In this week's Varsity Numbers, Bill Connelly takes a page out of baseball's playbook and attempts to isolate power from efficiency.
01 Feb 2012
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: It is time for perhaps the greatest tradition associated with Scramble for the Ball: the Super Bowl prop bets column. While you can now find a multitude of sites on the internet devoted to breaking down any and every prop for degenerate gamblers a casino can throw out, few of them are in their ninth year of doing so. Mike, why don't you tell people what we're doing here anyway?
It's that time of year again, the time of year when your Scramble writers
run out of ideas amuse one and all with Super Bowl odds that people are actually betting on. I'll spare you the lecture about how this demonstrates the evils of gambling (ha ha, see what I did there?) and go straight into Scrambler Emeritus Al Bogdan's perennially-stolen explanation, adapted for the tenor of our times:
Most of these bets are whether a proposition is over or under the "line," usually total. For example:
Number of brain cells this week's featured commercial will kill (9.5)
Here, you would be betting on how many brain cells this week's installment of horror will destroy (and it isn't nearly as bad as last year's or one from the year before). You would have to choose either more or less than 9.5. Since football stats are generally whole numbers, most propositions won't have "push" as a viable option. If you were to bet that more than 9.5 of your little dudes would croak, 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 I imagine your Scramble writers have almost certainly killed a number of your brain cells purely through fright at this point, 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 "Enrico Palazzo +500," meaning that if you wager a hypothetical $100 on him and he scores the first touchdown, you'd win $600. The line would probably be even higher, however, given that he's dead, and never played professional football in the first place.
For the purposes of determining a winner of this column, we're laying down 100 quatlus down on any of these "pick 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).
Tom: Thank you, Mike (and Al, o near-certain champ of the Best of the Rest contest this year). Unfortunately, I have bad news. Thanks to the Chicago area not getting 20" of snow like it did last year at this time, this column is less than 14,000 words long in draft form.
Tom: We'll just have to cram as much us-ness in fewer words then.
Mike: Is that even possible? Also, considering this is a 26-page column with a few dozen individual bets, I will note that complaining about consistency is, without a doubt, insane.
-Tom Brady 13/10
-Eli Manning 5/2
-Rob Gronkowski 8/1
-Victor Cruz 12/1
-Hakeem Nicks 14/1
-Wes Welker 15/1
-Aaron Hernandez 15/1
-Ahmad Bradshaw 22/1
-BenJarvus Green-Ellis 22/1
-Jason Pierre-Paul 30/1
-Deion Branch 35/1
-Brandon Jacobs 35/1
-Mario Manningham 35/1
-Danny Woodhead 50/1
-Antrel Rolle 75/1
-Justin Tuck 75/1
-Jerod Mayo 100/1
-Kyle Arrington 100/1
-Devin McCourty 100/1
-Osi Umenyiora 100/1
-Vince Wilfork 100/1
-Jake Ballard 100/1
-Chad Ochocinco 100/1
-Lawrence Tynes 100/1
-Stephen Gostkowski 100/1
Tom: First up, the most valuable player. As I see it, we have two choices. First, assume a quarterback wins MVP, compare Brady and Manning's odds, and pick a winner. Second, pretend like a player at another position might win the Super Bowl MVP.
Mike: Brady and Manning both have the respect of the voters, unlike, say, Ben Roethlisberger, so pretend is the correct word.
Tom: Four of the past five MVPs have been quarterbacks, and at least for both of the Manning MVPs, they weren't obviously the best player in the game and won it anyway. Both Brady and Manning have won MVPs before, so who do you like better, Brady at 13/10 or Eli at 5/2?
Mike: Eli Manning, just because I like the Giants to win.
Tom: I wouldn't go that far, but for a relatively competitive line, that's a big disparity in odds. I like Eli Manning as well.
