The board is set. The pieces are moving. Actually, I guess they’re not moving just yet. We’ve still got two weeks before the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons meet at NRG Stadium in Super Bowl LI (Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017).
I would say it’s the deep breath before the plunge, but nothing about the next two weeks is going to be quiet. And that includes us! (If you can’t be part of the solution, be part of the problem.) For bettors, the Super Bowl is the, umm, Super Bowl of wagering. There are always a keg-load of props that go along with the game, ensuring you can create a vested interest in literally every play, no matter the score. And after watching both the Falcons and Patriots run away with the Conference Championship games, that might be a good idea. Otherwise you risk losing interest in the game itself and actually conversing with the others around you at your Super Bowl party.
Nobody wants that, especially those other people. (No offense. Your story about seeing Ochocinco at a Carl’s Jr. is just not that interesting.)
So don’t risk it. Find some props you like and put a shiny nickel on them all! To help you get oriented for the game and the betting landscape, read our take on some of the biggest stories within the story.
Odds to win Super Bowl LI
New England Patriots: 9/10
Atlanta Falcons: 10/9
The early Vegas lines favor the Pats, but this game is a true toss-up. The Falcons have the better offense, while the Patriots are the more complete team. New England gets the slight edge because Tom Brady and Bill Belichick already have four resplendent rings on their fingers. That’s experience you can’t replicate on the practice field.
Odds to win Super Bowl MVP
Tom Brady: 3/2
Matt Ryan: 7/4
Julio Jones: 11/2
Remember last year when Von Miller was a game-wrecker on defense and took home the MVP? Yeah, that’s not going to happen again. Neither defense has a player like Miller in the front-seven who can take over. Neither QB is going to throw enough picks for this to go to a defensive back. Seven of the last ten MVPs have gone to quarterbacks. Don’t overthink this one. In a battle between two high-scoring offenses, the pivots will get the plaudits. Unless Chris Hogan does another Julio Jones impression. (Or is it Julio Jones doing a Chris Hogan impression?)
O/U on the final score: 57.5
Atlanta’s offense has been indomitable over the last couple weeks. Look at who they’ve played though: a Seattle team lacking its most important player in the secondary, and a Packer team lacking … a secondary. The Pats quietly led the league in scoring defense this year and have the DBs to possibly slow Julio and company. “Slow” is relative, of course. Holding the Falcons to, like, 31 would be a good showing.
The other side of the ball is a different story. This is the worst D New England will have faced in the playoffs. Unless Atlanta turns them over on multiple occasions – which isn’t likely – the Pats are going to get theirs.
O/U total points after the 1st quarter: 13.5
O/U total points at halftime: 29.5
O/U total points after three quarters: 43.5
Odds on the Super Bowl going to overtime: 75/1
There were 13 games from the 2016 season that needed extra time to determine a winner. But not one playoff game has gone beyond the fourth quarter thus far. Looking to the big game, no Super Bowl has ever gone to overtime. Don’t expect that to change this year.
Odds the Super Bowl winner returns to the Super Bowl next season: 18/1
Odds a kicker misses an extra point: 7/3
Odds on which team gets more sacks
New England: 4/5
Though Atlanta boasts regular season sack king Vic Beasley, he ain’t the type of player who can feast on good offensive lines. Overall, these teams are pretty even in sack statistics (sacktisitcs?): they both had 34 in the regular season; Atlanta has five in the playoffs; New England has three. Where they differ is in sacks allowed. Brady is a master of getting the ball out quickly and the Pats only surrendered 24 sacks on the year. Atlanta gave up 37.
That said, how mobile did Matt Ryan look in the NFC Championship? That was Aaron Rodgers-esque.
O/U total sacks: 3.5
O/U total turnovers: 1.5
Odds on which team will force more turnovers
New England: 8/9
It’s rare for either of these teams to come out behind in the turnover battle, as they both finished tied for the fewest giveaways in the league this season. The Falcons have a takeway in ten-straight games, while the Pats have one in eight-straight. But overall, New England has slightly more takeaways on the year.
Odds there is a completed Hail Mary: 66/1
Odds a defense scores a TD: 4/1
Odds a kick/punt is returned for a TD: 13/1
Odds a kick/punt is blocked: 12/1
Odds to throw more TDs
Tom Brady: 10/9
Matt Ryan: 5/3
Both quarterbacks are playing at a level two steps above elite. Matt Ryan hasn’t had a passer rating below 120 since Week 13 and Brady has tossed 3-plus TDs in over half of the games he’s played this season. But not only is Brady far more used to the game’s biggest stage, he’s also playing the worse pass defense.
Odds to score the most TDs
Julio Jones: 4/1
Devonta Freeman: 6/1
LeGarrette Blount: 7/1
Chris Hogan: 7/1
Julian Edelman: 9/1
Tevin Coleman: 9/1
Dion Lewis: 11/1
Mohamed Sanu: 11/1
Turf toe or not, Jones will be the most terrifying player on the field in Super Bowl 51. New England can gameplan to stop the impressive physical specimen, but that just means there will be openings for Atlanta’s others stars to succeed. Of course, as Hogan and the Pats proved, anyone on their offense is capable of going off too.
