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Inside the Points - Super Bowl
By Fritz Schlottman
January 30, 2003
 

New England (16-2) vs. Carolina (14-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 38
NE 21, CAR 17

Trends

NE
Points for = 22, Points against = 15
Over/Under = 7-10-1

CAR
Points for = 21, Points against = 18
Over/Under =10-8-1

Over is 3-0 in CAR’s last three overall.
CAR is 5-1 ATS in their last six as a dog.
Over is 5-0 in CAR’s last five as a dog.
NE is 13-3-1 ATS in their last 17 overall.
Patriots are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 as a favorite
NE is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.

Motivation

You’re playing for a big, ugly diamond ring and a free trip to Disney World.

Opinion

First a cautionary note. For some odd reason, recreational gamblers will bet more money on this one game (est. $400 million) than any other game of the year. They do this despite knowing that every one of the bookmaker’s football analysts has nothing better to do for two weeks than run the numbers. So, don’t go nuts on this game! At best it’s a 55% play.

As one very respected analyst in town said, this Super Bowl week may be the Panthers vs. the Patriots on the field, but it’s the squares against the sharps in Vegas. The general public will be on the Patriots and the wise guys will be on the Panthers.

There are good reasons for the general public to favor the Patriots. The first of which is the Super Bowl favorites with two weeks rest and preparation are good bets against the spread. In the last nine games with two weeks between the conference championship and the Super Bowl, the favorite is 9-0 straight up and 6-2-1 ATS. Second, the Patriots played in the tougher conference (AFC). Third, New England beat both the Titans and the Colts twice (2nd and 3rd best teams in the league). Fourth, NE had the best ATS record in the NFL. Fifth, New England has played in the Super Bowl twice in the last three years so they have gone through the drill and the pressure before and come out champs. Finally, the Patriots had a better record against common opponents than the Panthers.

So, you can make a pretty convincing argument for why the Patriots will win this game. But it’s not about winning the game in Vegas; it’s about beating the points spread

The sports books know that the novice better will put his money on the favorite more often than not. On paper, the spread in this game if it were held anytime during the regular season would be about 4 ½ points. The game opened at New England – 6 ½ and was quickly bet up to seven. If you bet the Patriots, you will be paying a 2-½ point premium and if you take the Panthers, you’re getting almost a field goal’s value. That’s one good reason to favor Carolina.

A second reason to like Carolina is the touchdown you’re giving up if you put money on New England. How many games would the Panthers have won ATS on the road if they were getting seven points? They beat TB 12-9, beat Indy 23-20, beat NO 23-20, lost to HOU 10-14, lost at DAL 20-24, lost at ATL 14-20, beat ARI 20-14, beat NYG 37-24, beat STL 29-23, and beat PHI 14-3. The victory margins in these games are +3, +3, +3, -4, -4, -6, +6, +13, +6, and +11. The only two road games whose outcome was greater than this week’s points spread were two Carolina victories (NYG and PHI). Carolina’s hung tough in close, low-scoring defensive games (Tampa Bay and Philadelphia) and they’ve stayed close with high-scoring offenses (Indianapolis and St. Louis). There’s no reason to believe this game won’t be close as well.

So, the Vegas insiders will be on the Panthers this week (but not by a huge margin). And what do the pros think about the total? If this game were played on any Sunday during the regular season, the total line put out would have been 33 or 34. So, why did it open at 38? The reason Vegas put up that line is that the general public is aware that Super Bowls are high scoring games. Totals for past games are 2003 TB/OAK 69, 2002 NE/STL 37, 2001 BAL/NYG 37, 2000 STL/TEN 39, 1999 DEN/ATL 53, 1998 DEN/GB 55, 1997 GB/NE 56, 1996 DAL/PIT 44, 1995 SF/SD 75, 1994 DAL/BUF 43, 1993 DAL/BUF 69, 1992 WAS/BUF 61, 1991 NYG/BUF 39, and 1990 SF/DEN 65. If this week’s total (37.5) were used in these past Super Bowl games, the over/under record would be 12-2. If you used the average NFL total point line (41) the over/under would be 10-4, meaning that Super Bowls are substantially higher scoring games than regular league games 1990-present. There’s a reason for this-if you’re behind, why not pull out all the stops? Most think Super Bowls are conservative games, and they may be until one team gets up by more than a touchdown. But then, the team playing from behind throws caution to the wind and the result is either a score or a turnover that may result in a score or good field position for the opposition.

So we have a problem for the books and the recreational gambler. Do you spot the book over a field goal in value? Normally, you don’t have that many occasions where the underdog covers the spread and the game goes over the total. However, the verdict from the pros seems to be yes, play the over. The sports books’ directors came down 11-5 on that side, the professional handicappers also favored the over (not as one-sided, however), but think players will be able to get a 37 total before kickoff, so wait until you get your best number before you jump in.

I hope you’ve all had a profitable year and good luck this Sunday.