By the time the Seahawks and Broncos kick off Super Bowl XLVIII at about 3:20 p.m. February 2, it’s expected that sportsbooks and bettors up and down the Silver State will have more than $100 million in wagers hanging in the balance. It would be the first Super Bowl to ever crack the nine-figure barrier, and if it happens, a big chunk of the props will go to the props—the proposition wagers, that is.
Each year, the state’s bookies come up with more and more unique ways to bet on America’s biggest sporting event, and these “prop” bets, which number in the hundreds at some casinos, continue to drive gamblers to the betting window en masse. A check of the record book reveals that the Super Bowl handle—the amount of money bet on the big game in sportsbooks statewide—has increased 10 times in the last 12 years, topping out last year at $98.9 million.
You name the prop—Will the pregame coin toss land heads or tails? Will Peyton Manning throw an interception? Will the jersey number of the player to score the game’s final touchdown be odd or even?—and the book will take your action. Alas, the goal for those of us on this side of the counter is to ensure that the book doesn’t keep our action.
Toward that end, here are my seven best prop bets for Super Bowl XLVIII:
The Prop: Seahawks-Broncos Over/Under 23½ points, first half.
The Play: Under (-110).
The Reason: With the No. 1-ranked offense (Denver) facing the No. 1-ranked defense (Seattle)—and, on the flip side, a run-first offense (Seattle) facing a defense that’s stout against the run (Denver)—this has all the makings of a championship boxing match that starts with a classic “feeling-out” process. This becomes even more likely if, as anticipated, the weather is cold and windy. Note, too, that 10 of the last 15 Super Bowls have seen the first half end with 23 points or less.
The Prop: Seahawks -3½ vs. Broncos.
The Play: Seahawks (+190).
The Reason: As I wrote in this week’s Going for Broke column, I like Seattle, which is a 2½-point underdog, to win this game outright. However, a straight money-line play on the Seahawks yields only about a plus-115 return. A better investment is to bet Seattle to win by more than a field goal. Here’s why: Since the start of last season, 23 of the Seahawks’ 27 victories (including playoffs) were by more than three points, while five of Denver’s seven losses (including playoffs) during the same two-year span were by more than three points.
The Prop: Will either team score three straight times?
The Play: No (+155).
The Reason: I expect this to be a relatively low-scoring game, with both teams employing a ball-control, grind-the-clock strategy—a strategy that reduces the number of possessions. And while the “yes” has cashed with this prop 25 times in the last 32 Super Bowls, it’s been an even 5-5 split over the past decade. Solid plus-money value here.
The Prop: Number of Russell Wilson pass attempts: Over or Under 27½?
The Play: Under (-110).
The Reason: Seattle’s second-year quarterback averaged exactly 25 pass attempts per game in the regular season and playoffs, and he hasn’t exceeded 27 attempts in six straight games; in fact, he’s only done so once in the last 11 games dating to October. Also, don’t forget that two of Wilson’s best attributes are his brains and his mobility, meaning if he doesn’t find an open receiver, he’s apt to take off running rather than risk throwing the ball into traffic. Which brings me to …
The Prop: Will Russell Wilson throw an interception?
The Play: No (+105).
The Reason: I just don’t see the Broncos’ shaky secondary—which had 17 interceptions in the regular season but none in these playoffs—tricking someone as bright as Wilson (just one INT in four career playoff games) into making a big mistake.
The Prop: Will there be a defensive or special-teams touchdown?
The Play: Yes (+160).
The Reason: Unfortunately, in recent years, the value has been sucked out of this prop, which used to pay in the plus-250 range. Here’s why: There has been at least one defensive or special-teams touchdown in eight of the last 13 Super Bowls. In fact, over the last seven years, the “yes” has cashed five times. The two exceptions: Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, and the Giants played the Patriots in both games.
The Prop: Number of Peyton Manning completions: Over or Under 26½?
The Play: Over (-110).
The Reason: As already noted, both offenses figure to try to play keep-away with the football as much as possible. And the way Manning will do it—especially if the wind is howling—is with a short, dink-and-dunk passing game that will result in plenty of completions, if not a ton of yardage. Manning has averaged 28.2 completions this season, connecting on at least 27 passes in 12 of 18 regular-season and playoff contests. Only three times did he have fewer than 24 completions.