-Rob Gronkowski (NE) TE 11/2
-Aaron Hernandez (NE) TE 15/2
-Victor Cruz (NYG) WR 15/2
-BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE) RB 15/2
-Wes Welker (NE) WR 15/2
-Hakeem Nicks (NYG) WR 17/2
-Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) RB 17/2
-Brandon Jacobs (NYG) RB 12/1
-Deion Branch (NE) WR 14/1
-Mario Manningham (NYG) WR 14/1
-Danny Woodhead (NE) RB 20/1
-Jake Ballard (NYG) TE 20/1
-Chad Ochocinco (NE) WR 25/1
-Stevan Ridley (NE) RB 25/1
-Tom Brady (NE) QB 25/1
-Travis Beckum (NYG) TE 35/1
-Julian Edelman (NE) WR 35/1
-Eli Manning (NYG) QB 35/1
-Bear Pascoe (NYG) TE 40/1
-D.J. Ware (NYG) RB 50/1
-No TD scored in the game 150/1
Tom: And, for some reason, Henry Hynoski doesn't get his own prop but instead gets lumped in with Field.
Mike: I'm always tempted to go with Field, but that's just foolish. I think I like Victor Cruz for this one. I think the Giants are going to try to take some early shots deep, and the Patriots are pretty lousy against the deep ball.
Tom: I'll go with Brandon Jacobs, just because I have no idea what the Patriots will do on offense and know the Giants like to try just pounding the ball.
Mike: Jacobs? Really? I didn't know you were old friends.
-Hakeem Nicks (NYG) WR 7/2
-Victor Cruz (NYG) WR 7/2
-Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) RB 9/2
-Brandon Jacobs (NYG) RB 6/1
-Mario Manningham (NYG) WR 7/1
-Jake Ballard (NYG) TE 12/1
-Eli Manning (NYG) QB 15/1
-Travis Beckum (NYG) TE 16/1
-Bear Pascoe (NYG) TE 22/1
-D.J. Ware (NYG) RB 25/1
-No NYG TD in the game 10/1
Tom: Next prop is the first Giants touchdown, and I think we've answered that unless you want to try odds playing.
Mike: I don't see good enough odds to go against my pick of Cruz, no.
Tom: I do like the odds on Jacobs, at least more than the other alternatives. I was tempted to go with one of the quarterbacks.
-Rob Gronkowski (NE) TE 11/4
-Wes Welker (NE) WR 4/1
-Aaron Hernandez (NE) TE 9/2
-BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE) RB 9/2
-Deion Branch (NE) WR 15/2
-Danny Woodhead (NE) RB 12/1
-Tom Brady (NE) QB 14/1
-Chad Ochocinco (NE) WR 15/1
-Stevan Ridley (NE) RB 15/1
-Julian Edelman (NE) WR 20/1
-No NE TD in the game 10/1
Tom: And for the first Patriots touchdown, I'll go with Tom Brady, knowing the Patriots' love of the quarterback sneak.
Mike: While the odds are tempting, I think I'm going to go with Wes Welker. New York's secondary allows a shedload of yards after the catch.
Tom: Fair enough.
Tom: And now we arrive at our first degenerate gambler prop of the game: a negative EV bet on the coin flip!
Mike: Good ol' tails.
Tom: I wasn't sure if you'd go with "Tails never fails" or "You always take heads."
Mike: I am very unpredictable.
Tom: For those of you who'd like to buy a replica of the Super Bowl coin, one of a limited edition of 10,000 can be yours for the low price of $99.99 plus shipping (which is free if you buy two or more). I see that Lucas Oil Stadium is on the reverse side, so therefore I'm choosing the much more attractive observe with the Lombardi Trophy and the helmets covering the heads of the players.
Mike: Lucas Oil Stadium is pretty ugly.
-New York Giants -105
-New England Patriots -105
Tom: And now, another negative EV bet: which team wins the coin toss?
Mike: Well, New York is the away team. So they will of course be wise and choose tails and win. Therefore, the Giants have my fake money.
Tom: If I was being a proper bettor, I'd go back and look at whether the Giants have picked heads or tails this season when they've had the choice, to see if there are any tendencies there. And then I'd have to decide whether to hedge my Heads pick or go all-in.
Mike: That kind of "proper" betting is how one ends up on a Victorian debtors prison.
Tom: Instead, I just flipped a coin, and it came up heads, so I'm picking the Giants as well.
-New York Giants (Score First) -125
-New England Patriots (Score First) -105
Tom: I don't really get why, if the Patriots are favored, the Giants have the shorter odds here. An odds-driven Patriots pick for me.
