It’s finally here. The big game. The last meaningful football game for seven months. The greatest of all time versus the backup. What do we need to know in order to bet the Super Bowl? Should you be taking any classic props? How am I betting the game? Let’s dive in and answer those questions.
By: Zach Feldman – Wannamakeabet Staff Writer
On the Field:
Both teams have clear offensive advantages when we dive into the matchups.
The Eagles have shown their dominance on defense all season but they had two spots of weakness. The first being defending the no huddle offense. The Eagles’ biggest strength on defense is the defensive line. Not only are they elite, they are deep. Running a no huddle, up-tempo offense can easily tire out the defensive line while also blocking them from substituting, and the numbers show it.
According to pro-football-reference, the Eagles are allowing an 8.0 yards/attempt, 102.4 passer rating, and 65% completion to opposing offenses running a no-huddle. The Patriots offense while in a no-huddle, according to pro-football-reference, boast a 10.5 yards/attempt, 132.0 passer rating, 75% completion. On both sides of the ball the numbers being produced from a no-huddle are elite. We all know what Tom Brady can do when running up tempo offenses. He’s done it for years and whenever he pulls off his now patented improbable comeback, it’s coming from no-huddle offenses. Watch for Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and the trio of running backs to do a lot of work out of the no-huddle.
The other weakness for the Eagles defense is defending the play action pass. Thanks to Josh Hermsmeyer (@friscojosh on twitter) for sharing this data to the world. The Green line shows us the completion percentage that the Eagles allow against play-action, by depth of target. The yellow line is league average.
There is a clear advantage for the Patriots to attack the Eagles off the play-action and it meshes with their pass catchers. Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Rob Gronkowski all have posted an aDOT (average depth of target) in the sweet spot of the Eagles defense.
The Patriots love to attack a team’s weakness on defense and you can be sure they are going to utilize no-huddle and play action to their advantages.
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have been exposed defending the run against an 11 personnel (any two digit number proceeding personnel, formation, or package refers to the number of running backs and tight ends, respective to the first and second digit). The Patriots allow a 61% success rate and 6.0 yards/carry against teams in 11. The good news for Philly fans, the Eagles run their offense from a base 11 package.
60% of their running plays as a team and 67% of Jay Ajayi’s carries come from the 11 package (72% of his come from the shotgun in the 11). Ajayi carries a 59% success rate and 12.2 yards per carry – yes, 12.2 – when taking a carry out of the shotgun in this formation (thanks to Warren Sharp – @SharpFootball – for his great research providing these stats). If we check back to the AFC Championship game, the Jaguars not only had success out of the same personnel, but Corey Grant made a lot of key plays in the first half; why he wasn’t used in the second half is beyond any of us. The Eagles can set themselves up in a similar fashion with Ajayi, Blount, and Corey Clement. Expect the run game to be a focal point for the Eagles.
One matchup that might not be as favorable for the Eagles is the amount of man coverage the Patriots will implement. The matchups of Gilmore versus Jeffery, and Malcolm Butler versus Torrey Smith are a net plus for the Patriots and they have relied heavily on man coverage all year. What man coverage provides the Patriots in this matchup is the ability to stop the RPO pass by pressing up and taking away any screens.
What does this all mean for our gambling purposes? I expect the Patriots to continue their Patriot way: take advantage of opponents weaknesses while taking away their strengths. While each Patriot player has to “do their job,” the jobs are gameplanned around their opponents. The Patriots were absolutely dominant against the run in their two playoff games, both of which were run heavy offenses. They were not teams that ran a lot of 11 personnel, but they still keyed in on the strength of the offense, and made the opposing team beat them with their weakness. Bill Belichick will be looking to make Nick Foles beat him, and if he plays like he did against the Vikings you tip your cap to him. I’ll give my edge to Bill Belichick. Seven prior super bowls and two weeks of preparation for the greatest coach ever is a lot to handle.
The Eagles, however, are going to look to start and stay aggressive. Doug Pederson loves to be aggressive. Despite being up big at half against Minnesota, he came out of the second half throwing, and that’s what I expect him to do at the start of this game. The Eagles utilize analytics in their play-calling more than anyone and this leads me to believe they will go against the popular way and be aggressive to start the Super Bowl. Historically the first quarter is the most conservative and lowest scoring of any quarter, but that could change with two teams that know how to use analytics to their advantage.
From Vegas: Neutral Site
Right off the bat we saw public money pushing the Eagles line down hard. This shouldn’t be too surprising as they are coming off of a dominant win, while the Patriots had to lead a comeback in order to get their victory. Let’s look a little bit deeper.
Nick Foles took over for Carson Wentz on December 10th at the Rams. The next week was a win in New York against division rival Giants. They have not been on the road since. They came home from the Giants win, a short travel, and have gotten to play four straight home games with a playoff bye thrown into the mix as well. Should we be surprised Nick Foles has seemed so comfortable? Sure, he’s definitely been impressive, but he’s gotten to live his normal home life this whole time.
Now you may point out that the Patriots last away game was also December 17th and the same precedent should apply. I agree we should note that, but the Patriots have scarily even home and road splits, while the Eagles at home seem to be a different team than they are on the road. This game is a neutral site game, but with a very similar travel time and two outdoor teams going into a dome. The Eagles had two playoff games outside, home, against two teams that play in a dome. They are going to be tested going on into such a different atmosphere. I have no doubt the Patriots will be prepared. They play as well at home as they do on the road, and have the best man ever at preparing them for every situation. This is a big unknown for the Eagles. How well will Pederson have them prepared to switch atmospheres and go to the stadium of the team you just demolished? We’ll find out Sunday, but it’s another edge that has to be given to the Patriots that the public seems to be overlooking. Take advantage of value when it is presented.
Super Bowl Moneyline Trends
The other vegas trend we should look at is how the moneyline is valued compared to the spread. The common practice for the Super Bowl is that when the public favors the underdog, they take them to win outright as much or more than the spread. It makes sense, people want to rely on the fact that it is the Super Bowl, any team can win, so they can make more money on the dollar if there is an upset. The Patriots opened at -6 (-105) and -230 at bovada.lv. At opening, -230 is a slight value for 6 points. The line right now? Patriots -4.5 and -175. The value of a -175 moneyline on a 4.5 point spread is incredible. This is a bet that if you see it at -170 or -175 you take it as soon as you can. If your book has it closer to -200, the value is still in your favor, but could move more in your favor if you wait until game day as more of the underdog moneyline bets move in.
How I am Betting The Game
Tom Brady MVP -110
Tom Brady Double MVP (regular season and super bowl) even
Jay Ajayi yards on first carry over 3.5 even
Jay Ajayi over 14.5 rushing attempts -125
Opening Spread: -6 (-110) O/U: 47(-110)
Current Spread: -4.5(-110) O/U: 48.5(-110)
according to vegasinsider.com consensus odds