The Super Bowl this year has perhaps one of the most bizarre lines in recent memory. For reasons I find totally inexplicable, the New England Patriots were picked as favorites by Las Vegas oddsmakers over the red-hot New York Giants. Normally I would see this as free money, as a chance to get 3 or 2.5 points when betting on the seemingly superior team is almost impossible to pass up.
However, one must always remember that Vegas bookies never do anything without good reason, so when their analysis runs completely counter to your own, more often than not you are missing something that they aren’t.
But in this case, I still just don’t see it. The goal of a casino sports book is to get an equal balance of wagers on either side of the game so that regardless of the outcome, the house wins by collecting the vig. However, all indications so far point to the vast majority of the public's bets pouring in for the Giants. And in my opinion, rightly so.
The Patriots have been the best of an anemic AFC that was as weak as it has been in a decade. They beat a grand total of one team all season that finished the regular season with a record over .500—the Ravens two weeks ago.
Since back-to-back losses to the Steelers and Giants, the Patriots have rattled off 10 straight wins, which is certainly nothing to scoff at. However, take a closer look at those opponents—and more specifically the quarterbacks they have faced—and you begin to see why favoring them against the Giants borders on the absurd.
In the last 10 games, the Patriots did not face a single quarterback who anyone would characterize as very good—much less elite or anywhere near Eli Manning’s level. Over their streak, they have face Mark Sanchez, Tyler Palko, Vince Young, Dan Orlovsky, Rex Grossman, Tim Tebow twice, Matt Moore and Joe Flacco.
Among those, both Young and Orlovsky put up over 300 yards passing, with Young nearly eclipsing 400. With Manning and his dynamic group of receiving targets on the horizon, the Patriots' passing defense had better play vastly better than they have all season long.
The Giants, on the other hand, are coming off back-to-back wins against the No. 1 scoring offense and No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL. You tell me which is more impressive.
The second big factor that makes New England’s favorite status puzzling is Tom Brady’s weakness against a stiff pass rush. Brady looked downright spastic at times in the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens. With Jason Pierre-Paul and company rushing him relentlessly, Brady could be in for another subpar performance, at least by his own personal standards.
If Brady is harassed into multiple turnovers again, there is almost no conceivable way that the Patriots defense will be able to contain Eli Manning’s aerial attack the way that they were able to contain the Ravens. While you never want to spit in the face of Vegas bookies, I simply cannot understand or agree with the Patriots being favored.