In predictable fashion, the NFL's two most dominant forces in the regular season have advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII, where Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will face Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.
Bettors face a tall task as a result. Manning leads the NFL's No. 1 offense, which will take on shutdown cornerback Richard Sherman and the league's No. 1 defense. ESPN captures the magnitude of the contrasting styles best:
Seahawks-Broncos is No. 1 scoring offense vs No. 1 scoring defense, No. 1 total offense vs No. 1 total defense and matchup of No. 1 seeds.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 20, 2014
While a heavyweight bout for the ages, the NFL could not have produced a more difficult matchup in terms of odds, lines and wacky prop bets.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:25 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Live Stream: FoxSports.com
|Coin Flip||Heads (50), Tails (50)|
|Halftime Score||Broncos (-0.5)|
Note: Full list of odds and prop bets can be found at Bovada.lv
Breakdown of Odds
Believe it or not, a bet on the outcome of the coin flip is actually one of the more sane bets for fans this year.
There are bets on mistakes in the National Anthem, whether or not the singer wears gloves, Knowshon Moreno crying during the song (bet yes), and even how many times Manning will say his infamous word, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News:
Super Bowl Prop Bets are the best. The over/under on number of times Peyton Manning will say "Omaha": 27 1/2 (via @bovadaLV)— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) January 23, 2014
So no, a bet on the coin flip is not strange and actually represents some solid odds in a game ripe with pitfalls for bettors. For those who want to cash in before the game even kicks off, the flip is the way to go.
Halftime Over/Under and Score
The line and total here is extremely conservative for good reason. As much as it looks like Manning can use weapons such as Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas to break this one open early, that simply may not come to fruition.
The Seahawks defense, outside of a sexy No. 1 rank against the pass, does well when it comes to applying pressure on signal-callers (stay away from any bets about Manning getting sacked, though):
Peyton Manning: Sacked or under duress on 14% of dropbacks this season, lowest in NFL; Seahawks pressured QBs on 32% of dropbacks (led NFL)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 23, 2014
Seattle has not exactly been scoring in bunches as of late. Now Wilson and the Seattle offense has to deal with a suddenly adept Denver defense that has allowed just 15 points per game in its last four.
Expect both sides to feel each other out in the first half before things open up after the break.
Overall, this one has the makings of a defensive struggle, especially if weather ends up being a factor. Manning will not simply bully his way to a win through the air in torrid conditions. Per AccuWeather, there is a chance of snow and rain.
This is especially the case with Manning's weak point this season being the only space Sherman occupies:
Peyton Manning has been red hot all over the field this season...except the area Richard Sherman patrols the most. pic.twitter.com/kWJ0R0NCt5— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 22, 2014
Seattle will not post many points overall, either. Wilson has struggled as of late and was simply good enough in the NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers, where he threw for 215 yards and a score.
Wilson understands that the Denver defense is no slouch, as he told the media, per Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times:
Well their defensive front is very strong. You think about number 94 [Terrence Knighton], he’s Knighton I think that’s how you say it. He’s just a very physical football player, he causes havoc and he can do a lot of things and same with the rest of their guys. So I think the biggest thing for us is staying on schedule, being very physical at the point of attack, and when we throw the football, try to come up with some explosive plays but also making sure that we’re getting first downs and doing a great job on third down.
The low total here confirms that all signs point to a defensive struggle susceptible to foul weather, which will ground both passing attacks.
A bet against Peyton Manning is a silly one.
Manning is cerebral enough to know where Sherman is at all times (not that the star corner mixes it up often) and will avoid him at all costs, unlike 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
At some point, Manning will find a crack in the Seattle defense and take advantage with his seemingly unlimited amount of weapons. As RJ Bell of Pregame.com details, the majority are content to ride with Manning:
Sportsbook.ag says over 90% of early betting on #Broncos - driving the move to Denver -3 over Seattle— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) January 20, 2014
That would be the smart move. But the lines are close for a reason—fans cannot be truly faulted for going one way or another with such an evenly matched game set to conclude the season.