Odds to throw more INTs
Matt Ryan: 6/5
Tom Brady: 7/3
Brady set an NFL record for touchdown-to-interception ratio this season, but it’s actually Ryan who enters the Super Bowl without throwing a pick in the last six games. Don’t be shocked if neither of these QBs makes a crucial mistake in this game.
Odds to rush for the most yards
LeGarrette Blount: 9/4
Devonta Freeman: 5/2
Tevin Coleman: 3/1
Dion Lewis: 6/1
Blount led all ball-carriers last week with a measly 47 yards, but should see more action against a mediocre Atlanta run D. That is, if they don’t fall behind big like Green Bay.
Odds to have the most receiving yards
Julio Jones: 2/1
Chris Hogan: 5/1
Julian Edelman: 5/1
Mohamed Sanu: 8/1
Martellus Bennett: 10/1
Taylor Gabriel: 10/1
Odds both QBs throw for 300+ yards: 5/1
Odds multiple WRs have 100+ yards: 2/1
Odds to score the first TD
Julio Jones: 9/2
Devonta Freeman: 5/1
LeGarrette Blount: 6/1
Mohamed Sanu: 7/1
Martellus Bennett: 9/1
Chris Hogan: 11/1
Julian Edelman: 11/1
Tevin Coleman: 14/1
Dion Lewis: 16/1
The Falcons have scored an opening-drive touchdown in eight-straight games now, so the odds are pretty good the first six points will be put up by a guy in red.
Odds the game breaks the Super Bowl record for most combined points: 8/3
Odds the game breaks the Super Bowl record for most combined TDs: 7/3
Super Bowl XXIX between San Francisco and San Diego is the current record-holder for both points (75 combined points; 49-26) and touchdowns (ten). The offenses taking the stage at NRG Stadium certainly have the potential to light up the scoreboard, but the game also features two defensive-minded coaches. Bill Belichick and Dan Quinn may not be able to shutdown the opposing offense – as the game total O/U above suggests – but 75 is a mammoth number.
The efficiency of both redzone offenses makes it slightly more likely that the total touchdowns record will fall than the points record.
Odds the game breaks the Super Bowl record for most combined yards from scrimmage: 5/1
Washington and Denver combined for 929 yards from scrimmage in Super Bowl XXII. The Falcons have eclipsed 500 net yards three times this season and the Patriots just once. It should be noted those games came against Cleveland, San Francisco, Carolina, and Oakland. Both defenses will give up their share of yards. Neither is going to get downright embarrassed.
Odds the game breaks the Super Bowl record for combined QB passing yards: 3/2
The current record is 649 from Super Bowl XXXVIII between the Panthers and Patriots. New England’s third-ranked rush defense will ensure the Falcons keep the ball in the air, while Brady and company will be able to pick on a 28th-ranked pass defense without its best corner.
Odds the game breaks the Super Bowl record for combined QB TD passes: 2/1
Super Bowls XIII and XXIX both saw a record seven touchdown passes. Kyle Shanahan and Josh McDaniels are brilliant play-designers and will find ways to get their respective receivers open in the redzone. But I expect both defenses to sellout trying to take away the pass when their back is up against the wall.
Odds both teams score on their opening possession: 1/1
With two weeks to prepare a gameplan and script their first drives, McDaniels and Shanahan will have their offenses prepared and firing from the opening whistle.
Odds Tom Brady breaks the Super Bowl record for most passing TDs: 49/1
Brady already possesses the record for most career touchdown passes in the Super Bowl, but the four he threw in his last appearance (a personal best) were still two less than Steve Young’s Super Bowl record (six). As exciting as it would be, we won’t be treated to seven Brady touchdown passes.
Odds Rob Gronkowski plays in the Super Bowl: 1,000/1
The dude just had back surgery in early December. I have a better chance of playing in this game than he does.
Odds Dion Lewis scores a rushing, receiving and return TD in the Super Bowl: 499/1
Lewis became the first player to accomplish the feat in postseason history in the Patriots’ Divisional Round matchup with the Texans. As poor as the defense is that he’s playing, the trifecta is just too rare.
Odds on Bill Belichick’s hoodie color in the Super Bowl
No hoodie: 9/1
In his first two Super Bowl appearances as head coach of the Patriots, Belichick sported blue pullover jackets that cannot be categorized as hoodies. Belichick then wore a dark grey hoodie in the next, followed by red, dark grey again, and blue in his most recent trip.
It should be noted that Belichick has never matched his hoodie with the color the Pats are wearing. The Falcons are the designated home team for this Super Bowl, and will likely choose to wear their red jerseys, meaning New England will wear white. This leaves all colors on the table for Belichick’s Super Bowl LI hoodie. My money goes on blue; he’s 3-0 in the Super Bowl in that color. He’s 0-1 in red.
Odds Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both score TDs in the Super Bowl: 5/3
The two have both found the endzone in six games this season, and it has happened in each of the Falcons last three games now. With Julio Jones likely drawing a ton of attention in the redzone, Freeman and Coleman will have their opportunities.
Odds Matt Ryan scores a rushing TD in the Super Bowl: 12/1
Ryan has six career rushing touchdowns in his nine seasons in the league, one of which came in the NFC Championship game. Don’t expect him to make it two straight.
Dan Quinn wears a hair piece during the game: 50/1
The bald-look ain’t so bad.
Photo credit: andrew campbell (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].