Mike: Yeah, I have no idea what's going on with this, unless they're Patriots fans and figure the team will just sit out the first quarter "to make it sporting."
Tom: You mean like the Rams did in Super Bowl XXXVI?
Mike: Something like that, yeah. Patriots.
Mike: I think there will be, thanks to the Cruz Missile. Yes.
Tom: A great and terrible prop bet this can be. When the Colts snapped the ball with less than 7:30 gone in the first quarter and scored with more than 7:30 gone two years ago, they made this a tight loser. Of course, the first Giants-Patriots game didn't see a score in the first 34:30.
Mike: Like I said, I expect the Giants to take some shots downfield, and I think one of them will connect early. Have we mentioned that if you're actually betting on any of this, you're insane?
Tom: We will, of course, be reporting next week on how we actually fared using our fake money. And given our tendency, unlike some past Scramble writers, to generally not make completely insane bets for the heck of it, we will probably come out close to even as we've done the past two years. Then again, we may end up repeating somebody else's prior experience and losing half or more of a hypothetical five-figure bankroll.
Mike: You're talking about me, aren't you? Jerk.
Tom: Depending on your personal financial statement, there's a chance that sort of thing does not actually play nicely with "eating regular meals." We're writing the column for fun. Follow our wagers at your own risk. I know the odds here are more reasonable than they seem at first glance, but I'm still saying no score in the first 7:30.
Mike: I've had about enough of pandering to your "food" and "shelter" habits, Tom.
Tom: Fine, then. Degeneracy, ho!
Mike: This is actually a very good line.
Tom: You'd almost think the people who set lines are professionals who do that kind of thing for a living, even.
Mike: Who would've thought? Anyway, New York put up 37 points on Green Bay, which has a secondary of similarly awful quality to New England, so I'm going to go with the over.
Tom: Ah, but New York only scored 24 on New England in the game in Foxborough earlier this season. I've been going back and forth on how I'm going to pick the nominally important "who wins this game" idea, but either way I do not expect the Giants to score more than 27. Under.
Tom: I just decided that for purposes of this column, I'm predicting Patriots 31 - Giants 24 as the final score, so over.
Mike: That's very definitive. I'm having a lot of trouble with this one, actually.
Tom: I'm 1-1 predicting the last two Super Bowls, having picked the Colts and Packers.
Mike: I think that New York's pass rush will get to Brady, and bad things happen to any quarterback when that happens, especially in a scheme so reliant on precise timing. I'll go with under.
Mike: I think this game is going to go slowly out of the blocks so Under.
Tom: I can't decide if the halftime score will be 17-14 or 14-10, and who will lead. Still, that's a 75 percent chance of more than 13.5, so Over.
Tom: My logic causes me to say Under here.
Mike: I don't know why you bother making up scores that will almost certainly be incorrect. Just be honest and say you're going with your gut. My gut says this game starts slowly! Especially the Patriots, who usually are slow to start out on offense. Under.
-Yes (Team Scores First Wins) -165
-No (Team Scores First Does Not Win) +135
Mike: Well, I picked the Giants to score first and to win, so this is a no-brainer for me. Yes.
Tom: While I picked a Giant to score first touchdown, I don't feel compelled to pick them here. Still, I'm guessing they will, and thus the answer is No.
-Yes (Three Unanswered Scores) -190
-No (Three Unanswered Scores) +155
Mike: No is +155? Really?
Tom: This came up in one of our previous columns. It's much more likely than either of us thought without actually looking into it. I'm thinking Yes, actually.
Mike: I would agree, if these weren't two high-powered offenses with suspect secondaries on both sides. Two unanswered? Sure, incredibly likely. But I draw the line at three. No.
Tom: Even their 24-20 game, where all the scoring came in the second half, featured three unanswered scores.
-Yes (Team Scores Last Wins) -180
-No (Team Scores Last Does Not Win) +150
Mike: I actually think that should sum this game up nicely. Yes.
Tom: Team that scores last wins? I could buy that, sure. Yes.
-Yes (Score in Final Two Minutes of First Half) -290
-No (Score in Final Two Minutes of FirFst Half) +230
Mike: I hope not, since the law of conservation of drama means that any dramatic two-minute drills must come at the end of the fourth quarter, not the second. So, in the interests of a fun ending to this game, I'm going to say No.
