkowski gets two weeks to rest, a high ankle sprain ensures that he won't be anywhere near 100 percent on Sunday.
Now, for the purposes of these bets, it's important that Gronkowski plays; all bets are refunded if Gronkowski is inactive. But if he suits up and has a very quiet day, you'll want to play the under on every one of these bets. All of these are listed with the original odds from the LVH, but don't be surprised if they shift dramatically during the week, depending upon reports of how healthy (or unhealthy) Gronkowski is.
How many receptions will Rob Gronkowski have?
Over 5.5: -145
Under 5.5: +125
You get the idea.
Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?
In Gronkowski's first pro game, he caught one pass for one yard. Yes, of course, it was a touchdown. You could remove his ankle and he's still probably going to catch a touchdown, right?
Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown in the first half?
These two bets, taken together, are a very weird mix. The given likelihood of Gronkowski scoring a touchdown in the first half is just 35.3 percent, but his odds of scoring a touchdown in the game are at 59.6 percent. Those two numbers imply that Gronkowski will score in the second half about 92.1 percent of the time, and that a bet on Gronkowski not scoring in the second half would have true odds of about +1166 or so. I hope somebody offers that.
How many receiving yards will Rob Gronkowski accrue?
111-120 or 121-130: +2000
201 or more: +5000
If Rob Gronkowski goes for 201 or more yards in the Super Bowl, the first round of the 2012 NFL draft will consist of 32 tight ends, selected in descending order of their relationship with pornography.
How many field goals will Stephen Gostkowski make?
Over 1.5: EVEN
Under 1.5: -120
And this is your final counterbet. If you think Gronkowski is hurt, you can take the under receptions bet, choose "No" for the touchdown props, go for some of the lower totals on the yardage scale, and then assume that Gronkowski's absence will hurt the Patriots in the red zone. That should produce two or more field goals for Gostkowski.
This bet is as simple as can be. Whoever picks up the first touchdown gets paid, and everyone else loses. Quarterbacks only win if they run the ball in or catch a pass (gulp, still), as the receiver gets credit for the touchdown in this scenario. We've identified five interesting candidates for each team and have two other bets at the bottom.
Which player will score the first touchdown of Super Bowl XLVI?
Hakeem Nicks: +700
Victor Cruz: +800
Ahmad Bradshaw: +900
Brandon Jacobs: +1200
Jake Ballard: +2000
It's customary to list each team's starting running back as the favorite to win this prop, but that's not going to be the case with either team. Nicks and Cruz both stand out as big plays waiting to happen against a pair of overmatched Patriots cornerbacks, and depending on the situation near the goal line, Jacobs is a viable threat to vulture away Bradshaw's touchdown (but not enough of one to get better odds, considering that Bradshaw got 20 of the 25 carries between the two last week). With that in mind, what about Ballard? The starting tight end should be healthier with two weeks' rest, and he caught a touchdown against the Pats during the first game.
Rob Gronkowski: +500
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: +900
Tom Brady: +1800
Danny Woodhead: +3000
Chad Ochocinco: +4000
Let's keep it interesting and assume that Gronkowski is a nonfactor because of the ankle. That leaves some very viable candidates up and down the lineup. Green-Ellis is the featured back in short yardage, but Woodhead should see more snaps as a pass blocker and could score on a draw if the Patriots go no-huddle for their opening drive. Then again, Woodhead scored all of one touchdown this year, so it's not extremely likely. A Brady sneak would do the trick, but imagine the bragging rights you would have if you successfully bet on a Chad Ochocinco touchdown to start the Super Bowl and won? That would put you right up there with the guys who made it to every Super Bowl as far as exclusive fraternities.
Field : +800
No Touchdown Scored: +50000
Each team has nine players listed within the props before the "field" bet kicks in, so basically, we're looking at a touchdown by a defensive player, a return touchdown, or a fumble recovery in the end zone by an offensive lineman. More excitingly, here's where you get to back that prediction about no touchdowns being scored from earlier on. There aren't many ways for you to turn $100 into a nice new car, but this is certainly one of them. Of course, if this game gets to the fourth quarter without a touchdown being scored, you will probably require medical assistance.
These are five prop bets where the favored side of the bet seems like good value, even if the odds are extremely high.
How many kickoff returns will the two teams combine for?
