Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011 | 8:25 p.m.
Super Bowl Betting Totals
If recent history counts for anything, sports bettors may want to make a play on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the next two weeks.
Most sports books have installed the Green Bay Packers as 2.5-point favorites against the Steelers in this year’s Super Bowl, which is annually the biggest single-day sports betting event in Las Vegas. Underdogs have covered in three straight Super Bowls and won two of the three outright.
“The Steelers have been there before and I don’t think the moment will overtake them,” said Mike Colbert, Cantor Gaming race and sports director. “I don’t know if anyone plays better than (quarterback Ben) Roethlisberger in these situations.”
“That being said, I think this matchup favors Green Bay. Those receivers are going to spread Pittsburgh out and that’s not how they like to play defense.”
That’s one of plenty of compelling cases that can be presented in favor of the Packers, who have transformed into a favorite of many bettors in the last month. Green Bay’s 21-14 victory against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday marked its third straight road victory this postseason.
Much to the chagrin of some sports books, Green Bay covered as a 3.5-point favorite and became the first NFC team to advance to the Super Bowl as a No. 6 seed.
“When the Green Bay side came in, you knew you were going to be playing defense the rest of the day,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of Lucky’s sports books. “We didn’t get wiped out, but it was a losing day. There were just so many tickets on the Packers.”
The books fared better in the late game. Pittsburgh held on to beat the New York Jets 24-19, covering the spread as 4-point favorites and cashing a number of straight plays and parlays for bettors.
But Colbert and Vaccaro also reported a large number of moneyline plays on the Jets, which meant they posted a profit on the game.
“I think people look and think it was a terrible day for the books, but it wasn’t,” Colbert said. “All you had to do was move your number and you could have gotten both sides on both games. It ended up being a good day for us.”
Nevada sports books have posted a profit on the Super Bowl in nine of the last 10 years.
Last year, when the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 as 5-point underdogs, sports books made $6.8 million. The betting handle was $82.7 million and should increase this year with two of professional football’s most recognized franchises facing off.
“Our Super Bowl handle has been in neutral the last two years but with the way the playoffs have played out and printing more tickets than we expected, I believe we’ll get a reprieve,” Vaccaro said. “With these two teams playing, I think we will top the last two years' handle. A lot of the storylines from these two will help.”
Most sports books have Super Bowl XLV’s over/under at 46 points. Like underdogs, ‘under’ has been the way to go recently in the NFL’s championship game. Five of the last six Super Bowls have gone under the total.
‘Over’ bets have dominated this year’s postseason, though. In the past two weekends, five of the six playoff games have gone over with the exception being Sunday’s NFC Championship.
“We have the total at 45,” Colbert said. “I see the 46 everywhere else and I think that’s a little high. I think the Steelers and Packers defenses are as good as any.”
Some spots, including Lucky’s, opened Green Bay as only a 1-point favorite. Early money quickly pushed the spread to 2 or 2.5, where it currently rests. Cantor has Green Bay at -3 for a +105 (risking $1 to win $1.05) price.
This is the first Super Bowl since 1982 — when the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 as a 1-point favorite — to open at less than a field goal.
“You never know what’s going to happen in the Super Bowl,” Vaccaro said. “I’ve seen things in the last 35 years that I never expected. You see some props take much more money than you thought and all kinds of things you don’t normally see.”