Shop ‘Til You Drop (or at least until you find a good line)
By Tony Johnson
It’s the holiday season for prop bets! Prop bettors look forward to the Super Bowl more than any other time of the year. This game lends the best combination of a huge volume of offered wagers along with the public betting wildly right alongside. There are a few sportsbooks out here in Las Vegas that are offering over 400 different prop bets on the game in addition to the usual side and total that everyone is accustomed to seeing. If you live out here in Las Vegas, it’s important to shop around to find the best price or number for the prop you want. This is much easier with the sports apps than it ever has been. Some props may vary wildly from one sportsbook to the next. I want to first take a moment to explain my strategy for navigating through the prop ‘bibles”. After that we will do a quick review of last week and then off to the actual props that we have on the game. Let’s go!
One of the things I hear from people as they look through the pages of props is that it’s overwhelming. They’re right. With over 400 wagers to choose from it’s very easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of what’s even going on. My first point of strategy is to come up with an idea of how you think the game will go. This doesn’t have to be rock solid but just a general template for how you see the game playing out. Will possessions be shorter with a faster pace? Are both QBs likely to turn the ball over a lot? What’s the general coaching strategy/philosophy of each coach? Are there any significant injuries? Coming up with answers to questions like these will help mold your outlook on the game and help prepare you for what types of props you will be interested in betting on. I think this is also a good strategy for evaluating each week in the regular season but becomes imperative in the playoffs.
My evaluation of the game starts with the belief that both defenses will be a bit stronger than the expectation. This will lead to likely less scoring and a more cautious outlook on offense versus what we saw from both squads in the regular season. The point in which scoring could go off the rails would be if either side gets behind 2+ scores. Both offenses are capable of scoring quickly and under bettors are hoping this thing stays within one score for the majority of the game. I believe New England will continue to utilize Michel on the ground and mix in the other backs as well. They remain limited in their ability to vertically stretch the field so the expectation is to continue to dink/dunk through the air. LA has two veteran corners in Peters and Talib who will make life difficult for the WRs. LA will still feature both RBs Gurley and Anderson in this one. I’m expecting Gurley to rebound after the subpar performance against the Saints as well. There are plenty of weapons for Goff to throw to and it will be interesting to see what NE’s game plan is on defense. I focused my attention for the most part on the usual yardage player props. It’s important to play to whatever your strengths are as a bettor and for me it’s best to keep it simple and evaluate the game and lines like I do every other week. As always you should do what works best for you.
Last week we did quite well and were only two yards away with Kamara for another “fatality” with the player props. Still, we were able to go 3-1 on the player props but did lose the bonus bet on KC. That was a tough one but these things happen. It’s probably better than all of the people that had the Saints in the first game. That was a tough loss to swallow with the blown call at the end.
I would also like to mention that it’s important to have some fun. The Super Bowl is really about entertainment and I’ve included two bonus cross-sport props on the bottom of the page. These are intended for fun and I will be betting much less on these. I encourage everyone to take a small specified amount of money and just have a good time with it. For record sake I will include the two cross-sport props in the bonus section and not in the standard prop section. Without further ado, here are my prop bets for Super Bowl 53…
Prop #1: Brady under 305.5 pass yards (Will Hill)
Here’s a perfect example of why shopping should be your friend. (Only for this, not in real life obv) Brady’s passing yards number varies about 10 yards depending upon where you look in Las Vegas. The difference is even greater if you are an offshore bettor. We kill two birds with one stone here by fading the public and fitting our narrative of how we believe the game will play out. It’s obvious that the general bettor is going to want to bet the over on this prop so I believe this number is inflated about 20 yards higher than it should be. Brady only threw for 300+ yards five times in 16 regular season games. (31%) Most of those games were at home and against subpar teams. He faces a strong secondary in this game led by rickety ass Wade Phillips who still remains one of the great defensive schemers at the ripe age of 71. I mentioned the two CBs earlier and without the ability to stretch the field it’s going to be tough for Brady to pass for a lot of yards in this one. The only chance that this goes over would be if NE finds themselves down a bunch of points in the second half and it becomes a pass fest. My prediction is Brady throws for 275 yards and gets most of the yards in the second half.
Prop #2: Gronkowski under 56.5 receiving yards (Westgate)
Kismet! I’ve dwelled on the point in past articles that Gronk is no longer the player he once was. He’s just a shell of himself at this point and it really shows in the limited amount of routes that he can run. We were fortunate that Gronk had a couple of big catches down the stretch of the previous game and that has made this line much higher than it should be. Last week the line for Gronk’s receiving yards closed at 44.5 on Will Hill. In this game, he faces a much stronger defense than KC and his number is 12 yards higher!!! Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple and use this stroke of luck to our advantage. I certainly think it’s possible that Gronk will have a few receptions in this game but there won’t be enough to cover a number this high. My evaluation puts Gronk at three receptions for around 40-42 yards total.