Tom: I'm not so sure that exciting ends of the first half and exciting ends of the second half are necessarily rivalrous goods. See, for instance, the Patriots-Panthers Super Bowl. Then again, you could argue from that same game that exciting ends to the halves and exciting first and third quarters go hand-in-hand. That's probably enough of that. I'm going with a reluctant Yes.
-Yes (Both Teams Lead in First Half) -105
-No (Both Teams Do Not Lead in First Half) -125
Tom: I'll go with Yes, though without some elaborate justification for doing so.
Mike: I've decided I am rooting for the most dramatic game as possible, so the first half is the duelists eyeing each other and slowly circling, waiting to pounce. Not much happens during said circling, so I'll go with the Giants taking a lead and not relinquishing it until halftime. No.
Tom: That would set the stage for a quite dramatic second half.
-Yes (First Half Tied) +500
-No (First Half Not Tied) -800
Mike: Yes. Brady will throw a touchdown to tie it right before the two-minute warning.
Tom: Fair enough.
Mike: And we'll all sit around for 10 minutes as it is reviewed.
Tom: I've already declared the halftime score will be 17-14 or 14-10, so No.
Mike: And then New York will try to run, for some reason, during their two-minute drill, because they're New York.
Tom: Yes, they are, but they also do try to throw occasionally, and Eli has been good at bailing them out of third-and-longs this year.
-First Quarter +265
-Second Quarter +170
-Third Quarter +300
-Fourth Quarter +220
Mike: The fourth, naturally.
Tom: The odds for the third seem a little bit longer than I expected here, but I concur the fourth, as it often is in close games.
-Yes (Overtime) +650
-No (Overtime) -1200
Mike: No, because overtime is lame.
Tom: But not as lame as collegiate overtime! Anyway, I've already established this will be a 31-24 game without mentioning overtime. So there, No.
-Yes (Decided by 3 Points) +325
-No (Decided by 3 Points) -450
Tom: No, 31-24 = seven, not three.
Mike: You always say these things with such certainty. How close were your numbers to the actual outcomes last year?
Tom: I said 24-20, it was 31-25.
Mike: Yet you persist. Unless ... have you been talking to all those commenters from the early days? The ones that all had magic prediction systems?
Tom: Remember our introduction? I'm trying to hit the Under on "number of brain cells killed."
Mike: I'm on to your game. Still, No.
Tom: Hey, I did make money betting on last year's game. In fake betting, at least.
-Over (Largest Lead) O 13.5 (-150)
-Under (Largest Lead) U 13.5 (+120)
Mike: I can see a two-touchdown lead pretty easily. Over.
Tom: Me too. Over.
-Yes (Lead Change in Second Half) +130
-No (Lead Change in Second Half) -160
Mike: Well, you need lots of lead changes in the high-scoring fourth quarter to have a dramatic game, so definitely, Yes.
Tom: I'm not completely sure on this one, given I'm not sure who will lead at halftime, but the odds advantage makes this Yes for me as well.
Mike: You were giving out precise numbers earlier! You are so hopeless.
-Over Yards (Longest Touchdown) O 49.5 (-115)
-Under Yards (Longest Touchdown) U 49.5 (-115)
Tom: This is another one of those annoying negative EV bets, and even though 49.5 seems long, it's actually not unreasonable. Unless you consider that the Patriots hardly ever throw the ball more than like 20 yards downfield, let alone with success. You'd either need the Giants to score, a ton of yards after catch, or both. Under.
Mike: Yeah, the Patriots just don't have a great long-ball setup and since they do account for half of this game, taking the over would be a bit silly. Under.
-Yes (Defensive or Special Teams Touchdown) +150
-No (Defensive or Special Teams Touchdown) -180
Mike: Sure, why not. Yes. Drama!
Tom: Kickoff returns barely exist, and neither team is good at punt returning or horrible at either coverage unit, so you're likely depending on a defensive touchdown. No.
-Yes (Missed Field Goal) EVEN
-No (Missed Field Goal) -130
Mike: No. I think these teams will opt to go for it when they're in long field goal range, because points will be at a premium.