Over 6.5: +145
Under 6.5: -165
This excludes touchbacks, fair catches, and kickoffs that go out of bounds, which is why there's value in going under seven kickoff returns. In their 32 regular-season games this year, the Giants and Patriots averaged a total of 6.3 kickoff returns per game. That's right near the figure listed, which might cause you to lean toward the over, but remember that Super Bowl XLVI will be played in a dome; that should increase kickoff distance and make touchbacks a far more likely proposition. Take Adam Vinatieri, who spent three years on kickoff duty with the Colts from 2006-08 after he moved over from New England. During his final three years with the Patriots, Vinatieri produced touchbacks on 7.1 percent of his kicks and averaged 62.5 yards per kickoff; despite naturally declining in leg strength because of his age, after he moved to Indianapolis, Vinatieri averaged 65.3 yards per kickoff and garnered touchbacks 11.1 percent of the time.
Will Zoltan Mesko punt a touchback?
The Patriots are an aggressive team on fourth down and are wildly successful on offense, and when Mesko punts, he's a sound directional kicker. That produces a paucity of touchbacks. How few? Mesko has just 10 touchbacks on 123 attempts in 35 career NFL games.
Will there be a safety?
There are about seven or eight safeties each year in the NFL. My unofficial count this year is eight, but for some reason, six of them involved these two teams in one way or another. Is that meaningful when it comes to predicting the likelihood of a safety in the Super Bowl? Absolutely not. You're looking at about a 3 percent chance of a safety happening, which means that the odds for "Yes" should be something like +3233. Betting "No" here, even at -1300, is one of the best prop bets you can make this year. Of course, you will have to risk $100 to win $7.69 in the process.
Will Chad Ochocinco catch a pass?
Ochocinco has to be active for this bet to actually play, which is the tricky part. If he suits up, though, it's difficult to imagine that he'll see more than one or two targets, and since he lines up almost exclusively on the outside, that means a lot of attention from
Will Corey Webster intercept a pass?
The Giants' best cornerback likely won't spend a ton of time in the slot, which means that he gets to spend his day working against the Ochocincos and Deion Branchs of the world. Brady's game plan will unquestionably revolve around avoiding him while attacking the weaker links in the New York secondary.
Which team will accrue more penalty yards?
One good way to find prop bets that suggest you might have a problem is when Vegas just lists two sides without a spread at -110. What that basically says is, "We don't know what the right side is here, but we also know you don't know, and we're going to collect vig while you and your buddies guess." For what it's worth, the Patriots accrued 815 penalty yards to the Giants' mere 795 during the regular season, but the Giants have been responsible for 163 penalty yards in three playoff games, while the Patriots are at just 25 after two games. People will think less of you if you bet on this!
Which team will use a coach's challenge first?
It's important to note that the team doesn't need to win the challenge, just use it. The Giants used 10 challenges during the regular season and two during the postseason, for an average of 0.63 challenges per game. The Pats used eight during the regular season and haven't used any during the postseason, for an average of 0.44 challenges per game. What do those numbers mean over a sample of 18-19 games? Absolutely nothing. Your girlfriend will use this as a sign that you're not ready to take the next step in your relationship and break up with you if you bet on it.
How will the opening coin toss land?
Here's how bad this bet is: Even Vegas feels bad about charging full vig on it. Some offshore books will put each side of this bet at -110, knowing that it's a 50/50 proposition and that they can bank $9 for every $100 that comes in. The LVH has the juice down to 1 percent, but it's still an incredibly stupid bet. You are essentially lighting 1 percent of the money in your wallet on fire if you make this bet.3
How many players will attempt a pass during the game?
Over 2.5: +290
Under 2.5: -350
I can't lie: I love this bet a little bit. The bet here is, essentially, "Will somebody besides Tom Brady or Eli Manning throw a pass?" The Patriots have given Brian Hoyer mop-up work, but we're going to assume that this question basically revolves around the idea that a nonquarterback is going to throw a pass. How rare has that been for these teams? Well, the Patriots haven't had a nonquarterback throw a pass since 2008, when Kevin Faulk threw one, and before that, it was Adam Vinatieri on a fake field goal in 2004. Their last quarterback to throw a pass in the playoffs who didn't have "Brady" on the back of his jersey was Drew Bledsoe. And unless you want to make a joke about Jared Lorenzen, we have to go all the way back to Jeff Feagles in 2006 for a nonquarterback pass attempt from the Giants. That's thousands of chances for a pass by Hakeem Nicks or Aaron Hernandez and these teams haven't taken it once. Why would they start now? But then again, why would the "Under 2.5" line be so low? Suspicious.
