Aug 17, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) calls out an audible during the 1st half against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Denver 40-10. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl 2014: Best Bets for SB XLVIII

Looking at Super Bowl XLVIII, it’s pretty easy to envision Peyton Manning capping off his record-breaking season by winning a second Super Bowl ring… and almost as easy to picture that aggressive Seattle defense getting after Manning a bit, roughing up his receivers, and riding RB Marshawn Lynch and QB Russell Wilson’s nice Fran Tarkenton impersonation to the first championship in Seahawks franchise history. I don’t have a really strong feeling on which team will win, but let’s take a closer look on how to bet this game. After all, it IS the Super Bowl. And the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of gambling…

So before we get to some creative ways to bet on the Seahawks or Broncos in the Super Bowl (or both… you’ll see), let’s look at my best bet for the big game that you can enjoy no matter who ends up on top holding the Lombardi Trophy: total points Over 47.5.

Both historically and recently, the Super Bowl Over-Under is a 50/50 proposition: it’s 23-23 all time, and starting with the infamous first Giants-Patriots matchup staying under 55, Super Bowls have alternated over-under, over-under for the last six in a row… last year went Over. So if you believe in that every-other logic, this year is “scheduled” to stay under. That’s actually a good reason to bet the Over, because that pattern is bound to get tripped up soon.

When looking at how the two Super Bowl teams have fared with the Total this season, the Broncos have gone Over in 11 of their 18 games, while the Seahawks have mostly stayed Under (12 of 18), which makes sense given the offensive/defensive nature of both teams. A look at their most-recent results will show a Broncos team that’s been running the ball (and the clock) more often and staying Under the total (their playoff wins vs. the Chargers and Patriots totaled only 41 and 42 points, respectively). So all four of the playoff games involving Denver and Seattle have stayed Under. In fact, the last seven Seahawks games in a row have stayed Under—same for Broncos games in each of their last four.

But consider that 47.5 is a relatively low Total for a Super Bowl, where crazy things tend to happen. With all the talk about this game being played outdoors in the cold, a lot of people might assume a little wind and a lot of Seahawks defense might be enough to slow down the Broncos scoring machine. Many seem to be predicting a lower-scoring game. But 47.5 isn’t too high of a Total in the modern era of the Rules-Favor-Offense NFL and certainly a lower Total than the usual Broncos Over-Unders that spent most of the season in the 50s. Sure, this week they’re going up against the Seahawks, a defense that gives up just 14 points per game. But here’s why I like the Over: I don’t think Denver will be able to run the ball on Seattle the way they could against the depleted Patriots and other average defenses they’ve faced. Now, with all the deserved hype around the Seahawks secondary, the thought is that Peyton Manning won’t exactly have an easy day of touchdown throwing like he did all season and the Broncos will continue to grind out long drives and keep their own sub-par defense fresh. I just don’t see them trying that same strategy vs. Seattle. Manning has enough weapons, and his quick reads, decision making, and release will mean at least SOME success even against this vaunted Seahawks defense.

Only four teams have scored 23 or more points against this Seahawks defense over the last two years. “Not every offense that has spread out against Seattle has scored at least 23 points,” explains Andy Benoit in an excellent breakdown on TheMMQB. “But every offense that has posted at least 23 points has spread out. The Broncos, with their lethal three-receiver foundational package, are certainly equipped to spread out.” Or, as Benoit explained in an earlier piece, “The Seahawks’ defense has no weakness, so the Broncos must create one.”

Grinding out long drives and chewing clock might have been the right approach at home against Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, but the Broncos don’t want to play Seattle’s type of game and hope to win 20-14. I think they’ll try to strike early and often and make this a Broncos type of game and see if they can get a big enough lead to take Lynch out of the game and make Wilson and the Seahawks unremarkable WR tandem of Golden Tate and Jonathan Baldwin beat them.

