Success Wagering on Championship Games…Now on to the Super Bowl
by MIKE KRAVIK
Championship Sunday is one of the very best television days of the year for not only NFL fans but also for those of us who like to dabble in the occasional wager. There is supposedly $ 10 billion bet every year on the Super Bowl and this past weekend was a good way to loosen up those betting hamstrings.
We’re talking gambling this week and I’m sorry I have to be That Guy…That Guy who tells you what he bet on after the results have come in (and happened to win). In no way whatsoever am I a pro…that will become very evident but I do follow the lines and will occasionally indulge like I did this past weekend.
WAGERING ON PATS-RAVENS
New England opened as a 9 point favorite over Baltimore in the early game. With the combo of the Denver shellacking and Baltimore’s ugly win over Houston, I thought the Patriots (one of those sexy teams John Q Public loves to bet) would be overvalued. I felt good about Baltimore covering but Brady at home still scared the hell out of me so I took the 9 points and a small position on the Ravens.
There was no real wagering drama as the Ravens never trailed with the 9 point cushion although with three minutes left and the score 23-20 (surely the Pats are going to run the ball or throw safe passes, aren’t they?) Brady went for the jugular with a bomb to the end-zone (I screamed “Oh no…”) that was tipped and picked off. The only betting drama left was whether or not Flacco would throw a Pick 6.
Using boxing as an analogy, the Ravens could punch with the Patriots but they wouldn’t let themselves try to knock the Patriots out. The Ravens opted for the three points deep in Patriots territory on 4th and inches in the first half. The Ravens grabbed a 17-16 lead in the 3rd and recovered a fumble on the kick-off but had to settle for another field goal. Trailing by 3 at the end of regulation, Lee Evans couldn’t secure a game-winning TD pass and Billy Cundiff missed a 32 yard field goal that would have sent the game in OT.
MEANWHILE, IN THE BAY AREA
Over to Candlestick Park or as Vin Scully used to call it, “Baghdad by the Bay.” The Stick is still a dump but it’s also a special place for football games because of the rich history. On Sunday night it was covered in darkness and the cold, wet, windy weather helped make a classic game that much more dramatic.
San Francisco opened as a 3 point favorite over the Giants and the line held firm all week. Opportunity was knocking… the Giants (who should have been playing golf for three weeks but had so many good things happen to them), were getting points against Alex Smith and a talented but inexperienced post-season team. With the Ravens cover in my pocket, I needed to do what the Ravens didn’t do…go for the knockout. It was time to press and take a large position on Big Blue.
This game was back and forth and there was lots of drama for fans and bettors but the Giants once again had good fortune smile on them when it mattered most and they came away with both the win and the cover.
Now that the betting hamstrings are properly stretched, it’s time for the main event. The Patriots opened as 3.5 favorites and the over / under is 55.
ANOTHER POTENTIAL CLASSIC
What a great Super Bowl match-up. NBC loves this because of the markets involved but it’s also great for the NFL because of the historical narrative. This is like Super Bowl XIII, the heavyweight rematch between Dallas and Pittsburgh, perhaps the greatest Super Bowl ever played.
That wasn’t a typical Super Bowl. Dallas and Pittsburgh had each won 2 Super Bowls so something far greater than a championship was at stake – legacies and which team could truthfully be called the “Team of the 70′s.
Coincidence or not, Pittsburgh was a 3.5 point favorite to defeat Dallas and they won the game 35-31.
This isn’t 20 games that require deep analysis and some hidden BS edge. It’s one game so remember to keep it simple and try not to let your heart overtake your brain.
ESPN ran a stat this week that said favorites have covered 73% of all Super Bowls. When 10,000 game simulations were run, the Patriots won 61% of the time. The average score of those games was Patriots 31.6 Giants 27.4. These simulations aren’t gospel but the information is a good mind vitamin.
I like it when great coaches have two weeks to prepare and that’s how much time Bill Belichick has to get ready for the New York Giants. The Giants are the quintessential “everything broke right, how the hell did we get here” team that has been playing over their heads (this was a 9-7 team that trailed the Cowboys 34-22 with 5 minutes left). Now they have to sit for a weekend.
Does that momentum begin to erode?
Here comes the heart into the equation – Joe Montana is the best quarterback I ever saw and Tom Brady is Joe Montana reincarnated. Somewhere, some place, I’m convinced a “Heaven Can Wait” type event happened and Joe Montana came back as Tom Brady.
From time to time, Montana would have poor playoff performances (like Brady did against Baltimore) but when he made it to the Super Bowl (4-0 record), he was usually at his best. Brady should rebound nicely from the Ravens, play his very best against the Giants and cement his legacy.
Belichick, Brady and the rest of the Patriots also had the eternal greatness of an undefeated championship season taken from them when the Giants beat them in XLII. The opportunity to avenge that loss is something they must relish.
As an homage to Super Bowl XIII, I’m going with the Patriots to win (and cover) 35-31.