Should Bettors Let Past Trends Influence Super Bowl Picks?

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 1:55 PM GMT

The early Super Bowl betting action has been heavy on the Pats and sees the line currently as a pick'em at sportsbooks. This is our second straight chalk Super Bowl as the NFC top-seed faces the AFC No. 1 seed.

Overreaction to Conference Championship Sunday?
The books that posted early Super Bowl XLIX lines generally had Seattle as a projected 3-point favorite against New England heading into the AFC & NFC Championship Games on Sunday. The books re-opened the line generally around 1.5 points but the flood of early money has some books with New England even as a 1-point favorite now, although most are at pick'em.

So what happened?

Clearly bettors are going by what they saw from Sunday's games because the Patriots were thoroughly dominant in routing Indianapolis 45-7, while Seattle frankly was incredibly lucky to beat Green Bay 28-22 in overtime.

New England's 38-point victory was the largest in franchise postseason history and the third-largest in a conference championship game. Really any shot the Colts had of making it a game was lost when Tom Brady hit offensive lineman Nate Solder on a 16-yard touchdown pass for a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter. Brady was sacked only once and threw for 226 yards and three scores. The big star was running back LeGarrette Blount. New England had only 14 yards rushing on 13 carries in the divisional round win over Baltimore, but Blount carried 30 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns against Indy. He was a midseason pickup by New England after the Steelers waived Blount. It's the sixth Super Bowl trip for Brady, the most of any quarterback ever.

Perhaps the result shouldn't have surprised anyone, nor should have Blount's performance. In last year's Patriots 43-22 divisional round blowout over Indy, Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns. And in Week 11 this season in Indianapolis, little-known Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-20 New England rout. Clearly the Colts just don't match up well with the Patriots.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks staged one of the most unlikely wins in NFL postseason history. Down 19-7 and with Russell Wilson having his worst game as a pro with four interceptions, the Seahawks pulled to within 19-14 on a one-yard TD run from Wilson with 2:09 left. Then Seattle recovered the onside kick, with Marshawn Lynch giving the Seahawks a shocking 22-19 lead with only 1:25 left. A gimpy Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay to a tying 48-yard field goal, with Seattle then winning on its first possession of overtime on a Wilson to Jermaine Kearse 35-yard TD pass. Prior to the game-winning touchdown, Wilson was 0-for-5 with four interceptions when targeting Kearse. Seattle was only the second team in 44 tries to win a playoff game when throwing four interceptions. Seattle turned it over five times overall and teams had lost 45 straight playoff games when giving it away at least five times.

Join the heated debate in the forum on New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks.

Two trends seem to point toward Seattle beating New England. The Seahawks are now 10-0 over the last three seasons against quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl in their careers. Obviously Brady has those three rings. In addition, the last three times a team won the NFC title game in overtime it won the Super Bowl -- twice by the New York Giants against the favored Patriots.

The early betting pattern very closely resembles last season's Super Bowl between AFC No. 1 Denver and NFC No. 1 Seattle. The Seahawks were pushed to the limit in that year's NFC title game, a 23-17 home win over San Francisco that was only decided in the final minute on an interception in the end zone of Colin Kaepernick. Meanwhile, the Broncos beat the Patriots soundly, 26-16, in a game that really wasn't that close.

So what happened in the wake of those results? Sportsbooks opened the Super Bowl as a pick'em but heavy early action on Denver quickly moved the number toward the Broncos. They closed as 2-point favorites and of course were blown out 43-8. Much of the late money in that game was on Seattle so that by kickoff just 51.2 percent of the money was on Denver’s side by kickoff.

Currently at BookMaker, for example, more than 81 percent of the spread action is on the Patriots, although that site still has Seattle as a 1-point favorite. The 'over' 48.5 points is taking nearly 70 percent of the lean. Something has to give here as New England has averaged 33.4 points per game since the start of October, while Seattle has allowed only 9.9 points per game in an eight-game winning streak.

One thing that could keep the NFL picks heavy on New England: injuries to Seattle star cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, both perhaps the best in the NFL at their position. Both also were hurt in the Packers game, with Sherman having a sprained left elbow and Thomas suffering a dislocated shoulder. They will play vs. New England but pretty clearly not be 100 percent.