Super Bowl Picks: An Early Look at Betting the Spread

Jason Lake

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 1:36 PM GMT

The Seattle Seahawks opened as small favorites on the Super Bowl XLVIII lines, but the Denver Broncos quickly overtook the NFL betting market, and they kept gathering steam.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 21 inclusive:

48-41-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

16-19-1 Totals

Now things are getting interesting. It really wasn’t that big of a deal to see the Denver Broncos move from as low as +2 to as high as –2.5 (–114) shortly after the opening Super Bowl XLVIII betting lines came rolling in. But there were reports of some rogue online sportsbooks moving all the way to Denver –3, and as we go to press, that line is available at a select handful of the quality books on our NFL odds board. The remainder are offering a range between Denver –1.5 and Denver –2.5.

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Happy Happy Joy Joy

First and foremost, if you’re supporting the Seahawks (15-3 SU, 12-6 ATS) in this matchup like I am, take a moment to bust out your happy dance. It is a wonderful thing to be able to get any team at +3 rather than +2.5. So many NFL games end in a winning margin of three points – roughly one in six. In what figures to be a close matchup on Super Bowl Sunday, we can make a very rough estimate that there’s a 1-in-12 chance the Broncos (15-3 SU, 11-6-1 ATS) will win by a field goal. In other words, there’s an eight percent chance your loss just got turned into a push.

Again, it’s just an estimate, please refrain from sending in your cards and letters. But it does speak to the power of that magic number. Allow me once again to quote the fair prices at Wizard of Odds, where moving from +2.5 to +3 is valued at 21.4 cents. Moving all the way from –2 to +2.5, meanwhile, should be worth 31.6 cents, if I haven’t messed up the math too badly. That’s because not all that many games end in a winning margin of one (about 4.3 percent) or two (3.7 percent).

Street Cents

Since it’s the Super Bowl coming up, this would be a good place to explain “cents” for anyone here who’s new to NFL betting. When you go online and bet a standard football betting line, like Seattle +3, what you’re really buying is Seattle +3 (–110). That means you’re betting $110 to win $100 – or, say, $11 to win $10. That extra money is called juice or vigorish or vig. That’s the commission you’re paying the sportsbook to process your bet.

When we talk about cents, that refers to the juice. The difference between –110 and –115 is five cents. It doesn’t seem like much, but would you rather risk $115 to win $100, or $110 to win $100? How about $130 to win $100? These things add up when you’re making hundreds of NFL bets over the course of a season – or thousands of bets across several sports. This is why you should open accounts at multiple online sportsbooks and shop for the best prices.

Pulling Rank

I said in my previous article that I’d crank out some data for you on our two Super Bowl participants, so here we go, courtesy of Football Outsiders. For the regular season, Seattle was the top-ranked team on the efficiency charts, including No. 7 on offense (No. 8 pass, No. 7 rush), No. 1 on defense (No. 1 pass, No. 8 rush) and No. 5 on special teams. Denver was next at No. 2 overall, including No. 1 on offense (No. 1 pass, No. 10 rush), No. 15 on defense (No. 21 pass, No. 9 rush) and No. 21 on special teams.

Toss the results from the playoffs into the mix, and Seattle maintains the top spot. Football Outsiders even gives the Seahawks a 58.3 percent chance of winning Super Bowl XLVIII based on their data. That’s why I’m elated to see the NFL lines moving in the other direction – elated, but not surprised. Everyone loves Peyton Manning, right? Just like they loved Tom Brady two years ago. And six years ago. And in 2004 and 2005.

NFL Pick: Take the Seahawks +3 at Bovada