Super Bowl LI – Betting Preview and Picks
The culmination of the 2016-17 NFL season comes to an end this week with Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas at NRG Stadium. It’s a spectacle for the nation, but also the biggest day of the year for sports betting. Heinz Ketchup has even given all their employees the day off on Monday and has petitioned to make the day after the Super Bowl a national holiday.
The clear majority of the money wagered on tomorrow’s games will be unregulated. Only a fraction of the estimated 4.8 billion dollars bet on the Super Bowl will be wagered at Nevada sportsbooks. Bettors wagered over 132 million on last year’s Super Bowl in Nevada sportsbooks and may break that mark this year.
The other 4.6 billion or so is wagered online at offshore sportsbooks and locally with local bookies. Just like other events in sports betting, the biggest bets, the ones that are moving the lines, are coming from online sports betting markets – that’s no different in Super Bowl LI.
Since it’s the Super Bowl, I will be offering a pick on both the side and the total. Check out our other content on the Patriots versus the Falcons, including off the wall propositions bets to consider and traditional props where I have already placed wagers.
As always, our odds below will be quoted from BetOnline.ag and are accurate at the time of posting. However, always be sure to line shop for the best price.
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Road to the Super Bowl
Despite missing Tom Brady for four games, the Patriots once again steamrolled their competition in the AFC South on their way to a 14-2 record. This gave them home field advantage throughout the postseason.
In the Divisional Round, the Texans headed to Foxboro. The game was close at halftime, but New England pulled away in the second half to win the game 34-16. The Conference Title game wasn’t much different. Pittsburgh kept it close early on, but the home team once again took over in the second half, winning 36-17.
The Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons weren’t the top seed in the NFC like New England, but they did guarantee themselves a bye week and home-field advantage in the postseason, provided they didn’t have to face Dallas. Atlanta won the AFC South with an 11-5 record, a vast improvement from their 8-8 record last year.
The Falcons weren’t tested much in the postseason. Their league-leading offense had little trouble carving the Seahawks to the tune of a 36-20 victory in the Divisional Round. They put up, even more, points in a defeat of the Packers to win the NFC Title in a 44-21 rout of Green Bay.
Betting odds haven’t changed much since the Patriots opened as -3 favorites. The number is still at New England -3 across the industry. Some speculated that the odds might move to -2.5 or even -3.5 as we approach the weekend, but the Patriots have gotten the lion’s share of betting action so far with about 70 percent of wagers being placed on them.
There’s more of a chance of this game moving to -3.5, giving those interested in the Falcons a chance at a critical number at +3.5. I don’t think it goes there, nor to -2.5, but it may be worth waiting until late Friday or the weekend if you’re convinced the public will hammer the Patriots this weekend.
The total opened at 57 points. Since then, it has moved around a bit, but at most sportsbooks, it has settled in at around 58 or 58.5 points. Some recreational bookmakers, such as Heritage Sports and Bovada have the number a bit higher as of this writing. They’re dealing 59 and 59.5, respectively.
It’s always going to be tough betting against the Patriots, particularly in the postseason, but there’s a lot to like in an Atlanta side, that is, in my mind, extremely underrated. New England was first in points allowed this season, but they haven’t faced many offenses that are nearly as talented as the Falcons.
I’m not here to diminish their accomplishments. Their 14-2 record speaks for itself, but the AFC East just isn’t a tough division. The Dolphins snuck into the playoffs, but they were going nowhere, and the Jets and Bulls have some of the worst offenses in the league. The rest of their schedule didn’t see them face many top 10 offenses.
We all know Belichick adjusts, but Kyle Shanahan and Dan Quinn are two brilliant minds on both sides of the ball. There might not be a better offensive coordinator in the league than Shanahan and Quinn has experience against the Patriots offense from his time as Seahawks defensive coordinator. He also isn’t afraid to make in-game adjustments, a trait that is necessary for beating New England.
Defensively, we can look at the Falcons’ full season numbers and cringe. However, their defense has played a lot better in recent weeks. They held the Packers to just 21 points, and almost all of those points came in garbage time, long after an Atlanta victory was assured.
Down the stretch, the defense helped them tremendously regarding playoff seeding. They won five of their last six games after their bye week on November 20th and held opponents to just 18.8 points in each of those wins.
The “defense wins championships” saying is hard to ignore, but I think it’s offense that wins this battle. Atlanta’s defense will surprise some people tomorrow, as well. I’m going with the Falcons and the under.
Pick: Falcons +3 and Under 58