USA TODAY Sports Weekly
PROP WAGERS IMMENSELY POPULAR
Fans can make many novelty Super Bowl bets
According to the American Gaming Association, Americans will bet $4.2 billion on Super Bowl 50, up 8% from last year. Nearly 97% of those bets, $4.1 billion worth, will be wagered illegally, a stark difference from the roughly $115 million bet legally on Super Bowl XLIX last year.
The illegal market is estimated to be 35 times greater than the legal one.
So how does Las Vegas compensate for the revenue lost on the biggest betting day of the football season? It turns to Super Bowl props. A proposition bet is a novelty wager not involving the final score. According to Jay Kornegay of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, his operation expects prop bets to account for 60% of its total wagers on this year’s game.
“The evolution of prop wagers really took off in 1995 because that Super Bowl was going to be boring,” Kornegay said, referring to San Francisco’s 49-26 victory against the San Diego Chargers in which the 49ers were 18-point favorites. “Back when the Super Bowls were blowouts, the games were boring, and the props would keep people entertained in the second half. The props became popular, and that’s why we started to expand the menu. ... Thanks to props, every play meant something.”
Prop players at the Westgate Superbook will enjoy the luxury of more than 400 props for Super Bowl 50.
According to Kornegay, the most popular prop is the player to score the first touchdown. If you’re right, it’s a nice payoff.
The leading contenders, and the odds that they score first, in this year’s Super Bowl:
The Broncos’ Emmanuel Sanders, left, and Demaryius Thomas both are 10-1 to score first Sunday.
From the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart at 8-1; Ted Ginn Jr. at 10-1 and Corey Brown at 12-1.
From the Denver Broncos, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas at 10-1 and C.J. Anderson, Owen Daniels and Ronnie Hillman at 12-1.
Or, if you’re brave, you can bet that there will be no touchdown scored and get 200-1.
In the previous 49 Super Bowls, wide receivers lead the TD brigade, scoring the first touchdown 21 times, with Brandon LaFell finding the end zone first with 9:51 remaining in the second quarter for the New England Patriots last year.
Running backs are right on their heels with 17 initial scores. Tight ends have scored the first touchdown five times, with quarterbacks, kick returners and defensive players at five times each.
Another outrageously popular prop is the coin toss. It’s super fast (pun intended) and takes place before the game starts.
The coin toss can be bet one of two ways, either heads or tails or the conference that wins the flip.
In its 49-year history, there have been 25 heads and 24 tails in the Super Bowl coin toss. Should tails come up this Sunday, it would mean a 50-50 split throughout 50 years of Super Bowl history.
The NFC has won 33 of 49 pregame calls, including 16 of the last 18.
Nevada sports books will be offering odds on the MVP for the first time. In the past it wasn’t allowed because of the voting process. As such, of the more than 400 props being offered by the Westgate Superbook on Super Bowl 50, wagering on the game’s MVP figures to be hot and heavy.
These were the opening odds on MVP contenders: Newton at 5-7, Peyton Manning at 7-2, Stewart at 15-1, Olsen at 18-1, Anderson at 20-1 and Ginn, Sanders and Thomas at 25-1. In addition, linebackers Luke Kuechly of Carolina and Von Miller of Denver were installed at 25-1.
Before backing Newton as the MVP of Super Bowl 50, you might want to consider league MVP quarterbacks have struggled in Super Bowl games, going 6-12 straight up (SU) and 5-11-2
against the spread (ATS), including 0-5 SU and ATS since 2002.
OVERTIME OR SAFETY
While there has never been an overtime game in the history of the Super Bowl, many fans are fascinated by the possibility.
Perhaps it’s the enticing price (+550) or the notion that the absence of overtime in 49 games means there is a stronger likelihood of the first one happening sooner rather than later.
Another popular prop is whether a safety will occur. This prop also is an appealing +550 payoff at the Westgate Superbook.
After a run of three consecutive Super Bowl games in which a safety occurred, there was none last year. Teams that record a safety are 6-3 in Super Bowls.
Another highly popular prop is melding other sports with the Super Bowl game. These are commonly referred to as “who will have more” bets.
Last year the Westgate Superbook featured 48 cross-sports opportunities; this year it has upped the ante by 10. They includeDwyane Wade’s points vs. Manning’s completions, Stephen Curry’s three-point field goals made vs. Olsen’s receptions and LeBron James’ points vs. the shortest made field goal.
College basketball also joins the fray with Connecticut’s points vs. Jonathan Stewart’s rushing yards and SMU’s first-half points vs. Newton’s rushing yards.
Golf offerings include Phil Mickelson’s fourth-round score vs. Ginn’s receiving yards and Bubba Watson’s fourth-round birdies vs. Sanders’ receptions.
Prominent professional Las Vegas handicapper David Malinsky shared a couple of props he will have an interest in Sunday:
Manning under 235.5 passing yards: “As straightforward as it gets, but I see the Denver game plan built around ball control and short passes, trying to get as many running snaps as possible. Given the low percentage I expect when the Broncos do try to attack deep down the field, it will take more pass attempts to get to this plateau than I expect to see.”
Philadelphia 76ers firstquarter points vs. the Brooklyn Nets over Denver first downs: “I believe the marketplace remains behind the curve on just how good the 76ers have been since Ish Smith came on board to run the show at point guard, with their ability to chase down the Warriors the latest example. Brooklyn is a rudderless team playing awful defense, so in what should be a loose game I can see a quick pace. Meanwhile, the Broncos face some difficult matchups to stay on the field against the Panthers, and with ball control being their game plan, it will also mean a relatively low snap count as well.”
When asked his worst nightmare with props, Kornegay said, “We always incur liability with ‘Will there be a safety?’ and ‘Will there be overtime?’ Ugh. If a game ever goes into overtime and is decided by a safety, I will be looking to update my résumé.”
Let the games begin.
Lawrence is publisher of the weekly “Playbook Football” newsletter at Playbook.com and host of the “Marc Lawrence Against the Spread” football podcast.