Shortly after 11 a.m. on February 1, a basketball will be tossed in the air at Madison Square Garden, tipping off a matchup between two of the NBA’s most storied and—this year—most putrid franchises: Combined, the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks entered this week with a 20-70 record and without their cornerstone superstars, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, who are sidelined with injuries.
In other words, with the possible exception of Jeremy Lin’s parents, there is no conceivable reason for anyone to tune into this game. And yet, here in Las Vegas, there’s a good chance Lakers-Knicks will attract more eyeballs than any other regular-season NBA game this year. The reason: Sportsbooks all over town are offering gamblers the opportunity to tie a Lakers-Knicks bet to the Super Bowl in the form of proposition wagers—wagers such as “Which number will be greater: Lakers and Knicks combined first-quarter points or the distance of Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan’s first punt?”
That particular prop is one of hundreds offered up by Jay Kornegay and his team at the Westgate Las Vegas, whose thick Super Bowl betting packet routinely makes War and Peace look like a children’s picture book.
Of course, there’s a reason Kornegay and his colleagues around town up the prop ante each year: The betting market’s thirst for Super Bowl action is unquenchable. In fact, by the time the Patriots-Seahawks clash kicks off Sunday afternoon, most bettors—particularly the wisest of wise guys—will have more action on props than they will on which side will win the game. Some of these props (such as “Will the opening coin toss land hands or tails?”) are arbitrary. But many present solid value, especially if you’ve done your research and have a strong opinion on how the game will unfold.
Last year, my research and strong opinion—which essentially boiled down to “I don’t trust Peyton Manning in a big game against an incredibly physical defense”—helped me win six of my seven prop plays (a few of them nice “plus-money” winners).
Do I have another 6-1 effort in me? Let’s find out. Below are this year’s seven prop-bet recommendations—and, no, one of them isn’t that silly Lakers-Knicks-Jon Ryan prop. (Although I should point out that Ryan averaged 44.1 yards per punt in the regular season, while the Lakers and Knicks combine to average 45.6 points in the first quarter—and you’re getting plus-7.5 with Ryan. Hmm … maybe it’s not so silly.)
Marshawn Lynch rushing yards: over/under 82.5?
THE PLAY: Over (-110)
THE REASON: Lynch has rushed for at least 83 yards in seven of his team’s last 10 games (playoffs included), and he paces a rushing attack that was tops in the NFL (by a wide margin). Unlike last year’s Super Bowl, when Lynch rushed for just 39 yards on 15 carries, expect Seattle to lean heavily on their Beast Mode tailback against a leaky Patriots run defense.
Total Seahawks rushing yards: over/under 142.5?
THE PLAY: Over (-110)
THE REASON: And here’s what I mean by leaky: In four games against three teams (Ravens, Jets, Bengals) that finished in the top eight in rushing offense, New England allowed an average of 137.3 yards. The Patriots also got run over by the Chiefs (207 rushing yards) and Dolphins (191)—neither of whom are as physically imposing as Seattle.
Will Russell Wilson throw an interception?
THE PLAY: No (+110)
THE REASON:Wilson was a mess for much of the NFC title game against the Packers, throwing four INTs (and it should’ve been five). But prior to that, he had been picked off just once in six playoff games (152 pass attempts). I’ll take the six-game sample size over one bad day.
First quarter total points: over/under 9½?
THE PLAY: Under (+105)
THE REASON: While the Seahawks have been notoriously slow starters offensively all season, Brady and the Pats have been DOA in Super Bowls. Get this: New England hasn’t scored a single first-quarter point in the five Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era!
Total points scored by the Patriots: over/under 24.5?
THE PLAY: Under (+105)
THE REASON: The Seahawks, who held Peyton Manning and the explosive Broncos to eight points in last year’s Super Bowl, haven’t surrendered more than 24 points since Oct. 19 (12 games). New England has scored more than 24 points only one time in seven Super Bowls.
Longest completion by Tom Brady: over/under 36.5 yards?
THE PLAY: Under (-115)
THE REASON: Once one of the best deep-ball passers in the game, Brady has lost a lot off his fastball this year—and he’s simply not beating this Seahawks defense deep. Note also that in his five Big Game appearances, Brady has completed a pass longer than 27 yards just once.
Will there be a defensive or special teams touchdown?
THE PLAY: Yes (+155)
THE REASON: Playing the percentages here, just like I have each of the last two years: There has been at least one defensive or special teams touchdown in this game nine times in the last 14 years, including six of the last eight years. Full disclosure: Those two exceptions came in Super Bowls in which the Patriots participated.