Prop #3: Edelman does not score a TD -140 (Stations)
Aaron (our fearless leader) and I had a brief discussion last week about whether Edelman was a hall of famer. I’m still in shock that it’s even being discussed. Edelman has played nine seasons and only has 5,390 yards to go along with 30 TDs in the regular season. These are pedestrian numbers at best and while he’s better on the field than his statistics show, he’s not at all in the hall of fame discussion in my opinion. Who the hell cares about this right? Well the point is that the public believes it’s a discussion point and the oddsmakers have had to skew some lines to account for the love affair that people have for the former Golden Flashes QB. Since 2013, including the playoffs, Edelman only has 29 TDs in 79 games played. (37%) Getting a price for no TD at only -140 screams great value to me. Added to that, our evaluation of the game tells us to expect NE to struggle a bit against this secondary. Edelman remains the focal point in this receiving corps and I’m counting on my septuagenarian brother Wade Phillips to plan an attack that involves not allowing Julian Edelman to beat you. Final stats: Six receptions for 65 yards and no TDs.
Prop #4: Goff under 2 pass TDs -120 (Will Hill)
This is the most intriguing prop on the entire page. Many Pats bettors in this game are pointing to Brady vs Goff as to why they think NE will win the game. It’s a bit of an inharmonious way of evaluating a game but I get it. Goff does not have much playoff experience and has never been on a huge stage like this even dating back to his college days at Cal. The expectation is that LA will utilize their two-headed monster in Gurley and Anderson, especially around the goal line. This means that Goff will have to throw a bunch of TD passes from the edge of the red zone or before it. This just seems so unlikely to me given New England’s track record of bend/don’t break defense. I have no doubts that Goff will be able to move the ball through the air a bit between the 20s but it’s in the scoring area where he will find his biggest struggles in this game. I realize that we will only push and not win if he throws exactly 2 TDs but the likelihood of 3 or more just seems so far fetched that the value remains strong here. I believe Goff finishes this one with only 1 passing TD.
Prop #5: Cooks under 74.5 receiving yards (Westgate)
We finish the prop picks with another under. (Shocker right!) There are a couple of nice things working for our under here. First, Cooks had a standout game last week with over 100 receiving yards versus New Orleans. I believe there is a slight recency bias attached here with this last performance fresh in the mind of the betting public. Looking a little deeper at the numbers, Cooks has only gone over 75 yards one time in his last 7 games. (14%) This is primarily due to some subpar QB play and the emergence of upstart WR Josh Reynolds who has seen many more targets over the second half of the season. Throw in Robert Woods and a healthy Gurley out of the backfield and it becomes a logjam of players jockeying for receptions. My final point is that Cooks will be facing another former team in this game. Coach Belichick has a strong history of scheming well against former players. I believe the defensive game plan will specifically cause Cooks some problems and I’m expecting a very light game from him overall. I believe he finishes with four receptions for 50 yards.
Bonus #1: Koepka 4th round birdies over Cooks receptions +0.5 (Westgate)
We now come to the fun part of the proceedings. The real fun of these two cross-sport props is that our part of the bet happens before the Super Bowl begins. We get to sweat the action early for golf and then the football side later in the day. Two-time defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is teeing it up this week on the European Tour in Saudi Arabia. This is a brand new event and I’ve been able to study the course. It’s a relatively short par 70 that features only two par fives. The good thing about being on the birdie side is that both par fives will be difficult to eagle based on their layout. There are a few short par fours that will be birdie holes for most of the field all week long. Koepka has experience playing on the European Tour a few years back and this course should suit his game very well. On the flip side I’ve already discussed the Cooks prediction of four receptions so this matches up well for us. I’m expecting Koepka to have anywhere from 4-6 birdies and that should be enough to get it done. It’s important to note that if Koepka misses the cut or doesn’t finish 18 holes on Sunday then the bet will be refunded.
Bonus #2: Mickelson 4th round bogeys or worse over Reynolds receptions +1.5 (Westgate)
Lefty tees it up at the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale this week on the PGA Tour. This tournament is famous for the raucous par-3 16th hole that contains roughly 16,000 fans at peak times. Mickelson has had only moderate success at this tournament over his career and recently he has faltered in the 4th round. The last five years his scores have been 69, 71, 71, MC, and 71. In two of those years he had four bogeys or worse in the final round. I like the fact that we are +1.5 here and it’s going to take a whale of game from Josh Reynolds to eclipse that total. I’m expecting Reynolds to have a shock play or two during the ballgame but the volume to remain low. My projection is that both players will have around three for their respective props and we will win this one with the point spread attached.
I’d like to take a second here to thank everyone that’s followed my picks throughout the football season this year. My plan is to write a nice summary of both championship games (NCAA+NFL) along with some early future picks for the next season sometime soon. Good luck in your wagers this week and let’s hope we can close out the season with another winning week!