A look at fourth-down decision making in 2014 highlights Sean Payton, Marc Trestman, and... wait, this can't be right... Jim Caldwell? Plus: Chip Kelly may be less aggressive than you think he is.
30 Jan 2008
by Bill Barnwell
If there's a yearly column that defines Scramble and the absurdity therein, it's our yearly trek through the myriad Super Bowl prop bets. For those of you unfamilar with our prop bet columns, you can find last year's column here.
If you don't know how a prop bet works or what it is, fear not, as original Scrambler Al Bogdan has written an explanation that's eminently suitable for stealing each year.
Over 4.5 -105
Under 4.5 +130
Here, you would be betting on how many pro wrestling references appear in this column. You would have to choose either more than 4.5 or less than 4.5. (I don't know what 0.5 of a pro wrestling reference would be. Maybe a Hornswaggle mention?) If you were to bet that there would be more than 4.5 pro wrestling mentions, you would have to wager a hypothetical $105 to win $205: your $105 that you wagered plus $100 more (hence the "-105"). If you wanted to take the under, you would wager a hypothetical $100 to win $230: your $100 back plus $130 (hence the "+130"). Since we're already at 0.5 pro wrestling references in this column, the under is less likely to win, therefore you'd get more money if it actually does come through.
The other bets are those with many possible options, like wagering on who will score the first touchdown in the game. The odds there will be something like "Wes Welker +300" meaning that if you wager a hypothetical $100 on Welker and he scores the first touchdown, you'd win $400: Your original $100 back, plus $300 more. For those bets, "field" means any player or result not listed. We'll explain anything else that needs an explanation as we go along.
For the purposes of determining a winner of this column, we're laying 100 simoleans down on any of these sort of "pick one from a crowd" bets, and for over/unders, we're wagering 100 on any overs where we're receiving positive odds (e.g. anything above +101) and wagering whatever it takes to win 100 on any overs where we're receiving negative odds (e.g. anything below -101).
After I beat Ian Dembsky last year (albeit through losing several thousand dollars, but still faring better than Ian, who lost slightly more than several thousand dollars), Mr. Dembsky was so shamed that he went and had a child to have a built-in excuse for not facing me this year. Or, maybe, I don't want to get beat by Ian again. Drafted in his stead is he of the famed Career Forecast, Mr. David Lewin. As me and David are the two youngest FO writers, a victory here would seal my head of the kiddie table status at the yearly Football Outsiders picnic.
Of course, you should also note that any advice below is, as always with Scramble, for entertainment purposes only. Thanks, [comment deleted for breaking rule No. 1.].
Over 1:42 -115
Under 1:42 -115
Bill: Getting started off with an old favorite. Last year, Ian sang the National Anthem himself to try and gauge how long it would take. He was wrong. Jordin Sparks will be cherishing her moment in the sun. That means Over.
Dave: I looked up the classic Dr. Z column about timing the anthem. He had Beyonce at more than two minutes. I don't think Sparks will go that long, but she's going to drag it out past 1:42; Over.
Bill: This manages to be both frivolous and absurd. Assuming he starts the toss heads up, Mike Carey will likely be excited and flip the coin with great furor. I predict that will cause it to flip over enough times to leave it Tails up.
Dave: Too bad you can't bet on nobody cares. Heads.
Bill: The Patriots will win the coin toss because of their veteran presence. But then again, the Giants could win it because of their momentum. It's such a hard one. I'm sticking Patriots, but if it ends up Giants, you can't say I didn't say so. Honest.
Dave: The Giants will win it because of their grit.
Tom Brady -115
Eli Manning -115
Bill: What is stopping Troy Aikman, exactly, from having one of his good friends bet $600 on this and picking up some quick cash in the process? This amazes me. I am going to go with Tom Brady because, really, who can keep Tom Brady out of their mouth?
Dave: This does seem like an awfully easy one for Aikman to rig. I guess we have to trust his all-American integrity. I'm taking Brady.
