The Super Bowl brings out experts and novices alike, which means things are blurry as far as odds go right up until kickoff.
This year the problem is escalated by the fact the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are not only the NFL's two best teams, but by the fact their biggest strengths happen to be polar opposites.
While the line has settled, the safe bet is not as clear as most bettors would prefer.
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: 48
- Spread: Denver (-3)
The Game Itself
Obviously, the matchup has to come first when one looks at the spread.
The line favors Manning and his Broncos, which makes sense. Denver broke all kinds of offensive records this year and Manning had perhaps the best season by a quarterback—ever.
Seattle figures to be a strong candidate to shut Manning and his impressive list of weapons down, but said weapons such as Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker make for a formidable unit.
Led by Richard Sherman, the Seahawks play a brand of football that is built to counter what the Broncos do. Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said that brand will not change in the face of the Denver offense, via NFL.com's Marc Sessler:
We really take pride in the style that we play in. We don't really try to say, 'Well, this game we gotta play this way and this game we gotta play this way.' At the end of the day, we have a real style that we want to play with week in and week out whoever we play. That's not a disrespect to them. When we play our brand of football, it's already physical.
While the Seahawks and their aggressive defense, which relies on physical press coverage to give time for rushers to hit the quarterback, have yet to see anything like the Denver offense—the inverse is also true. The Broncos played just five teams that finished in the top 20 in total defense.
As a bettor, sleeping on the Seattle defense is not a wise move.
The same goes for the traditional, run-based offense that will thrive in potential slick weather conditions and enter the game with a strategy designed to kill the clock and keep Manning off the field in the first place.
History and Trends
The spread itself is an absolute must to understand when it comes to the Super Bowl, as it is catered to novice bettors, who have a major impact on what the line looks like by kickoff.
As Grantland's RJ Bell details, action for the Super Bowl is dominated by non-professionals, which is not a bad thing, but something that must be understood to make the right decision with hard-earned cash:
Upward of 90 percent of Super Bowl action in Las Vegas comes from recreational bettors (i.e., not professionals). The Super Bowl is the only American sporting event in which the odds are set with the average bettor as the primary consideration. For many, Sunday’s game will be their only sports bet this year. Such novices are attracted to familiarity, and no player in this game has close to the mainstream prominence of Peyton Manning.
Why is this a big deal? The familiarity of novice bettors with a big name like Manning has in turn had an impact on everyone, as Sporting News breaks down that Seattle, not Denver, actually opened as the favorite:
“As soon as we posted it (Seattle -1.5), we immediately got Denver action, both large and small,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne, who moved Denver to the 1-point favorite within 18 minutes of putting the game on the board, to -2 later Sunday evening, and then to -2.5 on Monday.
The best pick against the spread?
None of this is to suggest that Denver does not deserve to be the favorite, but it says something that Seattle opened as the favorite and a number of experts were just waiting for the number to further favor the Broncos in order to bet on the Seahawks.
Trends are iffy for Seattle overall. In the past seven Super Bowls, the team with the better defense is just 1-6 against the spread. But, Pete Carroll's team has covered in three of his four postseason games. The Seahawks also covered six times in eight road games this season.
Denver may very well win outright, but Seattle will keep it close.