New England entered the season as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. In fact, at one point, New England was the favorite to take home the silver trophy as the 5 to 2 fave.
Although New England was the favorite to win the whole enchilada, they didn't exactly pad football handicappers' bankrolls when it came to betting against the spread this season. A 13 and 3 record, which New England secured, didn't translate to ATS covers in the sportsbook. New England went 9 and 7 ATS overall. That shouldn't inspire confidence in those looking to back New England versus New York in this Super Sunday Pro Football Betting Event, but behind every team's betting record, there's a story to be told.
Against the Spread
Before writing off the Patriots, and taking the 3 points on the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, football handicappers need to examine that less than stellar 9 and 7 ATS record. The record simply isn't as uninspiring as the number suggests. Sure, going 13 and 3 straight up, but only 9 and 7 when it comes to the spread may be disappointing, but there's a glaring reason for it.
When it comes to football betting, no other team had to give up more points this past regular season than the New England Patriots. If you wanted to back the Pats, you had to lay a ton of points to do it almost each and every week. The odds makers had a serious bead on the Pats this season and it showed up in the betting lines.
Home Record ATS: 4-4
It almost goes without saying that the New England Patriots were favored in each and every one of their home games. The least amount of points that New England had to cover was in Week 2 against San Diego when the Patriots stepped onto the field as a - 6.5 point fave versus the Chargers.
New England also faced the largest spread of any NFL team this season in a home game versus the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 4. Without Peyton Manning, the odds makers assumed that Tom Brady and the Pats would waltz all over the Colts' ridiculous 26th ranked D and expand the points sucking black hole that was Indy's 30th ranked total yards offense. That didn't happen. New England didn't cover the spread in the yearly Patriots vs Indianapolis battle. Check out all four of the Patriots' non-covers during the regular season.
Versus Dallas as a -6.5 point favorite in a 20 to 16 victory
Versus the New York Giants as a -9 point favorite in a 20 to 24 loss
Versus Indianapolis as a -20.5 point favorite in a 31 to 24 victory
Versus Miami as a -9 point favorite in a 27 to 24 victory
A closer look at each one of the ATS losses reveals that the Patriots are probably a better team, at least when it comes to the 3 points that they face this Sunday versus the New York Giants, then the 9 and 7 regular season ATS record might indicate.
New England faced Dallas in Week 6, when they were still the Cowboys and not the Cowpokes. Dallas sat on a 2 and 2 straight up record and was coming off of a bye. The Pats had just come off of an emotional 31 to 21 victory over the Jets. Things were looking up in Big D and New England was trying to get it together to face an NFC team after putting a sock into Rex Ryan's giant mug.
It's difficult to come up with a reason for New England's against the spread loss to the G-Men on Nov. 6. Not only did Brady and Co. not come up with a good enough game to cover the ridiculous 9 point spread, but Eli and the G-Men beat them straight up 24 to 20. Mr. Budchen produced his worse QB rating of the season in the game, a 75.4. Football bettors should put the NYG loss into the experience column.
20.5 points to an NFL team? That's insane, ridiculous, just plain stupid/ Even though most football handicappers wouldn't lay 20.5 points in a dream world where the Colts showed up with only 8-players ala Miami Arizona's High School squad, New England had the victory ATS in that game until the 4th quarter where the Colts outscored them 21 to zip.
There's a moment for every NFL team when it comes to beating the spread in every season. For Miami, that moment occurred on Oct. 30 when they lost to the New York Giants 17 to 20 as a 9 point dog. The Fins had gone 0-5-1 ATS in their previous 6 games. The victory against the spread versus the Giants on Oct. 30 led to a 9 and 1 ATS regular season finish for Miami. Why is this important to note? Because the Patriots played the Fins on Dec. 24 at home, towards the end of Miami's awesome covering spread streak.
Away Record ATS: 5-3
New England's against the spread record on the road during the regular season can be attributed to the fact that the Patriots faced somewhat lower spreads in their away games than they did in their home games.
When it comes to the NFL, odds makers automatically assign -3 points to the home team. For instance, when the New Orleans Saints took on the horrible Colts in the Superdome on Oct. 23, they went into the game, before the odds makers set any sort of betting line against the spread, as a -3 point favorite. The line ended up at -13.5 meaning that the odds makers felt that the Saints were 10.5 points better than the Colts at a neutral site. At home, the Saints were 13.5 points better than Indy. With that in mind, let's take a look at the Patriots' three road losses against the spread this season.