Over 5.5 -125
Under 5.5 -115
Bill: On the other hand, I don't think Joe Buck is competent enough to rig this over the course of a whole game. I'm going to take the Over here, with the idea that a big first-series run of three or four will be enough to push us well in the right direction.
Dave: I'm taking the Over and it's not going to be close.
Doesn't thank anyone 6/1
Bill: If only the MVP was B.J. Penn. I'm not sure anyone on these two teams likes God enough to pick him, but then again, my choice for MVP hasn't really had that sort of spotlight so far. I'm going to go with teammates here.
Dave: Tom Brady will be thanking his teammates. I am a little curious though about how they define thanking. It seems like that could be a bit ambiguous.
Free Fallin' 2/3
Don't Do Me Like That 5/1
Learning to Fly 12/1
Great Wide Open 9/1
Last Dance with Mary Jane 4/1
Runnin' Down A Dream 7/5
Bill: "Runnin' Down A Dream" has the obvious tie-in to football here, but I think he starts with that, while "Last Dance with Mary Jane" just seems like too obvious a weed reference to get into the halftime show. Then again, Prince and his giant phallic guitar did make it into last year's show, leading multiple Football Outsiders to literally roll on the floor and laugh, so I guess anything is fair game. I'm going "Free Fallin'" here and, if there is any justice, there'll be a montage of all the playoff teams that lost in the background.
Dave: Is there any chance it's not "Free Fallin'"?
Bill: On to the real business here. I think the first team to get the ball will score, and there's an entirely equal proposition that either team will get the ball first, so I'll take the Giants.
Dave: The first score of the game is pretty random so I'm gonna take the odds and go with the Giants.
Bill: This one's a little harder. You have to bet an event like this with a plan and follow that plan unless the odds are particularly strong one way or another, or the events within that plan (like team to score first) could have little to do with that outcome. The likeliest proposition, to me, is a big Patriots victory. In that case, they'll likely be running the ball at the end against a good rush defense, but then again, the Patriots weren't particularly concerned about running up the score early in the season. This is another relatively random event, so I'll take Giants again.
Dave: I think the Patriots will run out the clock when they get it after a late Giants score, so Giants.
Field Goal/Safety +155
Bill: Ooh. If I'm going with Giants to score first, do I really want to bet on Lawrence Tynes? No. Touchdown.
Dave: Lawrence Tynes isn't that bad. Field Goal/Safety.
Field Goal/Safety +145
Bill: See previous bet. Touchdown.
Dave: See previous bet. Field Goal/Safety.
1st Quarter 3/1
2nd Quarter 33/20
3rd Quarter 53/20
4th Quarter 11/5
Bill: In the Week 17 game, the second quarter was the highest-scoring, but I like the odds on the third quarter here.
Dave: Vegas knows what it's doing, I'm taking the second quarter.
Over 47.5 +115
Under 47.5 -115
Bill: I'm predicting a kickoff return for a touchdown, so I'll go with Over here.
Dave: There's too many big play weapons in this game to not take the Over.
Bill: Speaking of, I think one of the bigger mismatches in the game is the Giants kickoff coverage team versus Ellis Hobbs and the Patriots kickoff return corps. That will manifest itself in a Hobbs kickoff return for a touchdown at some point at the game, which, considering the odds, makes the Patriots an obvious pick for me here.
Dave: Those are some nice odds for the Patriots.
Bill: The odds are long here, but I'm still going with the Giants. Sixteen games show more than three.
Dave: It is a pretty steep price, but obviously you have to take the Giants.
No Turnovers 7/1
Bill: With the odds twice as long for a fumble as they are for an interception, and considering the pressure, the likelihood of someone getting stripped is too high to not go with the odds, even in what could likely be a pass-happy game. I'll go with fumble.
Dave: I agree. Vrabel or one of the Giants edge rushers is going to get a strip sack early in this game. Fumble.
Bill: I'll go one further: Giants, Michael Strahan, on a bullrush knocking down Nick Kaczur in the process.
Dave: The Patriots protect the quarterback far better than the Giants. Brady always gets the ball away in the nick of time.