NFL scoring is at an all-time high at 46.8 points per game. “Ahh, well that’s UNDER 47!” you say. Yes, but that total is an average for all the games this season, so it includes stinkers involving teams like the Jaguars, Browns, and Raiders. This game features Peyton Manning leading a Broncos offense that averaged (averaged!) 38 points per game and a balanced Seahawks team who actually scored about 25 points per game (and will be welcoming back game-breaking X-factor Percy Harvin). And while Denver’s defense played well against Brady and Rivers in the playoffs despite the absence of pass rusher Von Miller and top CB Chris Harris, they are still vulnerable against the pass going into the Super Bowl without them. This season, including the playoffs, opposing QBs completed 58% of their passes for 6.7 yards per attempt and 21 TDs with 15 INTs. Without Harris (including playoff games), they completed 62% of their passes, and yards per attempt shot up to 9.3 with 11 TDs and only 3 INTs (including 3 TDs and 0 INTs in the playoffs). Combine all that with Seahawks QB Wilson’s knack for making things happen even when he has to scramble around and buy extra time, and it’s easy to see how this game could end up a little higher scoring than most might expect. Bet the Over.


If you like the Broncos to win, but are worried that some weird 24-23 or 30-28 game would mean Denver doesn’t cover the 2.5-point spread… instead of betting the Broncos on the Money Line (they just have to win the game straight up, no spread) where you’d have to lay about $130 to win $100…why not just bet Peyton Manning to win the MVP? There’s not a lot of bang for the buck, as he’s the odds-on favorite at about 11/10… but barring some bizarre set of circumstances, Manning WILL be the MVP if the Broncos win. So you might as well bet $100 to win $110 instead of risking $130 to win $100.

The other MVP bet I like is Percy Harvin at 18/1. Now there’s some bang for your buck. (For the mathematically challenged, a $10 bet on Harvin as MVP would win $180). Sure, he’s always one hit away from getting knocked out of the game, but aren’t they all? I imagine Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel is scheming all sorts of ways to get Harvin plenty of touches in open spaces, especially against the aging and hobbled Champ Bailey in the slot. If Seattle can control the clock without big stats from Russell Wilson or Marshawn Lynch, and the defense contains Manning, but no defender enters the MVP discussion with a pick-6…. and Seattle wins because Harvin returns a punt to the house, and/or takes a quick slant or end-around run for a long TD… considering he missed most of the season, he could go from “X-factor” to MVP.

As for another way to bet this game, albeit a pretty crazy one… how about this harebrained idea: Tease the Seahawks with the Over (so the Teaser allows you to get Seattle +8.5 and move the Total down to 41.5) AND THEN ALSO TEASE DENVER WITH THE OVER. Sounds foolish, I know, but stay with me. A Teaser usually costs double the “juice” or vig charged on most bets. So for each Teaser you’d have to risk $120 (instead of the usual $110) to win $100. So by placing both Teasers, you’re putting $240 at risk… but you’ll probably split, as most likely one of these bets will win and the other will lose, so you’re (probably, maybe) only risking $20 for the chance to hit on both teasers and win $200. I mean, IF Seattle manages to win this game, it will likely be by 3 points and, with your Denver Teaser, you’d have the Broncos +3.5. Meanwhile, as explosive as the Broncos have been this season, this Seahawks team doesn’t look like it can get blown out. And even if Denver is cruising with the game in hand, Wilson and company will be going all out to come back at the end against a Broncos defense that always leaves the back door open. So let’s say the ‘Hawks cut it to 7 but it’s too little too late… your Seattle Teaser gave you the Seahawks +8.5 for the win. And I’ve already outlined why I think this game can go Over 47.5, so both Teasers would just need to get Over 41.5. This is shaping up to be a great game, and we’ve had plenty of close, classic Super Bowls over the last decade or so. To summarize: you’d essentially be risking only $20 to have everything from the Broncos +3.5 to the Seahawks +8.5, and as long as it goes Over 41.5 you win $200. Then again, you could lose $240, but what do I care? It’s your money.

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