Versus Buffalo as a -7 point favorite in a 31 to 34 loss
Versus Pittsburgh as a -3 point favorite in a 17 to 25 loss
Versus Washington as a -7.5 point favorite in a 34 to 27 victory
The Buffalo loss occurred in Week 3. There's no doubt that this is a legitimate loss both straight up and against the spread for the Patriots, but there are a couple of key things regarding this game that football handicappers should notice. First, although Pats' TE Rob Gronkowski had scored a touchdown in New England's two previous games, the loss to Buffalo was Gronk's coming out party. The huge tight-end (and Arizona alum, my alma mater) grabbed 7 passes for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. Since TE Aaron Hernandez, who tore it up in Week's 1 and 2, didn't have a catch versus Buffalo, it's obvious that New England was trying something new with Gronk, length downfield instead of just touchdowns, ala Hernandez, and trying something new with Giant Gronk may have caused some hiccups in the offense.
Not only that, but Buffalo's three-headed monster, that later on turned into a three-headed tortoise, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Stevie Johnson, and RB Fred Jackson, were at the top of their games versus the Pats. Fitz had thrown 7 touchdowns to only 1 pick going into the matchup. Johnson had already caught 12 passes and 2 touchdowns, and Jackson had already rushed for 229 yards and 2 TDs.
By the time the Patriots faced the Steelers on Oct. 30, Big Ben had gotten into an awesome groove. The QB had thrown 9 touchdowns to only 1 pick in his last three starts. Was there any doubt that he was going to have success against the Patriots' 31st ranked pass defense? Ben shredded New England for 365 yards and 2 touchdowns, but Ben also threw a pick in the game and went 36 out of 50 meaning that he missed on 14 passes. It shows that even though New England's D is terrible when it comes to defending against the pass, coach Bill Belichick can scheme very, well given time, and if he faces an opponent he is familiar with.
Is there a reason for the non-cover versus the hapless Washington Redskins in Week 14? Yes. I put money on this game when the line first opened at New England -7 points, thereby securing a push, instead of putting money on it when the line drifted to 7.5. This game shouldn't even be on the loss list in my opinion.
Key Stat Against the Spread - - Because the Patriots had to cover big time numbers to win in the sportsbook, and because the D was horrific for most of the season, yielding an average of 411.1 yards per game, the key stat regarding whether or not the New England Patriots will beat the spread on Sunday rests with QB Tom Brady.
The offense ran through Brady as the Patriots' averaged 318 out of their 428 total yards per game average through the air. The Patriots' ATS records during the regular season along with El Guapo's QB ratings are below. I've highlighted what I feel are the key QB ratings.
Week 1: 121.6 QB rating, Win ATS
Week 2: 135.7 QB rating, Win ATS
Week 3: 86.1 QB rating, Loss ATS
Week 4: 100.1 QB rating, Win ATS
Week 5: 100.7 QB rating, Win ATS
Week 6: 82.3 QB rating, Loss ATS
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: 101.8 QB rating, Loss ATS
Week 9: 75.4 QB rating, Loss ATS
Week 10: 118.4 QB rating, Win ATS
Week 11: 119.2 QB rating, Win ATS
Week 12: 134.6 QB rating, Win ATS
Week 13: 114.9 QB rating, Loss ATS
Week 14: 107.6 QB rating, Loss ATS
Week 15: 117.3 QB rating, Win ATS
Week 16: 85.8 QB rating, Loss ATS
Week 17: 113.7 QB rating, Win ATS
Only three times did a QB rating of 100 or more from Brady not lead to a victory against the spread. The spread in those games were: -3 on the road vs Pitt in Week 8, -20.5 vs Indianapolis at home in Week 14, and -7.5 vs Washington on the road in Week 14. I've already explained what happened in Pittsburgh, how the Patriots had the spread covered before the 4th quarter versus Indianapolis, and why the Washington game shouldn't be in the against the spread loss column.
It's obvious to this football handicapper that if Mr. Handsome, as my editor Mike calls him, is on his way to a 100 QB rating or higher on Sunday, the New England Patriots will be on their way to a cover against the spread. In contrast, based on the QB ratings above, if Tommy Boy is on his way to a QB rating of less than 100 against the G-Men in Super Bowl XLVI, then the New England Patriots will not only be on their way to a loss ATS but also to a straight up loss.