Bill: I refuse to bet on Lawrence Tynes. Stephen Gostkowski also has a much stronger leg than the Giants kicker, so it's easy to go Patriots here.
Dave: Patriots, no question.
Over 2.5 +140
Under 2.5 -180
Bill: The possibility of Eli Manning totally imploding, combined with 40 Tom Brady pass attempts, makes three interceptions an entirely likely possibility. I go Over.
Dave: Over. Don't believe what everyone on ESPN says. Eli Manning is not very good.
Bill: I've already stated that I think a kickoff return for a touchdown is in the cards, so I have to say Yes.
Dave: Seems unlikely, No.
Giants win first half and game 5/1
Giants win first half and tie after fourth 28/1
Giants win first half and Patriots win game 5/1
Tie after first half and Giants win game 22/1
Tie after first half and tie after fourth 60/1
Tie after first half and Patriots win game 12/1
Patriots win first half and Giants win game 9/1
Patriots win first half and tie 25/1
Patriots win first half and Patriots win game 2/9
Bill: Well, the odds are so tilted in the Patriots-all-the-way favor that I feel like I should at least place a bet in the opposite direction. Let's say Tie after first half and Patriots win game.
Dave: I like where your head's at. Tie after first half and Patriots win game.
-400 Patriots -3.5 Giants
-220 Patriots -7.5 Giants
+120 Patriots -14.5 Giants
+200 Patriots -17.5 Giants
+275 Patriots -21.5 Giants
+400 Patriots -28.5 Giants
Bill: Going back to my plan of betting on a Patriots blowout, I feel pretty uncomfortable with betting the biggest lines, but I think Patriots -17.5 is about right. Three scores? That's not unreasonable.
Dave: I feel a little better about Patriots -14.5.
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Over 34.5 -120
Under 34.5 -110
Bill: If the Giants are behind, Eli will need to throw. That's an Over. He threw 32 times in the first game, but the Giants led for a good portion of it.
Dave: The Patriots are going to make Eli beat them. He won't. Over.
Over 225.5 -110
Under 225.5 -120
Bill: I could surely see Manning put up 270+ yards, even in defeat. Again, the Over.
Dave: I agree, 225.5 yards is nothing. Over.
Over 2.5 -105
Under 2.5 -125
Bill: This is a tough one. I'm assuming it doesn't count sack yardage as negative. Manning's got 75 yards in 19 games this year, and that's an average above 2.5 per game, so I'll take the Over.
Dave: 2.5 is a very small number. He's got to go Over that.
Bill: Eli Manning has thrown an interception in 13 of the 19 games he's played this year, and in 25 of the 38 games he's played the last two years. It just so happens that, in the last three games, he's thrown none. Again, I side with the larger sample here (as well as his interception against the Patriots and the likelihood he'll be throwing from behind) and say Yes.
Dave: Eli is a very mediocre, high-risk/high-reward quarterback. Yes, he's going to throw a pick.
Over 65.5 -115
Under 65.5 +115
Bill: Jacobs had 67 yards in Week 17, but I wonder how many chances he'll get to run if the team is behind. He does, on the other hand, have the advantage of being a better pass blocker than Ahmad Bradshaw, and he's likely to appear in the backfield as a result. I'm on the fence about this one, but I'll go Over.
Dave: For whatever reason I have always loved Brandon Jacobs. Over.
Over 4.5 -135
Under 4.5 +105
Bill: Burress is probably going to be the healthiest he's been all year, he looked great all week, and he was able to make plays out of nothing against the Patriots in Week 17 just by outleaping their smaller receivers. I'll take the Over.
Dave: Burress is the Giants best offensive player and a true difference maker. He is going Over 4.5 catches.
Over 75.5 -115
Under 75.5 -115
Bill: I figure Burress should average more than 15 yards a catch. Therefore, if I pick the over for receptions, I've got to pick the Over for receiving yards, too.
Dave: This is a nice chance for me to hedge my bets a little, but if I took Eli Manning Over 225.5 then I pretty much have to do the same here.
Over 23.5 -115
Under 23.5 -115
Bill: Burress going downfield seems a very likely option, and a catch of 24 or more yards seems entirely plausible. Over.
Dave: I hate to keep agreeing, but Over. Eli Manning is a good downfield passer and Burress is his favorite target.
Over 3 +125
Under 3 -155
Bill: Those would be the Patriots that rank 11th against No. 3-and-worse wideouts, right? I'll take the Under.
Dave: Eli's going to have to throw it to someone on all those second-half pass attempts. Over.
Over 1.5 -180
Under 1.5 +150
Bill: On the other hand, the Patriots are 23rd against tight ends, and Boss had four catches in Week 17. The sure-handed tight end should easily get two catches in the game. Over.
Dave: I love to watch Boss. He's big and surprisingly fluid. I expect him to go Over.
Bill: Six touchbacks in 86 attempts for Feagles, and that's up from three in each of the two previous seasons. That's a line I want to take advantage of. No, that clutch punter will not kick the ball into the end zone. No sir.
Dave: Feagles is a crafty veteran who doesn't have the strongest leg. That's a recipe for No touchbacks.
Over 37.5 -110
Under 37.5 -120
Bill: Brady's averaged 35.5 attempts per game this year. While there is the slim possibility that his ankle is something to worry about, and it's likely that the Patriots win big, I just think the nice weather and the strengths of the Giants defense make 40-plus attempts a very likely possibility. Over.
Dave: Maroney has been running too well for the Patriots to get pass-happy. Under.
Over 300.5 -105
Under 300.5 -125
Bill: I think 301 yards is a low target for Brady. Over.
Dave: Tom Brady will be very efficient. Over.
Over 47.5 -115
Under 47.5 -115
Bill: This one would have been a 50/50 winner/loser over the regular season. Of course, Randy Moss famously got open for those back-to-back bombs in Week 17, and the Giants safeties don't exactly take great angles at the sideline. I'll go with the Over.
Dave: This feels like an Under and I don't know why.
Bill: That seems like an eminently reasonable possibility. Yes, Tom Brady will throw one interception.
Dave: I'd be pretty surprised if he didn't. Yes.
Over 20.5 -110
Under 20.5 -120
Bill: I don't know about this one. Even if the Patriots run the ball a lot with a big lead, Maroney's not going to see the field as often as he has the last couple of weeks for a couple reasons. I think you'll see more Kevin Faulk because of the rushing capabilities of the Giants front four, and with much better weather in Arizona than there's been in Foxborough, there's a little less motivation to run the ball when you can just air it out. I'll go with Under here.
Dave: He'll go Over on his last, crucial, clock-killing, first-down carry.
Over 88.5 EVEN
Under 88.5 -130
Bill: In that same vein, I see the Giants keeping Maroney relatively quiet. That'd be another vote for the Under.
Dave: I'll take the odds and the Over.
Over 1 +155
Under 1 -190
Bill: Weird Maroney facts: He had four catches in the regular season. He had two two-catch games. He had a one-catch and two-catch game in the playoffs. He's also now had eleven games this season with no catches. I'll take the Under.
Dave: For whatever reason Maroney does not catch passes. Under.
Over 3 -105
Under 3 -125
Bill: I really, really like the Over here. Brady will audible to a running play at least once or twice with Faulk in the backfield, and he'll get the ball a few times as the game winds down.
Dave: Faulk will get his touches in the passing game, but I don't see him getting many carries so I'm going Under.
Over 5.5 -120
Under 5.5 -110
Bill: Moss has been disturbingly quiet this playoffs, but he's going to be facing an inferior cornerback this week, whoever lines up against him. I'm totally tossed up about this one, but I also am going to bet heavily on a Moss big game in the following two bets, so I might as well go all the way and say Over.
Dave: Randy Moss doesn't like the cold, but it's not very cold in Arizona. Over.
Over 93.5 -110
Under 93.5 -120
Bill: Even if he only gets five catches, the likelihood that they won't involve serious downfield yardage is slim. One 40-yard catch and one 30-yard catch would make Over 94 yards a virtual lock.
Dave: Try as they might, the Giants are not going to be able to cover Randy Moss. He's going Over 100 yards in this one.
Bill: These are pretty good odds for a guy who had two touchdowns against the Giants in Week 17 and had eight games with two or more touchdowns during the year. I'll say Yes, he does.
Dave: I'll stick with my big game for Moss theme and say Over.
Over 7.5 +125
Under 7.5 -155
Bill: Welker absolutely terrorized the Giants in Week 17, and for a team with linebackers that are awful in coverage, Welker's the perfect guy to exploit them. I think he's the most likely non-Brady player to be game MVP on sheer numbers, and Over 7.5 is one of the bets I feel strongest about on the entire page.
Dave: I feel pretty good about the Over too. Welker impossible to cover in the slot.
Over 20.5 -115
Under 20.5 -115
Bill: On the other hand, I don't really feel particularly confident Welker's going to break one. I'll say Under.
Dave: He's not really a breakaway threat. He'll stay Under 20.
Over 2.5 -115
Under 2.5 -115
Bill: The Giants struggle against tight ends, too, and while Watson's responsibilities were primarily to block with Kyle Brady inactive in Week 17, he'll have more of a chance to go out for pass patterns in the Super Bowl. I'll take the Over.
Dave: Watson is not a very big part of the offense. He'll catch one here and there, but I think that'll be it. Under.
Bill: Too many weapons. He's not needed. Nah.
Dave: Yes. Bill Belichick has a strange sense of humor.
Eli Manning +65.5 +105
Tom Brady -65.5 -135
Bill: First thoughts that popped up when I cleared my mind and thought "Passing yards?" were 272 for Manning and 346 for Brady. That would mean that I'm taking Brady.
Dave: Manning, but barely and only because of garbage time.
Brandon Jacobs +22.5 -140
Laurence Maroney -22.5 +110
Bill: Again, I'm not sanguine on a big game for Maroney, so I like Jacobs here.
Dave: Maroney's going to get a lot more chances.
Ahmad Bradshaw -28.5 -115
Kevin Faulk +28.5 -115
Bill: I just don't see Bradshaw having a big game in the Super Bowl. If the Giants are losing, he's not going to be in there as a runner since he's a poor pass blocker. He might see some yardage on swing passes when Manning has to check down, but Faulk's just got a much more likely chance of being involved than Bradshaw.
Dave: It's hard to turn down Faulk getting 28.5 yards.
Plaxico Burress +20.5 -130
Randy Moss -20.5 EVEN
Bill: I think their yardage in this game has a good chance of being relatively similar. So, then, I have to go with Burress.
Dave: I'm with you on this one. Both over 100, Burress close behind Moss.
Plaxico Burress +3.5 -115
Wes Welker -3.5 -115
Bill: This is a tougher one since I'm really unsure about what Welker will do for yardage. I feel extremely confident he'll have ten or more catches, but that could mean 85 yards, or it could mean 185. Since I'm so strongly behind him, I'll go Welker here.
Dave: Burress will have more yards. Welker's going to catch a lot of checkdowns.
Eli Manning 30/1
Brandon Jacobs 6/1
Ahmad Bradshaw 15/1
Plaxico Burress 15/2
Amani Toomer 10/1
Kevin Boss 20/1
Steve Smith 12/1
David Tyree 40/1
Madison Hedgecock 40/1
Tom Brady 20/1
Laurence Maroney 11/2
Kevin Faulk 13/1
Heath Evans 20/1
Randy Moss 7/2
Wes Welker 5/1
Donte' Stallworth 15/1
Jabar Gaffney 12/1
Benjamin Watson 9/1
No TD Scored 150/1
Bill: I bet on the Giants to score first before, right? Well, that means I have to pick a Giant, so I might as well go with their power back. Jacobs to score the first touchdown.
Dave: Heath Evans looks pretty good at 20-1.
Aaron Ross 9/1
Antonio Pierce 15/1
Corey Webster 15/1
Gibril Wilson 5/1
James Butler 8/1
Kawika Mitchell 5/1
Sam Madison 9/1
Adalius Thomas 10/1
Asante Samuel 9/1
Ellis Hobbs 15/1
James Sanders 15/1
Junior Seau 8/1
Randall Gay 6/1
Rodney Harrison 8/1
No Interception in Game 6/1
Bill: I think the Giants' game plan will involve going at Ellis Hobbs, who's primed for a big game in my little world. All it takes is one putrid throw from Manning to win this bet.
Dave: Asante Samuel is a ball hawk.
Chris Snee 7/1
David Diehl 7/1
Grey Ruegamer 8/1
Kareem McKenzie 7/1
Shaun O'Hara 5/1
Dan Koppen 7/1
Logan Mankins 7/1
Matt Light 7/1
Nick Kaczur 8/1
Rich Seubert 7/1
Stephen Neal 8/1
Bill: I love this one. I'll eliminate the Ruegamer/O'Hara/Seubert combination, since injury might determine who is or isn't playing as the game goes along. I don't think Snee will hold, and Koppen and Mankins are out for me, too, and I don't see the field needing to come into play. That narrows it down to Diehl, McKenzie, Light, Kaczur, and Neal. Light will have the best pass rusher going at him, but he's also the best lineman in the group. Kaczur's the weakest, and up against Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck, it's not hard to concoct a scenario where he desperately holds one of them back to keep him off Brady. I'll go with Kaczur for the hold.
Dave: David Diehl's due for a mistake.
(Aaron's note: Given that seven of the 12 playoff teams were not flagged for a single offensive hold this postseason, where is the option for "none?")
Ahmad Bradshaw 15/1
Amani Toomer 15/1
Antonio Pierce 45/1
Brandon Jacobs 10/1
Corey Webster 15/1
Eli Manning 7/2
Gibril Wilson 40/1
Lawrence Tynes 20/1
Michael Strahan 30/1
Osi Umenyiora 30/1
Plaxico Burress 8/1
Sam Madison 45/1
Steve Smith 33/1
Adalius Thomas 45/1
Asante Samuel 15/1
Benjamin Watson 30/1
Donte' Stallworth 20/1
Jabar Gaffney 20/1
Junior Seau 25/1
Kevin Faulk 12/1
Laurence Maroney 5/1
Randy Moss 4/1
Rodney Harrison 18/1
Stephen Gostkowski 25/1
Tedy Bruschi 25/1
Tom Brady 1/2
Wes Welker 5/1
Bill: Well, on one hand, the desire to confirm Brady's legacy with as many Super Bowl MVPs as possible is pretty high amongst the media. That being said, there are some strange odds here. Kevin Faulk at 12/1? Steve Smith at 33/1? Corey Webster at 15/1? Would anyone take any of those bets? I'm going to take Welker here.
Dave: The media loves Brady almost as much as they love Favre. He's a lock. Remember, they gave Brady the award when Ty Law deserved it in SB XXXVI.
Eli Manning, Super Bowl XLII +5.5 EVEN
Peyton Manning, Super Bowl XLI (247 yards)-5.5 -140
Bill: I love this bet. I'll go with Eli, throwing from behind.
Dave: This will be the one thing Eli has on Peyton.
Tom Brady, Super Bowl XLII +50.5 -120
Tom Brady, Super Bowl XXXVIII (354 yards) -50.5 -120
Bill: You want to give the greatest offense in NFL history a 50.5-yard head start? I'll take that, and Sunday's Brady.
Dave: I couldn't agree more. XLII.
Jacobs/Bradshaw, Super Bowl XLII +30.5 -125
Anderson/Meggett, Super Bowl XXV (150 yards) -30.5 -115
Bill: Even if the Giants try and play ball control, the Patriots rush defense is too good to give up 150 yards here. I'll take the vaunted Tecmo Bowl combination of Ottis Anderson and Dave Meggett.
Dave: Yeah, I don't see the Giants getting 120 yards on the ground. Anderson/Meggett.
47 comments, Last at 05 Feb 2008, 2:40am by Sid