What will the jersey number be of the first player to score a touchdown?
Over 80.5: EVEN
Under 80.5: -120
Few things have made me question my life decisions more than putting together a spreadsheet to answer this question. But I did it, taking every player who has scored for these two teams this year, removing guys who aren't going to play on Sunday, adjusting for the games they played in and missed. It was so fucking stupid on so many levels. But I did it. And in the end, I got an expected number of 64.4. Great, so an offensive lineman is likely to score on Sunday! In reality, it just suggests that the running backs for the teams are likely a little undervalued here, and that logic only goes further with a possibly-limited Gronkowski (number 87). Go under here, but realize that we're all losers for playing.
Who will throw an interception first?
Eli Manning: -160
Tom Brady: +140
As I've brought up in the past, a player's interception rate during one year is subject to tons of randomness. These two quarterbacks are a great example. In 2009, Tom Brady's interception rate4 (2.3 percent) was roughly similar to Eli Manning's (2.7 percent). In 2010, Manning (4.6 percent) threw interceptions nearly six times as frequently as Brady (0.8 percent). Using a three-year sample provides a more accurate measure of how these two quarterbacks avoid interceptions, and in a roughly similar number of attempts, Manning has thrown interceptions about twice as frequently as Brady. Eli has just one interception in three playoff games, but remember that he also injured the other team's top cornerback in the last round by throwing a near pick that was awful enough to be picked off by two different people at once.
One other fun reason to bet on Eli here: The Patriots have not won a coin toss and chosen to receive since the game where Tom Brady tore his ACL. Chances are that the Giants will get the ball first, which means an extra possession during the first half, which means a better shot at throwing an interception first.
Who will have more rushing yards?
Eli Manning +2.5 yards: EVEN
Tom Brady -2.5 yards: -120
This, on the other hand, is a battle. The NFL considers quarterback kneels, for some stupid reason, to be part of a player's rushing totals, which is how Eli Manning has 35 carries for 15 yards this year. Tom Brady, meanwhile, has 43 carries for 109 yards. Take out the kneel-downs, and Manning's at 12 carries for 23 yards, while Brady's at 33 for 110. The Patriots passer is clearly more likely to tuck and run with the football, but since his team is favored, Brady is also the favorite to kneel in the fourth quarter and lose two rushing yards. To be honest, we've all probably spent a little too much time debating this one.
Who will have more receiving yards?
Victor Cruz -8.5 yards: -110
Wes Welker +8.5 yards: -110
Here's an old-fashioned challenge bet between two of the league's top three receivers by yardage this year. If you start with Cruz's breakout performance against the Eagles in Week 3 and include the playoffs, the second-year sensation averaged 103.8 yards per game, while Welker's 18-game slate now has him at 93.2 yards per contest. The scary thing? These two teams allow more yardage to number-three wideouts (who typically play in the slot, like Welker and, occasionally, Cruz) than any other pair of teams in football. This one seems destined to come down to one big play, and that would seem to favor Cruz, right?
Who will have more receiving yards?
Travis Beckum +30.5 yards: -110
Deion Branch -30.5 yards: -110
You really want to win a bet with Travis Beckum's name on the ticket? Here's your shot. Webster and company were able to hold Branch to two catches for 21 yards during the first game, and while Beckum went catchless, the spread of 30.5 yards would have made him the winner. In fact, even if Beckum just spent the entire game blocking, Branch would have lost this bet in four of his last eight games. Perhaps this bet will fulfill a scavenger hunt item of some nature for you. If so, congratulations.
Who will score a touchdown first?
Ahmad Bradshaw: -125
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: +105
Well, we know that the Giants are more likely to get the ball first (and, therefore, more likely to score first), but Green-Ellis is just about guaranteed to get the ball near the goal line, while Bradshaw has to contend with Brandon Jacobs. Losing to a Bradshaw touchdown would be one thing, but it would be agonizing to see Jacobs come in and vulture a Bradshaw touchdown to eventually lose this bet. A good rule of thumb in betting, especially when you're (like me) not very good at it: Avoid potentially agonizing situations unless they're setting up to be really profitable.
The Gaming Board in Las Vegas doesn't allow casinos to put up bets on events that aren't directly related to the game or subject to interpretation, or on awards that are determined by a vote (which is why you can't bet on who will win Super Bowl MVP). Fortunately, the Internet is a semilawless land where you can bet on just about anything! Bovada, the rebranded former Bodog, has a number of Super Bowl props available that would never sniff the big boards of Vegas. I've picked five favorites.