Tom: Exactly, and these are not the first two coaches I would send to the Marv Levy Seminar on the Wisdom of Settling for Long Field Goal Attempts. No.
-Over Sacks O 4.5 (+120)
-Under Sacks U 4.5 (-150)
Tom: I have no confidence in this one, not that I do on any of the other ones, either. There were two sacks in the regular season game, so I'll go Under.
Mike: Consistent with my belief that this will be a passing-heavy game near the end and that New York will get to Brady, I'll go with the Over.
-Yes (Fourth Down Converted) -230
-No (Fourth Down Converted) +190
Tom: Ooh, a prop bet I don't remember seeing before, and one near and dear to our hearts.
Mike: Nothing is more dramatic than a fourth-down conversion, so Yes.
Tom: As we mentioned with the avoidance of missed field goal attempts, these teams know better than to do anything other than go for it in the intermediate zone. Yes.
-Over (Penalties) O 10.5 (-115)
-Under (Penalties) U 10.5 (-115)
Tom: They totaled 13 in the regular season game. They had 9 in Super Bowl 42. I'll go with Over.
Mike: The officials have been "letting them play" this postseason. Almost all of the playoff games we've seen have been pretty loose, so I think 10.5 seems a bit high in light of that. Under.
-Yes (Two-Point Conversion Attempted) +210
-No (Two-Point Conversion Not Attempted) -270
Mike: The dramatic failed two-point conversion near the end that would have tied it, naturally. Yes.
Tom: No, not at all.
-New York Giants 1 to 3 Points 11/2
-New York Giants 4 to 6 Points 8/1
-New York Giants 7 to 10 Points 7/1
-New York Giants 11 to 13 Points 12/1
-New York Giants 14 to 17 Points 12/1
-New York Giants 18 to 21 Points 15/1
-New York Giants 22 or More Points 20/1
-New England Patriots 1 to 3 Points 9/2
-New England Patriots 4 to 6 Points 13/2
-New England Patriots 7 to 10 Points 5/1
-New England Patriots 11 to 13 Points 9/1
-New England Patriots 14 to 17 Points 9/1
-New England Patriots 18 to 21 Points 12/1
-New England Patriots 22 or More Points 10/1
Tom: I've already said New England by seven, so I'll take my 5/1 and be happy with it.
Mike: I like the odds on Giants 4-6 points. Let's say after the failed two-point conversion, New York kicks a field goal. Why not?
Mike: Oh, I bet the bookies were salivating over this one. Usually you have to reach back, at least in the NFC, for historical matchup propositions. Here, they have it made: these teams were both in the Super Bowl (against each other, no less!) within the past five years. That does make this section a bit more boring than usual, however, since we don't get to compare, say, Eli Manning to Phil Simms.
-Eli Manning Super Bowl XLII (255 Yards) +59.5 (-110)
-Eli Manning Super Bowl XLVI -59.5 (-120)
Mike: I like Eli's chances of getting past 305, so Super Bowl XLVI.
Tom: 305 is just a really big total, especially considering Green Bay was Eli's first 300-yard passing game in the postseason. Super Bowl XLII.
-Tom Brady Super Bowl XLII (266 Yards) +53.5 (-110)
-Tom Brady Super Bowl XLVI -53.5 (-120)
Mike: 320?! that's a serious line?
Tom: Over -130, Under even.
Mike: Still, wow.
Tom: People must think 300-yard passing games are more frequent than they really are.
Mike: Apparently. 320 is just way too much. Super Bowl XLII. With extreme prejudice.
Tom: I concur. Super Bowl XLII.
-Ahmad Bradshaw Super Bowl XLII (45 Yards) +14.5 (-105)
-Ahmad Bradshaw Super Bowl XLVI -14.5 (-125)
Tom: Basically this is Bradshaw 56.5, as opposed to the later straight O/U of 60.5.
Mike: This is a tough one.
Tom: Apparently the difference between Bradshaw 60.5 and 56.5 rushing is that the 56.5 rushing over is -125, as opposed to even.
Mike: I think that this game is going to feature Bradshaw more heavily than Jacobs, so I'll take XLVI.
Tom: Even though I picked Jacobs to score the first touchdown, I concur, and will also go XLVI.
