Super Bowl LI New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons

There is good news and bad news with the Super Bowl. The good news is that, although it's only one game, you can have almost the same choice of bets you might in a full 16 game schedule during the regular season. The bad news is twofold: one, you get an extra week to debate with yourself your pick for the game itself, and two, some of those prop bets are enough to drive you crazy! Especially if you figure Lady Gaga might decide to make a few extra bucks by betting on and then extending or shortening the national anthem!

The game is a cracker. Looking at some of the advanced statistical metrics suggests that these are the two best teams in the league, and it is very close between them. Atlanta had the slight edge in the two overall ratings I looked at, but in each that edge disappeared if you considered the Patriots only in the games Tom Brady quarterbacked (11-1 in the season, 2-0 in the playoffs). New England actually faced the stiffer group of defenses, but the Falcons' defense faced a much tougher group of offenses along the way, so that balances out as well. There's no great O versus great D matchup, nor a situation like last year's contest, when the number one D (Denver) went up against the number two (Carolina) and I picked the Panthers based on their better offensive production.


To me the game depends on whether you think the Pats' D can slow down Atlanta's attack: in essence whether Bill Belichick can out think Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons' offensive mastermind about to become the 49ers head coach. They need to 'hold' Atlanta to 24 points or so to win; I'm expecting Atlanta's D, which is kind of Seattle-lite, given that Dan Quinn was the Seahawks' defensive coordinator two years ago when the teams met in the Super Bowl, to perform better than expected. Remember, against Green Bay two weeks ago, they were carved apart by the Packers, but got turnovers to stop them and build up a lead. So thinking that the two Ds do step up, means my best bet is on the over/under.

BEST BET: UNDER 58.5 (AT 1.88). There isn't much margin for error here, I'm thinking 28-24 or something similar as a final score we could go to 31-27 and still win this one. But I don't see a huge score unless it's a runaway (and oddly, I see Atlanta as being the more likely team to win a runaway. From the prop bets try AVERAGE VIEWERSHIP OVER 112 MILLION (AT 1.90) because I have the feeling this is going to be a Super Bowl that attracts a lot of attention. FIRST COACH TO CHALLENGE: ATLANTA (AT 1.90) because I think Dan Quinn will be more of a gambler than Bill Belichick. RUSHING ATTEMPTS: DION LEWIS (UNDER 8.5 AT 2.00) because I think LaGarrette Blount will carry early against the Falcons' D.

VALUE BET: ATLANTA (+2.5 AT 2.06): This is really more an outside bet, because I see the margin being three or four in the scenario I've outlined above. If you don't like that try TOTAL POINTS BY HOME TEAM UNDER 27.5 (AT 2.02). Atlanta is the home team, and if you've bet the under you'll be doubling down on the bet. AWAY TEAM TO WIN BY 1-6 POINTS (AT 4.25) seems pretty good value too.

OUTSIDE BET: BLUE GATORADE (AT 8.00) to be dumped on the winning coach. Just a hunch, even though Texas is a red state (in American terms). I also like BUSCH (at 9.00) to be the most shared commercial, the one that is about Augustus Busch emigrating to the United States and eventually meeting Mr. Anheuser over a beer. But beware, because I, and many thousands of others, have already seen it on The Facebook, so it's been shared a lot already, and that may decrease the number of shares on the day. Good luck!