Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks is set to be the biggest gambling event of the year.
The Super Bowl is always a major draw, as even causal bettors look to cash in on anything from the spread to the silly prop bets such as how many times Peyton Manning will bellow "Omaha" while readying for the snap (FYI—the current line at Bovada is 27.5—bet the over).
ESPN's RJ Bell has a staggering stat that illustrates how big of an event the Super Bowl is in the gambling world:
Over 90% of money bet on the Super Bowl will come from recreational (non-professional) bettors - via bookmaker Johnny Avello— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) January 21, 2014
Early lines through the latest updates have favored Manning and his Broncos—and for good reason.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Betting Lines (via Bovada)
- Over/Under: 47
- Spread: Denver (-3)
This is not a knock on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson—far from it. Wilson has accomplished more in a short span than most in league history can say and has helped to revolutionize the position a tad by opening doors for shorter prospects who in past years may have gone unnoticed.
But Wilson is at a major disadvantage when tasked with going against Manning. It truly is a simple matter of an experience gap, as ESPN illustrates:
Peyton Manning has more than 10 times as many career pass attempts as Russell Wilson pic.twitter.com/lGEilsvaTT— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 27, 2014
Such a small gap in the spread actually gives a lot of credit to Wilson, but he has been reliant on the talent around him as of late. His past several performances have been mediocre at best:
Russell Wilson is averaging 159 pass yds per game this postseason, 4th fewest by a QB entering the SB in last 20 years (H/T @EliasSports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 22, 2014
To overcome Manning, Wilson will need to pull out of that slump. The problem is, Manning is insulated by a plethora of weapons that includes Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker.
The spread correctly suggests that this one may turn into a "catch me if you can" bid by Manning to Wilson, and Seattle simply does not have the firepower to overtake Denver in that scenario.
Weather and the Run Game
Perhaps the biggest storyline of all so far has not been about the plethora of outstanding matchups or the distant possibility of a Manning retirement speech after the game.
No, instead the focus has been on the weather.
The forecast has played a small role in the spread, with early indications that snow was a possibility. Now, The Weather Channel predicts six to eight mph winds with temperatures dropping from the 40s to as low as 26 degrees at night.
As is the case with most things in the sporting world, the weather is subject to change. Sloppy conditions or not, the outcome of this game may ride on which team can win the battle in the trenches.
For Seattle, the task is simple—ride Marshawn Lynch and keep Manning off the field. As good as Lynch is, this is easier said than done. The Denver defense is ready for Lynch, as corner Champ Bailey pointed out, via Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday and Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe:
Champ Bailey raving about Marshawn Lynch & how tough he is to bring down..."reminds me of bigger backs, like Bettis, but not slow as Bettis"— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) January 30, 2014
The Broncos allow an average of 101.6 yards per game on the ground, which is good for a top-10 rank. Denver is quietly equipped to stop Lynch in his tracks, which the spread seems keenly aware of at this point.
All in all, the breakdown of this matchup meshes well with trends, which are overwhelmingly in Denver's favor, as Bell details in Grantland:
That’s one of the main reasons more than 70 percent of the bets made so far have backed the Broncos (according to the bet tracking tool at Pregame.com). This would be the 30th straight game Denver has been favored in—and supporters have been rewarded with a 25-4 straight-up and 20-9 ATS record during that span.
Pick Super Bowl XLVIII against the spread
The 70 percent number makes sense—as Bell points out, novice bettors go with familiarity (a guy like Manning) in this type of scenario.
History has proven it is ill-advised to bet against the Broncos in most recent matchups, a notion that will hold true here. Manning has had two weeks to prepare and can hold a lead if necessary based on the way the Seahawks have played as of late.
As one of the NFL's youngest and deepest teams, the Seahawks will have their time, but as the spread shows, this one is simply all about Manning.