Superbowl season is always one of the most interesting times of the year for sports wagering. All of the hype surrounding the big game makes for numerous betting opportunities - some books have over 200 different proposition bets to choose from. With the sheer number of lines on the board, every bettor is sure to find a few attractive options, but sorting through the dozens of wagers available can be difficult.
There are three key considerations that proposition bettors should keep in mind this weekend: First, aggressive line shopping will definitely pay off. There is a lot of variation between sportsbooks on the line offered on any particular bet. Hunting down the best one will add substantially to your bottom line.
Second, be sure to keep in mind that prop bets can be highly correlated, meaning they can both be affected in the same way due to game events. For instance, team to record first sack and total team sacks are related - if Indianapolis records the first sack, it helps the Indianapolis sacks "over" prop. Likewise, a lot of "scoring props" are highly correlated to the spread and total. Be careful not to make too many correlated wagers that can all end up losers together. For instance, if betting two related sack props, you probably want to bet less than your normal amount on each one to minimize your total exposure.
Last, remember that this is only one game. It's easy to get carried away making a lot of wagers with all the options out there, but ultimately anything can happen on a given day. Keep good money management practices in mind and don't over bet your bankroll on this one game.
Something to keep in mind this weekend is the tremendous amount of public, or "square", money that is flowing in on the prop wagers. Props get little attention from recreational bettors during the regular season, but they become a real novelty for the big game. Personally, I try to focus on lines that I think are most likely to be skewed due to public opinion, and then use some statistics to come up with a fair number. I took a look through the props available at TheGreek.com and found a few worth considering.
Indianapolis first downs UNDER 22 -150
Chicago has allowed 22 or more first downs only once all season - to Saint Louis in Week 13. Only 4 times all year has Chicago even allowed 20 first downs to an opponent, and one of those was the meaningless Week 17 game against Green Bay. Although the Colts have a great offense (averaging almost 24 first downs per game), they are facing a very good defense that has allowed an average of only 15 first downs per game. I'd put the break-even line on this prop at about -190 considering the season-long stats.
Devin Hester first punt return will be OVER 9.5 yards -115
Indianapolis ranked 2nd last in the league this season in allowing 13.1 yards per punt return. Meanwhile, Chicago was 2nd best in punt return yardage this year with an average of 12.1 yards per punt return. With the explosive return abilities of Devin Hester, the over is worth a look.
I took a look at a number of quarterback sack stats. Much has been made of the "improved" Indianapolis defense - they have really over-performed in the playoffs, recording 7 sacks in their 3 games. However, they only recorded 25 sacks during the regular season, tied for 2nd worst in the league. Both teams have better than average offensive lines, and Indianapolis led the league in sacks allowed at only 15 all throughout the regular season. Will the Colts "return to form" or will their defense continue to over perform? Personally, I am not giving extra weight to the "improvement" in the Colts defense and think they should be expected to revert back to their season-long performance. Something else that hasn't received as much attention is that Peyton Manning was sacked 5 times in his 3 playoff games, hitting the ground in the postseason more times than any quarterback other than Drew Brees. In my view, that offers a lot of value for taking a contrarian stand on a number of props:
Indianapolis Colts under 2.5 sacks -200
Indianapolis averaged only 1.68 sacks per game this year. As much as Rex Grossman has been criticized, the fact remains that he does not get sacked often - only 1.56 times per game all year. They would have to double their season average to lose this prop.
Team to Record First Sack - Chicago +140
My numbers have Chicago and Indianapolis about even in projected sacks in this game. I think the recent performance by the Indianapolis defense definitely provides value on the Bears at what should be closer to a coinflip.
Chicago Bears +3.5 +140
I can't conclude without at least throwing my opinion on the game out there. I think Chicago is being greatly underrated in this game and this is my favorite of the alternate line props. Unless a 7.5 shows today, I think this might be the best number available for Chicago backers in this game.