If you're a gambling enthusiast, the Super Bowl is your Christmas, New Year's, St Patrick's, Valentine's, Memorial and Labor Days all rolled into one, a glorious mega-event where everything – from the coin toss to the color of Katy Perry's halftime outfit – can be wagered upon. And usually is.
But as exhilarating as that might seem, having hundreds upon thousands of options for potential wagers can be a bit overwhelming.
The good news (other than the fact that since Brett Favre retired, I seem to have a little more money to play with on Super Sunday) is that I'm here to break it all down for you. I have analyzed every straight bet, over, under, parlay, teaser, money line and prop. I have crunched all of the numbers and distilled Super Bowl Sunday into (Lucky Number) 7 of the Best Bets, so that all of you know exactly where to lay your hard-earned cash on Super Sunday and win BIG BIG BIG.
The Big Bet: Seattle +2
The Setup: The Patriots looked positively unbeatable against the Colts in the AFC championship game, and it took several miracles for the Seahawks to even get to the Big Game. As a result, gamblers have been very bullish on the Pats. Though the line opened with Seattle a 1-point favorite, it has since moved 3 points in New England's favor.
But as we have found time and again, a team's performance in the championship game does not necessarily predict their performance in the Super Bowl. I wouldn't count on another five-turnover effort by the Hawks, and a closer look at the numbers show that this is probably as close a matchup as you're going to get in the Big Game. Both Seattle and New England were more or less even this year against the spread (9-6-1 for the Hawks vs. 9-7 for the Patriots). The Hawks ranked first in Defensive Value Over Average, but the Patriots weren't far behind in fourth. The Pats led the league in point differential (plus-155) but the Hawks were right behind them (plus-140), meaning that New England was only one point better per game than the Seahawks this year. The Pats are at -2, which is the closest line since Super Bowl XVI, when San Francisco was favored by 1 point over the Bengals.
Rod's Recommendation: Take the points! A close game favors Seattle, and this should be a very close game. And in recent history, the Super Bowl has been a good game for the underdog. Six of the last seven Super Bowl underdogs have covered, the lone exception being Pittsburgh in 2011, who were 3-point 'dogs and lost by 6.
Over/Under: OVER 47.5
The Set Up: During the regular season, Seattle played in eight games that hit the over and eight that hit the under, while New England was nine over and seven under. But the playoffs have been a different story for both teams: Seattle hit the over against a underrated Carolina defense (40) in the division game, and Green Bay (45) in an NFC championship game where their offense was basically M.I.A. for three-and-a-half quarters. Same story for New England, who hit the over (47.5) against a good Baltimore defense and essentially carried the over on their own (51.5) against a seemingly deflated Colts squad. Though the Pats have not seen a defense like Seattle's this year, they have shown they can put up points against elite defensive units, going for 34 against Detroit in Week 12, 43 points against Denver in Week 9, and 42 and 45 points (respectively) against an underrated Colts squad in Week 11 and in the AFC championship game.
Rod's Recommendation: Despite the fact that Seattle's top-ranked defense is healthy, I don't think a 28-21 game is unreasonable. Given each team's recent offensive output, I'm taking the over, and I will be teasing both the spread and the over/under to sweeten the pot.
My Favorite In-Game Prop Bets
Total Receiving Yards: Julian Edelman Over 67.5 (-125) – Risk 100, Win 80
Edelman has gone over the 67-yard mark in 10 of 18 contests this year thus far, including in five of the last six games. The last time these teams met up in 2012, Edelman did not play, but Wes Welker, who played a substantially similar roll on the team, had a monster game, catching 10 balls for 138 yards and a TD. As they did in 2012, the Hawks will try to take away Gronk early, which means Edelman should see plenty of targets. Edelman has also played well against elite defenses, hauling in 9 balls for 89 yards against the Broncos, 11 for 89 against Detroit and 9 for 91 against Buffalo. This prop is also getting very good odds.
Steven Hauschka's first kickoff will result in a touchback (+145): No – Risk 100, Win 145
This year, the Seahawks kicked a touchback on 51.5 percent of their kickoffs, which put them right in the middle of the pack of the NFL. When the Seahawks played the Cardinals in Glendale during Week 16, Hauschka kicked six times, three of which went for touchbacks. This is about as even money of a bet as you're going to get. So why am I taking the "No"? For some reason, plenty of money is going to the "Yes" on this one, improving the odds dramatically for this wager, which is essentially going to have the odds of a coin flip. For a 50/50 call, I will take -145 odds any day of the week (and twice on Super Sundays).
Marshawn Lynch Scores a TD (-200): Yes – Risk 100, Win 50
Lynch has scored a TD in four of his last five games, and always seems to come up big during the playoffs. The fact that New England has faced off against Beast Mode five times in his career and only allowed one TD should not deter you: this is a high-risk, low-reward bet and should be taken with very little hesitation.
My Favorite Non-Game Props
Katy Perry 'Roar,' First Halftime Song (7/5 odds): Yes – Risk 100, Win 140
This one is the only prop I feel comfortable laying any money on for the halftime show (with all due respect to those who want to wager on Katy's hair color). The only song that's getting less-lucrative odds than this one is "Firework." I have no idea why "Roar" is getting 7/5. "I've got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, 'cause I am a champion..." This is either the first song, or it's the last one, but if you have to wager on the halftime show – and why wouldn't you? – this is the way to go.
Deflated Balls Mentioned During the Game (even): Under 3 – Risk 100, Win 100
It is abundantly clear that the NFL wants absolutely nothing to do with "Deflategate," especially since the owner in question was one of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's most loyal backers during the Ray Rice controversy. You add this to Al Michaels reading from the NFL talking points during Week 17's Sunday Night Football game and it all adds up to one thing: Don't bring up Ballghazi during the league's shining moment in Sun Valley. Conspiracy theories aside, the NFL does not want any more attention on the latest in a long list of PR debacles this year, and you can't believe that Michaels and Cris Collinsworth aren't going to get that memo. Remember also that this is an in-game prop. I can easily see Michaels mentioning this once during pregame, then leaving it alone during the Super Bowl.
Roddy Martinez is a part-time football gambler and full-time resident of the Capital of Second Chances. As on every Sunday during the football season, Roddy will be available on Super Sunday for his insights on life and gambling at the Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book on the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada.