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October 16, 2019

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By the books, Super Bowl is anyone’s game

Super Bowl 49

Mark Henle / The Arizona Republic / AP

Ads for Super Bowl 49 are displayed in downtown Phoenix on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The Super Bowl between the defending champion Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots is Feb. 1, 2015, in nearby Glendale.

Nevada sports books took a record $119.4 million in bets on last year’s Super Bowl. One reason for the big draw was the standing of the teams. The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos were the NFL’s two best that season.

The story repeats this year with Seattle and the New England Patriots riding top seeds from their respective conferences into a showdown in Glendale, Ariz. It’s so evenly matched, the betting market can’t seem to pick a favorite. At some places, for the first time, the Super Bowl spread is a pick ’em. Since it’s apparent few want to be left out of the action, here’s some information on both teams to make a more informed wager.

Think Seattle will be your team? Consider this before placing a wager:

Reasons to bet on the Seahawks.

Defense. It’s no longer hyperbole: The Seahawks historically are dominant at keeping opponents from scoring points.

They’re the second team in the past 30 years to have the NFL’s best defense in back-to-back seasons, according to Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics. Seattle has stars at every level who rose to the occasion of stunting the NFL’s best offense in the Super Bowl last year.

Why won’t the same plan work again? In addition to their aforementioned success against the pass, the Seahawks halt run games just as thoroughly. They gave up 3.4 yards per rushing attempt, the third-lowest mark in the NFL.

Reasons to bet against the Seahawks.

If there’s any truth to the idea of a team “peaking at the right time,” the Patriots are the right side. New England’s 45-7 dismantling of Indianapolis last week was arguably the best performance by a team all year and looked particularly golden juxtaposed with Seattle’s bumbling, five-turnover affair in a fortunate 28-22 overtime win against Green Bay.

The Ravens may have given the Patriots a scare two weeks ago, but the Seahawks weren’t flawless in the quarterfinals either, giving up 362 yards to the Panthers in a 31-17 victory. New England, at its apex, simply is more lethal than Seattle, as evidenced by the Patriots’ point differential of plus-197 (Seattle’s was plus-159).

Think New England will be your team? Consider this before placing a wager:

Reasons to bet on the Patriots.

The team is trustworthy. Someone could have made a decent living betting on the Patriots every game during the Bill Belichick era, as the team has been perpetually undervalued on the point spread. Belichick is 192-150 against the spread as an NFL head coach.

Offense is another strong factor. Belichick has one of his best ever this season. Take away the distant but much-documented first four games of the year, in which the Patriots toiled to a 2-2 record, and 37-year-old quarterback Tom Brady is having more than a great season — he’s having one of the best of his career. Since the rough start, Brady has completed more than 65 percent of his passes with a touchdown-to-interception ratio just shy of 4-to-1.

Reasons to bet against the Patriots.

If there’s a unit in the game that could be regarded as average-to-good instead of outstanding-to-transcendent, it’s the Patriots’ defense. It’s allowing a somewhat pedestrian 5.3 yards per play. By comparison, Seattle gives up 4.7 yards per play.

The Patriots have been particularly susceptible to giving up yards on the ground, most recently surrendering 129 yards and 5.4 yards per carry to Baltimore running back Justin Forsett in a tight 35-31 win in the AFC divisional round. That type of performance usually is a death sentence against Seattle, which has quarterback Russell Wilson leading the NFL at 7.2 yards per carry and Marshawn Lynch in the top 10 among running backs, at 4.7 yards per carry.

Key players

Richard Sherman

A possible, although likely minor, reason so much money came in on the Patriots to push the betting line from Seattle minus-2.5 to pick ’em is concern about Sherman’s condition. The cornerback sprained his elbow in the NFC Championship Game. Although he says he will play in the Super Bowl, his status initially was uncertain. A Seattle backer could make a strong case that Sherman is the most important defensive player in the NFL according to the spread. Seattle allows a minuscule 5.8 yards per pass attempt. Much of its success stems from Sherman shutting down one side of the field.

Rob Gronkowski

During the past two seasons, the Patriots have gone 13-9 against the spread in games where the often-injured tight end has been healthy enough to play at least half of the offensive snaps. The team is 6-8 against the number without him. A compelling case could be made that Gronkowski is the most valuable nonquarterback in the NFL on the betting line. His worth could be even more meaningful in Super Bowl 49. One of the Seahawks’ few areas of weakness is defending the tight end, ranking 18th in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ advanced statistics.

Super Bowl history


Seattle recorded the largest cover in Super Bowl history last year, beating the plus-2.5 point spread by 37.5 points in a 43-8 victory against Denver. Other than that, the franchise doesn’t have much championship experience. The Seahawks lost 21-10 to the Steelers as 4-point underdogs in 2006, which took them off the list of six teams that never had played in the Super Bowl.


New England, as an organization, has developed a reputation for producing at the biggest moments, for being “clutch.” But people who have bet on the Patriots in the big game may argue otherwise. The Patriots are 1-5-1 against the spread in seven Super Bowl appearances. Their past five berths, all under coach Bill Belichick, are the only ones remotely relevant to this year’s game. Belichick’s Pats managed an outright upset as a 14-point underdog against the St. Louis Rams during their first berth in 2002. But they followed by beating the Panthers and Eagles by a field goal when favored by a touchdown in 2004 and 2005, before losing straight-up as favorites to the Giants in 2008 and 2012.

New England Patriots’ record against the spread 10-8; Seattle Seahawks’ record against the spread 10-7-1

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