Super Bowl XLIX Betting Recap: How the Public Ended up Soaking the Sports Books on Sunday

Jason Lake

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 1:51 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 1:51 PM UTC

Our expanded consensus reports showed plenty of sharps making the Seattle Seahawks their late NFL pick for Super Bowl XLIX. What the reports missed was all that public action on the Patriots.

Maybe the NFL universe isn’t so upside-down after all. Now that we’ve had a full day to absorb the insanity that was Super Bowl XLIX, and a full day to pore over the data, it turns out that most books got burned pretty badly when the New England Patriots (–1 when the football odds closed) beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. Reports from the Strip suggest about two-thirds of the action was on the Patriots by kick-off.

Good to know. We were somewhat confused by our final expanded consensus reports on Super Bowl XLIX, which had the Seahawks pulling in 72 percent of the action. But this being the biggest single game on the sports betting calendar, far more public money came in on the Patriots than our sharper-leaning surveys were able to pick up. Let’s take a moment to see how the public ended up soaking the books on Sunday.


One Million Dollars
Everyone’s still talking about The Play. With 26 seconds left on the clock and one timeout to burn, the Seahawks attempted a pass with the ball on the New England 1-yard line. Malcolm Butler stepped in with the fateful interception. According to Brian Burke’s stats at Advanced Football Analytics, on that one play, the Patriots saw their chances of winning the Super Bowl shoot up from 12 percent to 99 percent.

And on that one play, millions of dollars that were about to flow into the coffers of the sportsbooks went instead into the pockets of public bettors – and a healthy number of sharps, too, as our early consensus reports indicated. At least one bet of a million dollars on the Patriots was placed in Las Vegas. But with a total handle of $116 million in Nevada alone, don’t feel too bad for the books. Call it a loss-leader for next year’s Big Game.


The Play Is Not the Thing
Let’s also not engage in too much navel-gazing about Seattle’s play calling, which has blown into epic proportions over the past 24 hours – some even claim it was a conspiracy to let New England win. One of the worst things you can do as a handicapper, a coach or an athlete is to be results-oriented. The pass play didn’t work, and it was risky, but every play in football has risk and reward, just like every NFL pick you make.

The fact is, The Play was the first time all year that a pass thrown at the other team’s 1-yard line was intercepted. Yes, the Seahawks had RB Marshawn Lynch going against the weakest short-yardage run defense in the league, but it was only second-and-goal for Seattle. Lynch would have had a couple of cracks at the end zone if Butler hadn’t spoiled things. It was just one play in a long, long season of football. And if the NFL odds were in your favor on Sunday, it was just one payday out of what we hope were many for you. The money spends the same.


XLIX + I = L
We can usually rely on the football odds to bring some sanity to the discussion, especially after the tide of public money has gone back out. The Super Bowl 50 futures market (no Roman numerals this time, which is sad) at Bovada has the Seahawks as the early 5-1 favorites, followed by the Patriots at 7-1 and the Green Bay Packers at 8-1. Seems about right.

But can we rely on the NFL itself? As the league moves further toward the third rail of “sports entertainment,” and further away from public accountability, it’s only a matter of time before they kill the proverbial goose that’s laying the golden eggs. It’ll be the sharps who leave the NFL betting market first.

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