We’re down to eight teams in the NFL playoff brackets, so people are inevitably looking forward to the Super Bowl. With four teams still standing in each conference we have 16 different possible combinations of Super Bowl matchups. Some are obviously more likely than others.
Like anything else you can think of, the books will let you bet on which combination of teams you can expect to see in Indianapolis in a few weeks. Depending upon the combinations you like and how many other people like them, you may be able to find some interesting value here.
If nothing else, betting on the right combination at this point would be good for some serious bragging rights—especially if you pick one of the less likely combinations.
Here’s a look at some of the more interesting combinations and possibilities (all NFL odds are from Bovada):
The public is loyal to the teams they like, so the favored combination should come as no surprise—it’s the Packers versus the Patriots. That pairing would pay 9/4.
With the heroics of the Packers this year, the ongoing love affair with Tom Brady and the perceived relative weakness of the AFC, it’s no surprise that this is where the public has fallen.
What is surprising, though, is how this compares to the rest of the well-liked combinations. The public sees this as nearly twice as likely as the second most-likely combination—the Saints and the Patriots would pay 4/1. It’s also dramatically more popular than the next most likely pairing for the Packers and Ravens at 5/1.
There is no doubt, then, what the public has embraced as the most likely combination. What is interesting is what little regard the public has paid to history with this preference.
This is the 22nd year in which we have had a 12-team playoff system. In the previous 21 editions the top-seeded team in each conference—like the Patriots and Packers are this year—have met in the Super Bowl only three times. The Saints’ win over the Colts in 2010 marked the most recent time, and the first time since 1994. It also happened in 1992.
That means in the last 17 years it has happened just once. Regardless of the teams involved, the 9/4 price doesn’t seem like a good bet.
The longest shots
The public has a massive love affair with Tim Tebow. They aren’t totally out of hand, though—they realize that the guy isn’t going to win the Super Bowl. Or at least I hope he doesn’t win the Super Bowl—you can imagine how unbearable the hype would be if that happened.
The Broncos are, by a wide margin, the longest shot on the board for each of the four potential NFC opponents. They are at a very fat 125/1 to face the Giants, 100/1 to face San Francisco, 50/1 against New Orleans, and 30/1 paired with Green Bay.
In each case Houston has the second highest odds, but the gap is large—125/1 compared to 80/1 for the Giants and 30/1 versus 20/1 for the Packers.
I have to say that I am impressed by the restraint of the public. These odds are logical for the Broncos, but so little of how the public is looking at this team has been logical with Tebow at the helm.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if the betting public had put far too much faith in Tebow. If he were to somehow pull off the impossible upset this weekend then they certainly will, but for now they are exhibiting remarkable sanity.
Good time to be a San Francisco fan
For the most part the odds and the seedings are moving hand in hand here. What stands out, though, is the same thing that stands out throughout the odds in these playoffs—the Niners aren’t getting the respect that their seeding would suggest. They are a No. 2 seed, yet they are a home underdog this weekend hosting New Orleans, and they are dramatically less popular than New Orleans and Green Bay in these odds.
San Francisco is 11/1 to play New England, for example, compared to 9/4 for Green Bay or 4/1 for New Orleans. The Giants are not far behind at 14/1, either. If, like me, you like what Alex Smith and Company have been doing on the left coast this year, then you could argue that there is some really nice value here—at least compared to the other two elite teams in the conference.
It seems clear based on the prices that the public doesn’t expect the Niners to win two games—or even one, for that matter. Winning games they weren’t supposed to has been the defining characteristic of this season for this team for the most part, though. At the very least it’s a more interesting possibility than taking the chalk at a lousy price.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc's Sports football picks Web site.