Super Bowl week is upon us. No other week has the ability to lure a savvy bettor into making some truly dumb plays the way this one can. You’ll be able to bet on just about everything that happens this weekend, but the important thing to remember is that prop bets come at a significant cost with inflated juice, and they’re usually pretty damn sharp.
Prop bets can be fun, but you don’t want to be the guy at your Super Bowl party holding a stop watch while the national anthem is being sung (Ed note: I’ll gladly hold that stop watch, and a little later on this afternoon we’ll have a post analyzing some, um, less conventional props…yes, analyzing). With that being said, I’ll offer up my top prop bets for Super Bowl Sunday, but first, let’s talk a little about the strategies you’ll want to employ when making prop bets of your own.
First, you want to bet from a neutral perspective. If you think that the 49ers are going to win the game, that doesn’t mean every Ravens player’s props are going to stay under the total. Ray Rice and/or Torrey Smith can still have good days statistically in a loss. Don’t let your heart and/or game wager affect your thinking when it comes to certain props.
Second, don’t use useless trends from past Super Bowls that don’t apply to this one. A year ago the NFC entered Super Bowl XLVI having won 14 straight coin tosses, and for that reason there was plenty of money riding on the Giants to win the pre-game coin toss. They called tails, and the coin came up heads. The same logic applies to in-game wagering. You can’t possibly believe that Tom Brady’s performance against the Giants a year ago or Rich Gannon’s performance against the Buccaneers 10 years ago are indicators of how Joe Flacco will perform against the 49ers on Sunday, just because they all played in the AFC. Some trends can definitely be useful, but avoid the ones that have little meaning.
Finally, I talked about implied probability in my divisional previews way back in September, and it’s an appropriate time for a refresher course on the subject. You can read a detailed explanation of implied probability here. Once you understand the concept, you can make your calculations here. This is your most valuable tool for finding value in the maze of prop plays offered by sportsbooks. If your probability given for a certain outcome exceeds the implied probability, it’s probably worth a wager.
Now, without further ado, here are my recommended prop plays for Super Bowl XLVII.
Prop: Who will be the Super Bowl MVP?
Analysis: The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. 25 of 46 all-time Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks, including five of the last six (this trend is actually significant). Looking back to last year’s 49ers team, the only significant change from that club to the one that will play on Sunday is at the quarterback position. If they win, Kaepernick gets it.
Recommendation: Colin Kaepernick (+160) – SIA
Prop: Number of passing touchdowns for Joe Flacco?
Analysis: Maybe I’ve been a little hard on Flacco this season, but there’s no question that the 49ers are the best defense he’ll face in these playoffs, and touchdowns are hard to come by against them. Flacco has exceeded 1.5 touchdowns in all three playoff games which allows us to grab the under at a solid price. After all, Flacco only threw two touchdowns or more six times in the regular season.
Recommendation: Under 1.5 (+105) – SIA
Prop: Joe Flacco will have more pass yards in which half?
Analysis: Flacco has played well on the road in the playoffs, but the Super Bowl is a whole other stage entirely. The big game jitters should get to Flacco early on. Also, I can see him potentially padding his yardage total in garbage time if the 49ers hold a lead late in the game.
Recommendation: Second half (-155) – Pinnacle
Prop: Total rushing attempts by LaMichael James?
Analysis: James needed to wait until Kendall Hunter went down before he saw the field, but his role in the offense has steadily increased since. James has carried the ball five or more times in four of six career games, including five carries in the NFC Championship game against Atlanta in which the 49ers trailed throughout.
Recommendation: Over 5 (-112) – Pinnacle
Prop: Total rushing yards by LaMichael James?
Analysis: The rookie back’s speed and elusiveness have really impressed the 49er coaching staff, so it’s likely they’ll carve out a bigger role for him as they look to exploit Baltimore’s 20th-ranked rush defense.
Recommendation: Over 25.5 (-119) – Pinnacle
Prop: Total receptions by Torrey Smith?
Analysis: Julio Jones had plenty of success against San Francisco in the NFC Championship game, and Torrey Smith should find some success over the top the way that Jones did. He’ll be targeted often.
Recommendation: Over 3.5 (-113) – Pinnacle
Prop: Receiving yards by Delanie Walker?
Analysis: The 49ers like to use Vernon Davis as a decoy, so a lot of the team’s receiving duties at the tight end position fall to Walker. He could realistically surpass this total with one reception.
Recommendation: Over 20.5 (-120) – SIA
Prop: Longest punt by Sam Koch?
Analysis: Koch has gotten off a punt of at least 58 yards in each of his three games this postseason, and each of those games was played outdoors. Perfect conditions inside the Superdome should only help out Koch.
Recommendation: Over 56.5 (-119) – Pinnacle
Prop: Team to call first timeout?
Analysis: The 49ers rarely leave their base defense, so Joe Flacco shouldn’t be too surprised by anything he sees. On the flip side, the Ravens will throw all sorts of exotic looks at Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers have been first to call a timeout in each of their playoff games, and called two first quarter timeouts in their last trip to the Superdome.
Recommendation: San Francisco (-115) – BoDog
Heed my earlier warning and don’t bet the mortgage on these, or any other prop bets. If you’re a casual bettor, keep in mind that you may be able to join in on a box pool at your Super Bowl party. This is one of the most fun weekends of the sporting year, so don’t ruin it for yourself by betting on something like the under on Joe Flacco’s rushing yards and having to sweat every time he steps up in the pocket.
I’ll be back on Thursday with my betting preview of Sunday’s game, including a recommended money line play.