PIT vs GB
Line: anywhere from GB-2.5 to GB-3 with all kinds of different vigorish
About as much of a toss up as I've seen in recent Superbowl history, but with a strange twist. This Superbowl matchup is one of the more polarizing ones in recent memory. With possibly the first line to close under a field goal since 1982, one would think that there's just a lot of wishy-washy sentiment about not being able to pick between the two teams. Instead, it seems like there's a lot of conviction on both sides. There's a good balance between the large number of people who believe that Green Bay is a bargain giving less than a field goal and the large number of people who believe Pittsburgh getting points is great value.
I think this is largely due to the contrast of styles. Pittsburgh represents the experienced veteran team that knows how to win ugly, plays hard hitting defense, and has performed consistently throughout the season. Green Bay represents the young team that can be explosive on offense, has playmakers stepping up on both sides of the ball, and seems to be peaking at just the right time.
I expect a high scoring game where both sides will go through hot and cold streaks. Both offenses are well suited to taking advantage of their opponents' defense. Green Bay, with their speedy and sure-handed receivers, can torch the Steelers deep like other teams have, or go with lots of quick slants and short passes like when the Patriots beat the Steelers. The dome/turf environment should help them tremendously. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has a big strong tight end that can go through Green Bay's coverage, a quarterback who is tough to bring down, and a much stronger grinding running attack than anything the Packers have faced so far this postseason. Add to that two defenses that create turnovers and generate three and outs as opposed to bend but don't break defenses, I expect both teams to begin a lot of drives with tremendous field position.
As to which team will come out on top, I must admit that I'm one of the wishy washy punters. I think turnovers will play a huge role in this game, but when and where they occur is so random, it makes it really difficult to predict the outcome of the game. However, I think there is a slight edge for Green Bay in that even if they gameplan poorly, and start by constantly running into the brick wall that is Pittsburgh's run defense, they can still recover because they can score quickly in bunches. In a game where I expect flurries of scoring, I think once Pittsburgh gains momentum, they cannot let go or else they won't be able to recover.
Pick: Green Bay -2.5, Over 44.5
But the Superbowl isn't just about the main event. So much of the action goes through proposition bets and everybody's favorite Superbowl party gambling game of squares. So I picked out a couple of interesting prop bets that I noticed.
The sharp bettors' bandwagon prop:
Heath Miller total receiving yards 38.5 -130/ev
What opened at around 36.5 has been bet up to almost 39 at some places. A healthy Miller becomes as dependable a target as Hines Ward for that offense, although he isn't as useful when Big Ben scrambles. The main reason for the money flowing into this one is that many people believe the main weakness in Green Bay's defense is against tight ends, where they ranked in the bottom third of the NFL. However, Brent Celek, Tony Gonzalez, and Greg Olsen each had 30 or fewer yards against the Packers this postseason. I think at this point, getting even money for under 38.5 isn't bad, but I'd be going against a lot of sharps and wiseguys.
The bookmaker's moneymaker prop:
Will there be three consecutive scores by a team yes-180/no+150
This is one of the props that makes the books the most money, because people both underestimate how easy it is for this to happen and want to root for a close tit for tat game. I mentioned earlier that I expect the teams to score in streaks, so I would choose yes, and I think this is better odds than this prop usually offers, probably because of the close spread between the two teams.
The follow up prop:
Largest lead in the game 13.5 -130/ev
Obviously if one team scores three or more consecutive times, the chances of a 14 or more point lead increases in likelihood. There are two small stats in support of each side. For the over, we have the fact that in all the playoff games played by both these teams this postseason, there has been at least a 14 point lead or deficit in all of them. For the under, we have the fact that Green Bay has not trailed by more than 7 points through all 19 games they have played, which kills half the action. Two more factors affecting how big leads are built are how often these teams score touchdowns as opposed to field goals, and the defenses' ability to score. The TD conversion rate has seemed pretty high to me so far this postseason, and we know both teams' defenses are very capable of scoring. In all, I think taking the over here is a very good bet, and is consistent with my belief that this will be a high scoring streaky game.
The random interesting prop:
Which side will get the ball first Pitt+105, GB-130
I found this one very interesting. At heart, it's the equivalent of a coin toss prop. But the market action seems to indicate that there is belief that Tomlin is more likely to defer. Would Tomlin really defer to that explosive Green Bay offense? Also, I don't think any environmental factors play into this. I expect Tomlin will have made up his mind on what to do if they win the coin toss well before game time. An interesting wrinkle to a 50-50 coin toss.
The ridiculously priced prop:
MVP Aaron Rodgers EV
Even money for Aaron Rodgers to win the MVP? Seems a little extreme to me. I think the line opened around +175, and people were using it as a proxy for betting on the Packers to win, so they had to pull it back in line with the game line. I think if Rodgers wins the MVP, Pittsburgh's defense will have failed and the Packers will have won by a wide margin, and since winning margin is a bettable prop too, it would probably offer better returns. Note that this prop and the following one are not allowed in Nevada, where the regulations insist that it must be something that can be seen from the box score and not vote-based.
The talked-about non-fan researchable prop:
How long will Christina Aguilera hold the "brave" in the national anthem:
Part of the fun of the Superbowl is being able to bet on all kinds of things. People actually research this by going on youtube to watch her previous national anthem performances at big events. But of course the linesmakers know what they're doing, as it supposedly has ranged from 5 to 7 seconds.