Every year around this time I harp on how folks should not wager on a touchdown being the first score of the Super Bowl.
Even though Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson hooked up for a TD pass for the first points in last year's game, a field goal or safety has been the initial score in eight of the last 13 Super Bowls. That means gamblers wagering on a touchdown at almost 2-1 odds (-180) are putting their money on a side that has failed 62% of the time since 1999.
In fact, a field goal or safety has come through in three of this year's five playoff matchups involving New York and New England. Furthermore, Lawrence Tynes' 22-yard field goal early in the third quarter was the first score when these two teams met earlier this season, and his 32-yarder opened the scoring in Super Bowl XLII.
Given all that information, the first prop bet for this year's contest is a field goal or safety as the first score of the game at +150.
I also do not advise people to bet on heavily favored lines but there is one that cannot be avoided and that is taking "passing play" as the first 1st down of the game at -180. With the number of passing attempts expected to take place, especially early on, it's almost a given for this one to ring true.
The last eight Super Bowl MVP's have been either quarterbacks (five) or wide receivers (three) and the two quarterbacks in this game have already won the award with Tom Brady capturing it on two occasions. Only Joe Montana has won it three times.
Brady, as expected, is the favorite at 13-10 odds. Eli Manning is second at 9-4. Although receivers have gained MVP honors 38% of the time since 2004, look for either Brady or Manning to walk off with the trophy, particularly since two of New England's top three pass-catchers are tight ends and it will also be difficult to separate Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz since both have come through in the clutch multiple times this year. (If I had to choose one receiver to snag the award it would be Nicks at 14-1.)
The play here is Manning at the generous odds of 9-4. Remember, he has beaten the Pats two of the last three meetings, and he was awarded the trophy in Super Bowl XLII despite a 56% completion percentage and only 255 yards passing.
Manning has raised his game to another level this year so expect him to outperform those numbers this time around. In addition, New England's current pass defense is a thousand times worse than it was back in 2007. The Patriots finished sixth in the entire NFL that year allowing just 190 yards per game. This season they ranked 31st giving up 294 passing yards per game.
Even though I feel Manning will have a huge game, his posted passing yard total of 310.5 is way too high. For those who believe all the Giants will do on offense is throw the ball, think again. New England's run defense allowed the opposition 4.6 yards per carry this season, good for 14th in the AFC. In order for New York to maintain possession and keep Brady and company off the field, its ground attack must be effective.
In Manning's last three appearances against the Pats, he threw for an average of 250 yards per game, with 255 being the highest total. That number should improve in the Super Bowl but to jump from 250 (or 255) all the way to 311 is asking a lot.
Take under 310.5 at even money.
TOM BRADY AND THE PATRIOTS
Staying with the quarterbacks, another posted number that caught my eye concerns Tom Brady. His total passing attempts is listed at 39.5, with the over and under both at -115.
Brady has thrown 49, 48, and 42 passes the last three matchups against the Giants so it seems as if 39.5 is a tad low, especially when the over and under are equally priced at -115.
Go with over 39.5 at -115 since New York's pass defense is not that effective. The Giants finished 29th in the NFL against the pass allowing 255 yards per game. They also were 12th in the NFC in attempts allowed per game.
Sticking with all the above information, take Brady to have more attempts and completions than Manning. Surprisingly, the odds are not extremely high in either category at (-1/2) -125 and (-1) -115, respectively.
Another solid play concerns wide receiver Wes Welker. The Oklahoma native has had six receptions in each of the last three games. However, he had nine when facing New York earlier this year and 11 in Super Bowl XLII. The odds are a little steep for my liking but Welker should have a big game.
Take over 6.5 receptions at -140.
Last year's Super Bowl became the most watched telecast in television history with over 111 million viewers. The posted total for this year's game is 117 million viewers with the over at -140 and the under at even money.
Go with the under since the overall viewer total has gone up over six million from one year to the next just one time since 1997.