-Laurence Maroney Super Bowl XLII (36 Yards) +9.5 (-115)
-BenJarvus Green-Ellis Super Bowl XLVI -9.5 (-115)
Mike: I'm going to go with Law Firm and XLVI, just because I love his nickname.
Tom: I just don't see the Patriots running that much and doubt he gets enough carries. Maroney and Super Bowl XLII.
Tom: Pretty close to the first game's total of 39, but I'm going to guess a little Under.
Mike: They probably just lifted it from the first game. I think the Giants will actually try to get Bradshaw involved in some significant way, so Under.
Mike: I like how they make sure to mention that Eli Manning plays for the Giants. Either that, or they're entertaining the possibility that he switches sides during halftime, and want to make sure that only his completions for the Giants count.
Tom: He didn't have a good game on the accuracy front in the first contest, hitting only 20 of his 39 attempts. Your math of the day is 24.5 completions in 38.5 attempts, which is a 63.6 percent completion rate. Eli is below that on the season, and the Patriots are below that on defense, even with their secondary. That to me says Under, especially if you think he's going anywhere close to under on attempts.
Mike: Anyway, Manning is pretty accurate when he doesn't have to deal with wind, and the roof will be closed. Probably still not 63.6 percent accurate, however, especially since they're going to have a pretty vertical passing game. Under.
Mike: Well, Eli needs to throw at least four passes for Manningham to drop, and then a ton of wild shots down the field in the general direction of Cruz, so I think five is a pretty good number for Nicks. Under 5.5 receptions. 85.5 yards is way, way too high. Under 85.5 yards.
Tom: I'll go over on receptions and under on receiving yards. I'm thinking something like six catches for 80 yards. That's pretty close to an average-ish performance. Actually, I'll go over on yards as well. He's a beast and the competition isn't stiff.
Mike: I think Cruz will get the majority of the attention. He will probably be covered by Devin "Pro Bowl Cornerback" McCourty, who as you may recall, chopped a lot of wood this year. I think Over is good for receptions. As I said earlier, I think he'll be running in a straight line very fast and very often, basically as often as the Giants think he can still move. I foresee Over 89.5 yards in his future.
Tom: Cruz had a big first half against the 49ers, but otherwise has been held in relative check for most of this postseason. He had a reasonable game against Green Bay, which was just under this by a little bit, but it seems like teams are starting to figure him out when he doesn't score a long touchdown. Under on both.
-Over .5 (-210)
-Under .5 (+170)
Tom: Well, he only has .5 sacks in the playoffs thus far.
Mike: I think New England is smart enough to stay away from him, considering the tear he has been on, so I think Under on tackles.
Tom: Like most defensive linemen, he seems to get most of his tackles on running plays. New England is a tactical running team. I see Under on tackles as well.
Mike: Sacks ... it just takes one play, really. I think the Giants will bring the heat in order to get in Brady's head, which means he'll have a lot of opportunities, and I think that turns into at least one sack. Over.
Tom: It does just take one play. I'll say Over as well.
-Over 2.5 (-130)
-Under 2.5 (EVEN)
Mike: See, this just includes passes
Tom: It does, alas.
Mike: I think you're right: Brady is a wily sneaker. That said, this is going to be a very high-scoring game, so I think three is probably around the number, allowing for a Law Firm vulture and a sneak. Over.
Tom: I'm not sure the Patriots score five touchdowns, but even if they score four, that leaves room for a sneak and an Over.
-Over .5 (-150)
-Under .5 (+120)
Mike: I think the pressure is going to get to him. As I said for Pierre-Paul, it only takes one play. For all his mystique, Brady throws just as many boneheaded interceptions as any other elite quarterback, as we saw last week. Over.
Tom: See, I think with two weeks of preparation, one of the things that will be stressed to him is the need to not give away plays like that. I'm going Under.
Tom: As I indicated, I don't see Green-Ellis playing a big role in this game. I'm going Under.
Mike: 13 rushes isn't a whole lot considering he is clearly the primary back and the specter of mastermindering could lurk over this game. I'm going with Over.
Tom: He's had a relatively quiet playoffs thus far, but had a big game against the Giants in the regular season meeting.
