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Friday, January 29, 2010

How to Bet Superbowl Props

Meet Jay Kornegay, the undisputed "King of Props" and bookmaker at the Las Vegas Hilton. Jay is responsible for determining possibilities as inane as what object the first drunken hooligan will throw onto the field (a can of soda pop was the clubhouse leader at 5-2) to whether Drew Brees will surpass Dan Marino's Superbowl XIX 318 passing yards (Marino opened as -150 favorite).

"We basically just make these up until we get tired," said Kornegay to the Las Vegas Review-Jornal. "The props really make the event. It has become such a popular part of Super Bowl weekend. In essence we love betting props. We've never had a prop with zero bets. Not even close to it."

Kornegay is admitting something books rarely acknowledge: the fact that even the house gets caught up in Superbowl hype. But can we really take advantage of the books without getting juiced to death or are we better off staying away from props and letting the rookies bet the coin toss? Let's take examine some of the current props to see if we can find any value:

Player Props

Peyton Manning total passing yards: 300.5 over: -155
under: +125

The -155 juice on Manning throwing for over 300 yards is remarkable, it's a testament to the respect the books have for him. I was initially tempted to jump on the under but my 'never, any under circumstances, bet against Peyton' rule quickly vetoed me. "A lot of people who are going to bet this game, all they know is Peyton Manning," said Kornegay, further evidence that the books want to inflate Manning's over/unders in anticipation of most of the money coming in on the over for Manning related props. How likely is it that Indy builds an early lead and deviates from their lopsided pass heavy offense? Don't count on it. Tom Moore is notorious for keeping his foot on the gas in these situations, he trusts Manning to continue throwing the ball without turning the ball over. If the Colts are down late, Manning will air it out every down and hit the 300-mark with ease. Bottom line is the under at +125 is an enticing number but there simply too many scenarios where Manning eclipses this mark.

Drew Brees completion percentage: 68.5% over: -125
under: -105

Another surprisingly high number. While Brees is fresh off the most accurate regular season in NFL history (70.6%) his playoff completion of 63.5 percent is encouraging for sports handicappers looking to take the under here. There's only been one other season where he's managed to complete close to the prop (67.5% in 2007). Brees is also coming off his most inaccurate game of the season in the NFC championship game where he completed just 54.8% of his 31 pass o attempts. The 68.5% prop is also being inflated because of the uncertain status of Indy DE Dwight Freeney but I'd be shocked if Freeney doesn't play and wreak havoc in this game. Freeney will command consistent double teams providing the Colts the opportunity to blitz Brees or drop an extra man back in coverage. There's definite value in taking the under here at -105.

Team Props

Alternate Point Spread New Orleans Saints (-3.5) +275

I've never been a fan of alternate point spreads but there's value in taking the Saints with points here at +275. Yes, we are essentially reverse teasing the Saints for eight points here but we get the same advantage of great odds what we get in a tease without relying on multiple outcomes. There's no compelling statistical evidence that suggests either team is superior. Is the mystique of Manning really worth 6 points alone? The experience argument is invalid here because outside of Manning, this a completely different Colts team--particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The only thing stopping me from pulling the trigger is yes, once again, my never bet against Peyton Manning rule. If you don't feel the restraints of this simple but wise philosophy, this is a good spot to test the waters.

Most valuable player (odds will vary)

This is more of a fun prop that fantasy football fanatics enjoy wagering on. Let's start out by eliminating players who have no chance to win the award or don't offer us odds worth wagering on:

Stay away from Peyton Manning (2:3) and Drew Brees (9:4). Are these two the runaway leading candidates to win this award? Absolutely. The problem here is that I'm a strict advocate of never taking a MVP player prop at less than 10-1 odds. You'll be hard pressed to find a quarterback at better than 4:1 in the modern era of the NFL and this game is no exception. I'm fully aware that a quarterback has won this award
56% of the time but don't forget you have to also correctly choose the winning team. This fact alone makes getting double digit odds so much more important, especially in a year where there is no clear cut favorite to win the game.

Don't bet on wide receivers or tight ends. Marques Colston (12:1), Reggie Wayne (10:1), Pierre Garcon (14:1), Austin Collie (20:1), Dallas Clark (12:1), Jeremy Shockey (20:1) these are all great players with respectable odds but the problem is that their respective quarterbacks are too high profile. It's impossible for receivers to accumulate numbers that don't simultaneously pad the quarterback's stats. The Superbowl MVP is first and foremost a hype award and none of these names can hold a candle to that of Manning or Brees. Sure, Santonio Holmes was far from a household name last year when he took home the hardware but do you really believe if Peyton was his quarterback he would've still won the award? Please.

So this still leaves us with several intriguing options.

We have running backs (Joseph Addai 10-1, Donald Brown 25-1, Reggie Bush 10-1, Pierre Thomas 10-1). Let's cross off Brown because he hasn't been healthy and a rookie back has never won.

Bush is the most interesting out of the bunch because he returns punts and is used primarily as a receiving back. He also has the added publicity of having a celebrity girlfriend in the stands, which never hurts. My problem with Bush is that he simply doesn't get enough carries. He had a career low 70 rushing attempts and has just 12 this postseason. In order to leapfrog the QBs a back is going to have score multiple rushing TDs and I just don't see the Saints calling Bush's number on the goal line. If he can take a punt back to the house and add another offensive TD from scrimmage he'll have a healthy shot. Still, in Bush's case 10-1 isn't good enough for me, I might have considered him at 15-1 or better.

Addai has yet to score in the postseason and his longest offensive play from scrimmage was a 17-yard rush versus the Jets in the AFC championship game. Not exactly the resume of a Superbowl MVP, right?

Thomas is the most likely of the running backs to win the award. He would be the first back to do so in over a decade (Terrell Davis in 1998 was the last). He's still a longshot because the Saints platoon him with Bush and his combined 27 postseason carries means Thomas will have to make the most out of every opportunity he has to touch the ball. What he does have going for him is his role as goal line back and and he's fresh off a solid two-touchdown performance in the NFC championship game. The key will be taking TDs away from Brees in a winning effort. It won't be easy but he's worth taking a look at here.

Finally, we have the rest of the pack (defense, kickers, the field). We'll find good value here starting with big defensive names such as Dwight Freeney (30-1) or the lesser known but effective Robert Mathis (40-1). Freeney's banged up but he possesses the talent to single handedly disrupt a high powered offense. It's never easy to picture a defensive player hoisting the trophy but remember no one expected Tampa Bay FS Dexter Jackson to take home the honors in 2003. Eight defensive players have held the honors in the history of the award, the last defensive end to do so was Richard Dent of the Chicago Bears in 1986.

Gary Brackett (50-1), Clint Sessions (50-1) and Jonathan Vilma (40-1)need to rack up more than tackles to have a shot, they would need to force turnovers and score at least one defensive touchdown. Steer clear.

The one defender that offers the most value is Darren Sharper (28-1). He's a known commodity and proven big play safety, if he can goad Manning into making bad decisions he'll have an opportunity to have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

Stay away from kickers and the field. There's simply too much star power in this game for it to go to an unknown this year.

Now that we gave you some free Super Bowl Prop Picks check out our expert SuperBowl Picks and more from Cooper's Pick.


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