Superbowl Betting

Each year since 1967, the National Football League (NFL) has crowned its championship team at a final event known as the Superbowl—the culmination of a 16-game regular season and a series of single-elimination play-off games, which include wild card teams as well as division winners. The betting opportunities for the final game itself are the most numerous and lucrative in all of American football.

The Superbowl evolved out of an intense rivalry between the long established NFL and the upstart American Football League (AFL) formed in 1960. Although they never actually met on the playing field, their teams competed fiercely for the loyalty of players, fans, sponsors and television viewers.

On January 15, 1967, the top teams of each league finally played against each other in the “First World Championship Game, AFL vs. NFL.” The NFL’s Green Bay Packers prevailed over the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in front of 61,946 fans by a score of 35-10. Millions more at home watched the event on television as it was broadcast by both CBS and NBC.

Following the game, the owner of the Chiefs, Lamar Hunt, used the phrase “Superbowl” to describe the contest. Ever since, it has been remembered as Superbowl I. Roman numerals have been used to identify subsequent Superbowls because the game is played early in the year following the regular season, so an annual designation such as Superbowl 1967 was deemed inappropriate.

The popular term “Superbowl” was officially adopted in January 1969, prior to the merger of the two leagues. Since then, the annual showdown has featured the winner of the American Football Conference versus the winner of the National Football Conference.

On February 5, 2012, the championship played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana will be Superbowl XLVI—the 46th edition of the classic contest. Teams will be vying for a silver football, the famed Vince Lombardi Trophy, which was named in 1971 in honor of the legendary coach who won the first two inter-league games.

Ante post betting on the next winner of the Superbowl begins the day after the current season’s winner is crowned. Going into the 2011 season, the Green Bay Packers were favoured early to repeat at odds ranging from 9/2 to 6/1. The New England Patriots were touted at 5/1, followed by last year’s runner-up Pittsburgh Steelers between 6/1 and 8/1.

As the day of the “Big Game” approaches, all of the various types of bets that can be made on regular season NFL games become available for Superbowl wagering. Those include betting the “money line” for a team to win outright as well as betting ATS, “against the spread” of points forecast as the margin of victory or defeat. Another popular bet is the so-called Over/Under, which requires predicting whether the combined scores of the two teams will be more or less than a specified point total.

What makes the Superbowl unique among betting opportunities, however, is the great number of “proposition bets” or “props” that are offered by bookmakers. These include wagers on a wide variety of occurrences unrelated to the final score or winner, from which side will score first and how they will score to the number of three-point field goals that will be kicked and which of the two quarterbacks will pass for more yards.

Among the more exotic props are predicting the winner of the coin toss to start the game, the total number of QB sacks over/under, and whether the final combined score will be an even or odd number. Of course, in-running or “live” betting is available, too, which opens the possibility of wagering on each play as well as scoring by quarter, penalty yards over/under, one-on-one match-ups between opposing wide receivers for yards gained, and number of tackles over/under for various defensive players.

Handicapping the Superbowl is an art unto itself. The sheer volume of betting on the Superbowl is extremely high, which can skew the odds and bookmakers are forced to move lines as a hedge against widespread support for an underdog or a favorite. Smart bettors keep a close eye on how the line changes during the two weeks prior to kick off, looking for opportunities, especially when variances appear between bookmakers.

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