Rob Pizzola

robpizzola

@robpizzola

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Sherman arms2

Super Bowl XLVIII is on tap for Sunday evening and I’ll be breaking down the NFL’s grand finale from a betting perspective. I recommended a pair of wagers in the Conference Championship games two weeks ago, going 2-0 in the process. None of that will matter if I can’t predict the outcome of the Super Bowl this year though.

In case you’re wondering about my Super Bowl track record, I incorrectly took the 49ers to cover against the Ravens last year. In all honesty, I really didn’t love that play all that much, but I won’t bore you with excuses. Previous to that, I had correctly predicted the ATS outcome of the previous six Super Bowls (not all of these are documented so you’ll have to just take my word on it), with the last losing selection coming in Super Bowl XL when the referees handed the Steelers a victory over the Seahawks—that’s a story for another day.

It’s been a very strong season overall and hopefully I can provide one last winner to cap off the season with a bang.

The Nickel Package Record: 51-36-3 ATS (58.3%)

Recommended Wagers Record: 64-50-3 ATS (56.0%)

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peyton wave2

Prop: Total TD passes thrown by Peyton Manning

Over 2.5 TD Passes +110

Under 2.5 TD Passes -140

Implied probabilities (converting betting line to percentage):

Over 2.5 TD Passes – 47.62%

Under 2.5 TD Passes – 58.33%

*note: these numbers don’t add up to 100% because of vigorish, the amount charged by the bookmaker for their services

The Denver Broncos put together arguably the best offensive season in the history of the NFL. Led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos scored 55 touchdowns through the air; 16 more than any other team in the league. I don’t want to take anything away from Denver—their offense is undoubtedly a juggernaut—but let’s take a quick look at the opponents that they faced this season and where they stacked up against the rest of the league.

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Prater2

Prop: Will there be a missed field goal?

Yes -150

No +120

Implied probabilities (converting betting line to percentage):

Yes – 60.00%

No – 45.45%

*note: these numbers don’t add up to 100% because of vigorish, the amount charged by the bookmaker for their services

If this game were played in a warm-weather environment or inside a dome, the odds on this prop would likely be reversed, with ‘Yes’ providing the underdog price.

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Each day leading up to the Super Bowl, we’ll look into one of the many available prop bets, providing as much detail and analysis as possible. Next up: Figuring out what Russell Wilson’s longest rush will be on Sunday.

Prop: Russell Wilson longest rush…

Over 12.5 yards -115

Under 12.5 yards -115

Implied probabilities (converting betting line to percentage):

Over 12.5 yards – 53.49%

Under 12.5 yards – 53.49%

*note: these numbers don’t add up to 100% because of vigorish, the amount charged by the bookmaker for their services

It would seem that the oddsmakers have done a good job setting this line—if you look solely at Seattle’s regular season games this year, Russell Wilson eclipsed a longest rush of 12.5 yards eight times; exactly half of the Seahawks’ games. But those numbers are a little bit misleading.

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julius thomas again2

Each day leading up to the Super Bowl, we’ll look into one of the many available prop bets, providing as much detail and analysis as possible. Next up: How will the first touchdown of the game be scored?

Prop: First touchdown scored is a…

Receiving touchdown -175

Any other touchdown +149

Implied probabilities (converting betting line to percentage):

Receiving touchdown – 63.64%

Any other touchdown – 40.16%

*note: these numbers don’t add up to 100% because of vigorish, the amount charged by the bookmaker for their services

At first glance, you’d probably be inclined to believe that this prop is dependent on which team scores first in the game. Most people would assume that Seattle’s first touchdown is likely to be on a run, while Denver’s first touchdown is likely to be on a pass. Well, only one of those cases is true.

Both teams have given us a large sample size of 18 games this season, which is plenty enough to formulate an educated guess on what the most likely outcome is here. Many people tend to rely on past Super Bowl trends when wagering on props, but I really could care less about what’s happened in past Super Bowls—this matchup is completely independent of those matchups.

In Denver’s 18 games this season, the first touchdown scored in the game has been a receiving touchdown 15 times. That’s right, you would have had an 83.3% success rate had you bet that prop in every single one of the Broncos’ games this season.

On the other side of things, Seattle’s splits have not been so drastic. In fact, exactly half of their games have had a receiving touchdown as the first touchdown of the game, while the other half have not. In this case, it would appear as though “any other touchdown” would be a strong value play at +149.

But I’m not interested in looking at all of their games this season. Both of these teams are playing this game in a road environment, so I’m much more interested in each team’s results away from home.

When you only take road games into account, Seattle’s statistics present a much different narrative. In the Seahawks’ eight games away from CenturyLink Field this season, the opening touchdown of the game has come on a passing play six times. That’s a huge difference from the even split that you’d arrive at if you took all of Seattle’s games into account. Denver has the exact same split, with the opening touchdown coming via pass in six of their eight road games.