Over/Under Total Record: 11-5
An 11 and 5 over the total record makes for a strong stat, but there are caveats. Don't go blindly jumping all over…uh, the over…just because of the Patriots total record and their horrific D.
Yes, there is a chance that Eli Manning absolutely punishes the Patriots' pass defense. After all, New England's defensive backfield of Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo, won't remind anybody of Ty Law, Tyrone Poole, Rodney Harrison, and Eugene Wilson, the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXVIII championship winning defensive backfield. But this year's New England Patriots' pass defense has already controlled Eli Manning. In the Giants' Week 9 victory over the Patriots, Eli went 20 out of 30 for only 250 yards, 2 touchdowns and a pick. Baby Manning produced a 77.9 QB rating.
Mr. Budchen produced a 75.4 QB rating against the Giants' excellent defensive backfield of Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle. The G-Men actually held Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay's gunslinger, to a 78.5 QB rating on a 26 out of 46 night in the playoffs. It's shows that Webster, Ross, Phillips and Rolle might make up, arguably, the best defensive backfield in the NFL.
The over is not a "sure thing" in this Sunday's Super Bowl, and if anybody tells you that it is, then they haven't done their homework.
Final Thoughts: Over/Under Total
The total on the Super Bowl has dropped from a starting line of 55 to 53. That's actually the key stat regarding the total in the Super Bowl. Total betting is different than against the spread bettering because total betting requires the participation of both teams on a big level.
If you're betting over the total, you're counting on both defenses to take a backseat to both offenses in a game. I'm finding that hard to do in the Super Bowl considering what New England's D did to Eli earlier this season and what the Giants' D did to Tom Brady earlier this season. Also, what football bettors isn't impressed by what the G-Men's D did to Atlanta's QB Matt Ryan, Rodgers, and San Francisco's QB Alex Smith in the playoffs?
The fact that the total has dropped from 55 to 53 tells me one thing: the total is trending towards under. In order to go against this obvious trend, football handicappers must make a case for both Eli Manning and Tom Brady having extremely hot days on Sunday. That's hard to do.
Final Thoughts: Against the Spread
If you feel that the betting line is fair, and I certainly do since the Patriots are only a -3 point favorite, the team to back against the spread in this game will come down to answering the following questions:
Do you believe that Patriots' QB Tom Brady will be able to utilize WR Wes Welker and tight-ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Grownkowski? Also, who will be the 4th target? - - Gronk is walking around without a boot. That's good, but is it enough? Brady has to secure a 100+ QB rating in this game. That means he will need all three of his best pass catchers, along with a mystery fourth guy (Ochocinco? Deion Branch? Who?) suited up and ready to go because the Webster/Ross/Phillips/Rolle Quatrain has been spectacular in the playoffs.
Will Bill Belichick's game scheming counter the hot hand of Eli Manning? - - Belichick proved, against a hot Ben Roethlisberger in a game the Patriots almost won, that if he knows a QB's weaknesses, then he can find a way to protect his horrible cornerbacks and safeties. Also, Belichick gets a healthy Jerrod Mayo for the Super Bowl and Mayo didn't play the first time these two teams met meaning that Bill can put even more pressure than usual on Baby Manning. On the flip side, Eli gets Hakeem Nicks, his best wide receiver, to suit up for this game and Nicks sat out the first game between these two.
Whose running game is going to breakout? - - A key for the Giants to winning this game straight up is actually their running game. They have to keep the ball out of Tommy Boy's hands and that means getting yards on the ground. Of course, it also means that one of the keys to the Patriots' success in this game is stopping the Giants' rushing attack before putting a beat down on Manning. Now, if the Patriots can get their rushing attack going, one that averaged 110.2 per game, and Mr. Handsome is on his way to a QB rating of 100+? It's game over, as the saying goes, for the Giants. Patriots' backers can cha-ching their way to the after hours party.
The biggest piece of advice when it comes to Super Bowl XLVI is this: concentrate on a few key stats, don't force trends, pay attention to history but only to a point, and don't, please don't, bet with your heart.
Good luck with your Super Bowl XLVI wagers this Sunday!