With the Super Bowl comes a set of wagers that have become synonymous with the big game itself: props. Some will
Correlated Super Bowl parlay
Patriots (PK) and first half under 24
One thing about Super Bowls is they don’t tend to start with a bang. Nerves surely play a factor, but teams also want to feel one another out a bit. As opposed to standard playoff games, Super Bowl participants aren’t usually very familiar with one another, as they only meet once every four years on the regular-season calendar. That naturally lends to a slower pace early on. Indeed, in the 14 Super Bowls dating back to the 2000 season, only twice has there been more scoring in the first half than the second half, with averages of 19.8 first-half points and 28.0 second-half points. That’s a striking and significant discrepancy that bears noting.
The Seahawks and Patriots each boast elite defenses, with Seattle’s being compared to the great all-time units. With two of the best secondaries in the NFL and overall schematic philosophies centered around preventing the big play, it’s difficult to mount quick scoring drives on either of these defenses, which is the most surefire way to crack a first-half under. And if these playoffs are any indicator, both offenses don’t figure to really get rolling until after the intermission, as both teams have produced higher second-half scoring outputs in their previous postseason contests. The Patriots scored 14 points in the first half vs. Baltimore and 21 in the second half before producing a 17/28 split vs. the Colts. Likewise, the Seahawks put 14 points on the board in the first half vs. the Panthers and 17 in the second half. And everyone remembers the goose egg they laid in the first 30 minutes vs. the Packers before exploding for 28 in the second half and overtime.
It’s safe to say recent Super Bowl trends as well as the track records of these teams point to the defenses asserting their will early on before the offenses find their footing and eventually join the fray. There’s also line value on this total. While the game total opened at 48.5, it has since been bet down to 47.5 at most books. The first-half number, however, has mostly remained locked at 24. Given everything discussed above, one would expect the first-half total to move in concert with the game total, but because 24 is such a key number the books are reluctant to stray from it, which in turn has opened a window of some value for bettors to exploit.
With one-half of the parlay locked up by halftime, bettors will be able to focus solely on the Patriots winning the game outright in the second half. Oddsmakers have essentially declared Super Bowl XLIX a tossup, but there are a few key factors New England has in its favor that should ultimately decide the outcome. The first is health. With center Bryan Stork expected back after missing the AFC Championship Game with a knee injury, the Patriots are as healthy as they have been all season, which is a borderline miracle at this time of the year. The Seahawks can’t say the same.
Given all the deflated balls talk and Marshawn Lynch non-talk that has dominated headlines the past two weeks, what’s remarkable is that quite possibly the biggest Super Bowl storyline – the health of cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas – has gone virtually unreported. Sherman, who suffered a left elbow sprain in the NFC Championship Game, and Thomas, who dislocated his left shoulder in the same contest, have both been full participants in practice this week. But those are not injuries that are simply going to disappear in two weeks. Even in a best-case scenario that sees both beginning the game at close to 100 percent thanks to treatment and the extra week of recovery time, there’s no telling what kind of reaggravation either or both could suffer as a result of one awkward tackle or crack-block. The Patriots know all too well the difference between a star player being healthy and one dealing with the lingering effects of an injury after Rob Gronkowski’s sprained ankle rendered him a glorified decoy in the Super Bowl three years ago.
That dovetails into the second major factor the Patriots have to their advantage: matchups. Gronkowski has proven to be the biggest matchup nightmare for all types of defensive personnel and schemes. And while the Seahawks have guys like Thomas and safety Kam Chancellor who in theory should be able to contain Gronk, Seattle has allowed an average of over 41 yards per game to opposing tight ends this season and surrendered the third-most touchdowns (11) of any team in the league while ranking just 18th in defensive DVOA vs. tight ends, according to the Football Outsiders metric. Gronkowski was a significant factor the last time these teams met in 2012, catching six balls for 61 yards. More importantly, he created enough space for New England’s wide receivers at the time (Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd) to pile up 218 yards on 16 catches. A healthy Gronkowski truly is the X-factor for the Patriots, one they sorely missed vs. the Giants in 2012.
As for the ground game, a recurring theme in Seattle’s four losses this season – as well as the NFC Championship Game – has been an inability to stop the power run game. In those five games, the Seahawks allowed 4.3 yards per carry, compared to their season mark of 3.6. LeGarrette Blount is exactly the kind of downhill back that the Seattle front seven has struggled with at times. Any success the Patriots can have running the football will open up their downfield passing game, which is predicated primarily on play action.
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots are unmatched in their ability to take away an opponent’s best offensive weapon, which is another way of saying they will not let the Seahawks beat them with the read option. They’ve also limited the effectiveness of Lynch in the past, as he’s yet to rush for more than 79 yards in five career games vs. Bill Belichick defenses, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry – a far cry from his career 4.3 mark. As a gameplan defense, the Patriots will be all-in on stopping Lynch and the read option, which will put the Seahawks’ fate on the shoulders of Russell Wilson, who will need to create plays with his feet and get the ball downfield. Against past New England secondaries, that extra time would have been deadly, but the way the Patriots corners are able to line up in man coverage and hold their assignments – coupled with the lack of a true playmaking receiver on the Seahawks – it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for Wilson to find the big plays that have been his hallmark.
Playoff parlays: 1-2
Playoff picks: 4-4-2
Overall picks: 31-24-4
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