As Miami welcomes the majority of its students back to campus this week, America will be celebrating perhaps her most significant unofficial national holiday: the Super Bowl. The grand spectacle features (usually) great football and (sometimes) the biggest names in entertainment. The commercials alone cause people who never watch football to throw parties, buy cheese trays and invite other people who don’t watch football over to watch a football game. Every last dollar is squeezed out of a 60 minute game stretched to last four hours.
And then there’s the gambling. Lots and lots of gambling. Last year, the American Gaming Association estimated $4.7 billion was on the line for the Super Bowl. They also estimated 97% of it would be wagered illegally.
This year is likely to be no different, though there is hope for next year. Sports law experts are optimistic about New Jersey’s chances to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in the Supreme Court. Either way, the show must go on. So, if you plan on flying to Vegas, betting online or calling up your friend’s fraternity brother’s cousin Vinny, I’ve got you covered with picks for the major (and minor) bets.
Bet: New England Patriots -4.5 vs Philadelphia Eagles
To start with the headliner, the New England Patriots are four and a half point favorites over the Philadelphia Eagles as of this writing. The Patriots have had the easiest schedule of opposing Quarterbacks I can remember to get to this point, but, fortunately for them, that did not appear to change as the Eagles will be led by their backup Nick Foles after losing second year sensation Carson Wentz to a torn ACL in week 14.
However, this has been a weird and injury filled year for quarterback play and the NFC Championship game was the epitome. Foles was pit against journeyman backup Case Keenum, who had actually started for the No. 2 Vikings since week two. Foles, who posted one of the most efficient seasons of all time for a QB in 2013, shredded the vaunted Vikings defense to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
The Eagles’ defense, and specifically its front seven, have been playing at an elite level, the offensive line is top flight and their stable of offensive weapons is stocked full. The Patriots are outmatched in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and likely would not have beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game were it not for a few questionable second half scheme changes.
Pick: Straight up, I’d pick the Patriots, but against the spread, I have confidence that the Eagles can lose by four or less.
Certainly only the most serious of wagers are taken by the wise and discerning gambling public, and the opening coin toss is annually the most bet on coin toss in the world. In 51 Super Bowls, it has come up tails 27 times and heads 24 times. While past performance does not predict future results, I think the numbers are pretty clear here: tails never fails.
Pick: Second mortgage on tails
Bet: Length of national Anthem sung by Pink
Over 2:00 (-140)
Under 2:00 Even
If you’re unfamiliar with Super Bowl Prop Bets, yes they are this ridiculous. Other bets involving the national anthem include, but are not limited to, the color of Pink’s hair WHEN SHE BEGINS singing, whether or not she will be airborne at any point and whether or not she will omit a word. I don’t care to guess either way on any of those, but, because millions of dollars are wagered on these lines, we do have data for the national anthem singing.
The last 12 national anthems have been 1:58.6 in length on average, but four out of the last five have exceeded two minutes. I can’t find video of her singing it previously, but the wisdom of the crowds (reddit comments) speculates that her father being a veteran may pressure her into giving a more traditional rendition.
Pick: Go with the better payout and longer term average, be a masochist, take the under and squirm and sweat through every extra second of “the roooockeeeet’s reeeeeeeed glaaaaaaare”.
Bet: Super Bowl MVP
Tom Brady -125
Nick Foles +325
Rob Gronkowski +850
Dion Lewis +1800
Danny Amendola +1800
Jay Ajayi +1800
Zach Ertz +1800
Alshon Jeffery +2000
Brandin Cooks +2200
James White +4000
Fletcher Cox +4000
I think it’s safe to rule out any Patriot not named Tom Brady. Last year proved, that if they win, he is going to get the award. James White tied or broke a number of Super Bowl records last year and scored three touchdowns including the game winner in overtime.
If the Eagles win, Nick Foles is no lock, as the narrative will be that the team carried him. Fletcher Cox is one of the most dominant interior players in the league, and a pass rush up the middle is the fastest way to the QB. For a player who gets the ball out as quickly as Brady, that is critical.
Pick: Since the Patriots are the favorites, and the winning team gets the MVP, my pick is Brady, even with a low payout. However, I recommend hedging with Fletcher Cox and a juicy 40/1 payout.
There are many more lines you can check out online, and even if you don’t gamble it can be fun to know that someone out there is sweating bullets over whether “Nipplegate” will be said on the broadcast. Enjoy the Super Bowl!