Will Kelly Clarkson's bare belly be showing when she sings the national anthem?
Research tells me that she has experience doing the national anthem both with midriff exposed and without. I am going to guess that the Super Bowl is an austere enough experience for her to keep her belly covered.
What color will Madonna's hair be when she begins the Super Bowl Halftime show?
I copied the phrasing of this question, word-for-word, from the Bovada e-mail I was sent. It's very important that I did so because I think it implies something a little terrifying: Bovada expects Madonna to dye her hair during the Super Bowl halftime show. Was that what Prince was doing when he distracted the nation with his, um, guitar?
Will Madonna wear an NFL jersey or shirt at any point during the Super Bowl halftime show?
No way, right?
How many times will Peyton Manning be shown on television during the game?
Over 3.5: -110
Under 3.5: -110
Bovada does not make it clear whether this counts commercials or not. If it does, the over is the lock of the year.
What will the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach be?
How can blue be so low when both these teams use blue as the primary color of their uniforms? But then again, who on earth actually likes blue Gatorade? Color branding apparently has not come to Gatorade showers, probably because some teams can't actually get Gatorade in their primary color. It wouldn't have been quite as fun if the Saints doused Sean Payton in Diet Coke or black coffee, I guess.
All of these bets are "Who will have more" lines, comparing the total accrued by a player or team in a given category during the Super Bowl to a total accrued in one or more statistical categories by a player or team outside the sport, with some sort of spread built in. They are basically affronts to any sort of higher power, and the amount of time you spend actually considering them is basically an SAT test for a gambling addiction. They are the ultimate prop bets. All references to football players solely consider their performance within the Super Bowl.
Which number will be higher?
Yards of Tom Brady's longest completion -6.5 yards: -110
Combined number of points and rebounds accrued by Kevin Durant against the Spurs on February 4 +6.5 points+rebounds: -110
Guys, we suddenly developed a taste for awful cigars and somehow grew a green visor on our forehead just typing that. That's not normal. In four games against the Spurs since the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign, Kevin Durant's averaged 30 points+rebounds. Tom Brady's longest pass in a game has been below 36.5 yards 15 out of 35 times. The Giants have the pass rush to slow down Brady and prevent big plays, but he should get one off. Then again, Durant's playing a Spurs team that's basically trying to keep their veterans in one piece for the playoffs, and he should be growing as a player. So, in other words, I don't know.
Who will have more points?
Giants +0.5 points: -110
Knicks by the end of the first quarter of their game with the Nets on February 4 -0.5 points: -110
Carmelo Anthony missed last weekend's games, but he should be playing when the Knicks host the Nets on Saturday night. The Knicks score 23.4 points per quarter at a really fast pace and the Nets allow 24.7 points per quarter at a really slow one. I'm going to guess they score 24 points! The over/under for the Giants game implies that the market believes the Giants will score 26 points, so getting the extra half-point, they would be slight favorites here.
Which number will be higher?
Gross passing yards accrued by Tom Brady +63.5 yards: -110
Number of points accrued by the college basketball teams of Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern on February 6 -63.5 points: -110
Which number will be higher?
Longest gross punt by Giants or Patriots +13.5 yards: -110
Nick Watney's score in the fourth round of the Phoenix Open on February 5 -13.5 strokes: -110
Nick Watney has to make it to the fourth round of the tournament and complete all 18 holes. If you were one of Nick Watney's buddies and he was out of the running (but still on the right side of the cut) after the second round, wouldn't you bet a ton on the Giants/Patriots line and then come up with some sort of bizarre excuse that required you to fly out to Phoenix and drink profusely with Nick Watney after round three?
Who will have more?
Brandon Jacobs touchdowns: -300
Wayne Rooney goals against Chelsea on February 5: +250
Finally. The last bet. Rooney has to play in the match for the bet to go off, otherwise the bet is canceled and the investment refunded. We don't really understand this one. Chelsea's had a tough defense with Petr Cech in net, but Rooney's averaging .65 goals per game this year, while Jacobs is at .47 touchdowns per game. Maybe the bookmakers are hoping that Rooney comes off the bench and still qualifies for the bet as a substitute, but what, are United going to save him for their Europa League push? Jacobs got five carries last week. This has to be a bet on Rooney.
Well, that's settled. Check back throughout the week at Grantland for our coverage of Super Bowl XLVI from Indianapolis!