The New England Patriots have defied market expectations all year – and those expectations were sky-high. Everyone wants the Pats in their NFL picks for Super Bowl LI.
Record: 23-26-1 ATS, 5-10 Totals
They defied authority, swatted aside the mild sanctions levied against them, and here they are on the most powerful stage in the world. Of course, we're talking about the New England Patriots. They're back in the Super Bowl after demolishing the Pittsburgh Steelers (+5.5) 36-17 in the AFC title game. Who says crime doesn't pay?
The Atlanta Falcons are in Super Bowl LI, too, but they're the second banana in this act. Our expanded consensus report at press time show bettors split 60/40 in favor of New England as a 3-point favorite, with over 90 percent of the amount wagered landing on the Pats (16-2 SU, 15-3 ATS). It's as if the game itself were a mere formality. The Evil Empire has already won.
Not so fast. There's still a game to be played in two weeks, and if you want to make a sharp NFL pick for the Super Bowl, it's going to take time. A whole lot of precious time. That 3-point spread could easily become –4 by kick-off, as all the Patriots fans dump all their nickels and dimes on their heroes. Then the Falcons (13-5 SU, 12-6 ATS) will be the sharp pick on the NFL odds board.
Which brings me to an important point about the sportsbooks. I keep hearing that the concept of the books balancing out the action on both sides is untrue. This needs to be settled once and for all, and I think it's a question of semantics. The books tend to balance out the action. Balance is not the goal – profit is the goal. Balance is the sign of a sportsbook that has covered its butt and avoided exposure to big losses. All books are imbalanced to at least some degree in their pursuit of profit.
Anyway, the data geniuses at FiveThirtyEight have slapped an Elo-based spread of New England –3 on Super Bowl LI, so for the moment, the marketplace has “got it right” to a certain extent. But the more money that falls on the Patriots, the more incentive the books have to bump the spread to at least –3.5, which is worth about 20 cents in vigorish. That's where your profit margin is. So let's see what happens over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, fight the good fight, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.