In summation:

Denver’s road games = 6/8 opening touchdowns via pass

Seattle’s road games = 6/8 opening touchdowns via pass

Combined road games = 12/16 opening touchdowns via pass, 75% success rate

I’m normally not a fan of laying juice, but the 75% success rate illustrated above is much higher than the implied probability of 63.64%. Even if you want to take all games (not just road games) into account, you’d arrive at a probability of 66.67%, which is still higher than the given implied probability. I bet value when I see it, and I think the oddsmakers have missed the mark here.

Pick: First touchdown scored is a receiving touchdown -175

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Each day leading up to the Super Bowl, we’ll look into one of the many available prop bets, providing as much detail and analysis as possible. First up: Which team will commit the first turnover?

Prop: Team to commit first turnover (fumble or intereception)?

Seattle -117

Denver +100

Implied probabilities (converting betting line to percentage):

Seattle – 53.92%

Denver – 50.00%

*note: these numbers don’t add up to 100% because of vigorish, the amount charged by the bookmaker for their services

There are two completely different ways of thinking about this prop. On one hand, Seattle clearly has the better defense, which would likely make them more apt to force a turnover. On the other hand, Peyton Manning rarely finds himself under duress, so it’s unlikely that he’ll be pressured into making a costly mistake. Luckily, we have the luxury of digging deeper into 18 games worth of numbers for each of these teams to determine if there’s value with either team.

First, let’s take a look at fumbles.

Denver fumbled the ball 28 times this season, losing 17 of those fumbles in the process (60.7% fumbles lost).

Seattle fumbled the ball 29 times this season, losing just 11 of those fumbles (37.9% fumbles lost).

There were 655 total fumbles in the NFL this season, with 312 of those fumbles resulting in turnovers. That’s a 47.6% fumble lost rate. Since fumbles lost can be largely attributed to being lucky or unlucky, we’ll use the league average rate to determine how many fumbles both the Broncos and Seahawks should havebeen expected to lose this season.

Denver = 28 fumbles x 0.476 league fumble lost rate = 13.3 fumbles lost

Seattle = 29 fumbles x 0.476 league fumble lost rate = 13.8 fumbles lost

That gives a slight edge to Denver, but it’s the smallest of edges.

Defensively is where the Seahawks shine though. Seattle has forced 6 more fumbles than Denver this season (31-25), and has recovered four more of those fumbles (13-9). Again, fumble recoveries are often attributed to luck, so let’s use the league average once more to remove the luck attribute.

Denver = 25 fumbles x 0.476 league fumble lost rate = 11.9 fumbles recovered

Seattle = 31 fumbles x 0.476 league fumble lost rate = 14.8 fumbles recovered

Based on the defensive metrics, Seattle’s defense is much more likely to force and recover a fumble than Denver’s defense is.

But fumbles aren’t the only type of turnover—we have to look at interceptions as well.

Both the Seahawks and Broncos have staggeringly low interception numbers on offense. The Broncos have tossed just 11 interceptions in 18 games, while the Seahawks are even better, tossing a measly 9 interceptions.

The big discrepancy comes on the defensive side of the ball, where the Seahawks have forced a whopping 30 interceptions, while the Broncos have only forced 17.

At the end of the day, the Broncos have only allowed 20 sacks all season, while the Seahawks have allowed 51, but that hasn’t led to an increased turnover rate on offense for Seattle.

In summation:

Offensive fumbles = slight edge to the Broncos

Defensive fumbles = edge to the Seahawks

Offensive interceptions = slight edge to the Seahawks

Defensive interceptions = big edge to the Seahawks

When taking everything into account, this line doesn’t seem to make much sense at all. Denver’s implied probability of committing the first turnover is only 50%, and I would argue that the true probability is much closer to 60%, create some hefty value with my final selection.

Pick: Team to commit the first turnover – Denver +10

Sherman hand2

The NFL’s Conference Championship Games are here and I’ll be breaking down both of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. I recommended a pair of wagers in last week’s blog and finished 1-1 ATS, winning with a backdoor cover by the Chargers (thank goodness for onside kicks) and losing with the Panthers against the 49ers. With that being said, I actually had a very strong read on last week’s games. If I had bet on every single side and total using my predicted final scores I would have finished the week 7-1, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as I tried to be selective. Anyways, it’s still been a very strong season overall and hopefully I can provide a couple more winners before February’s Super Bowl.

Note: If you follow me on Twitter or have read my blogs in the past, you’re probably well aware that I love Tom Brady, hate Peyton Manning, and despise the 49ers (mainly due to their whiny fans that love   to bitch at me whenever I pick against their team). I have done my best to not let those factors affect my   handicapping of this week’s board. You may see some of those biases come through in my writing, but you can trust that I haven’t let those views influence my judgement whatsoever.

The Nickel Package Record: 49-36-3 ATS

As always, you can check out The Nickel Package podcast. Each week – even through the playoffs - Joe Fortenbaugh from the National Football Post joins me to analyze those picks and provide additional insight. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, listen to the player below or download the MP3 file here.

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