Mike: Welker is Brady's binky, and while my daughter never used a pacifier, I have seen the allure they hold for children that do first-hand. It is a great and powerful thing.
Tom: I see him getting a lot of short passes over the middle designed to take advantage of the telepathic link and angles, so receptions is an easy over.
Mike: Over on receptions. And as I said, the Giants secondary is very bad against slow, shifty possession receivers, by virtue of their inability to tackle. Over on yardage.
Tom: I'm less sure on yardage, but I'll go Over there as well.
Tom: As we sit on Monday, we're not really sure what his health status is. Somebody, I believe Adam Schefter, is apparently reporting nobody believes he'll be 100 percent healthy on Sunday. Then again, his father leaking news that his ankle sprain is worse than previously reported could be classic mastermindering.
Mike: We must always be vigilant against the masterminderingers. I think regardless of whether he is 100 percent, he'll be on the field in the red zone, if only as a decoy.
Tom: I'm going to take the injury reports at something like face value and assume that Hernandez, as a move tight end who is not injured, presents a serious matchup threat in his own right. Hernandez will be the beneficiary, and Gronk goes under on both.
Mike: That doesn't help him much, but even decoys get open from time to time, and there's no guarantee that he won't be healthy enough for seven receptions. Sure, I'll go with the Over on receptions. No way he goes near 83 yards, though. Under.
Tom: Patrick Chung had 4.5 tackles against the Giants in their regular season meeting, then missed the next seven games.
Mike: He is quite the conundrum.
Tom: Since his return, he's had 4.0, 2.5, and 3.5 tackles, crediting assists at half a tackle. This number seems high.
Mike: On the other hand, the Patriots haven't faced a passing offense nearly this competent since he's returned.
Tom: I grant you that, but he's had four solo tackles in three weeks.
Mike: But he magically fixed the Patriots defense when he came back, remember? I get the feeling he's going to be playing a lot of clean-up, though. I can see him getting to six. Over.
Tom: Unless he gets the benefit from the Indianapolis scorer of a bunch of cleanup assists, I feel like this is an easy under.
-Over .5 (-130)
-Under .5 (EVEN)
Mike: Eli is going to try to make at least one play when he really has no business doing so. Maybe it'll be the Tyree Catch Part II, but it's more likely thatit'll be a sack. Over.
Tom: Maybe, but will Anderson be the beneficiary or the flusher? I'm betting flusher. Under.
-Eli Manning (NYG) QB -115
-Tom Brady (NE) QB -115
-Eli Manning (NYG) QB -110
-Tom Brady (NE) QB -120
Tom: More negative EV propositions! Then again, these may have some element of actual "wagering skill" involved, though, and are not just pure chance like the coin toss.
Mike: I think that each of these propositions are tailor-made to their respective teams. The Giants will play a relatively low-percentage long-ball strategy, while the Patriots will go with their usual "death by a thousand cuts" approach. I think Eli is first to 100 yards, but Brady is first to 10 completions.
Tom: We seem to be operating as part of a hive mind, as I was thinking very much along the same lines: Brady first to 10 completions, Eli first to 100 yards.
Tom: And now my favorite part of the prop bets, the cross-sport props. Shocking though it may be, there are other, non-Super Bowl events going on this Sunday. In this section of the column, we decide how completely unrelated events will compare to each other.
Mike: Be still my beating heart.
Tom: And apparently Cleveland is playing, as we get several LeBron James props. Oh, wait, LeBron isn't in Cleveland, he's in Miami. I guess Cleveland had to find a new basis for their economy.
Mike: Well played, sir.
Tom: That video never gets old.
Mike: That stamp sculpture is really stupid.
-Eli Manning Completions Pick (+120)
-Lebron James Points Pick (-150)
Mike: I suppose this is the revenge prop bet, considering how LeBron spurned the Knicks, disappointing the five die-hard Knicks fans who actually convinced themselves that James was going to join their team?
Tom: I think it's more just "find two numbers that might be close," though of course if you want to build narratives off of that, go ahead.
Mike: We are football writers. Basically all we do is build narratives.
Tom: Unfortunately, I don't think I drink nearly enough alcohol to be a Real Football Writer. Anyway, the Heat are playing the Raptors.
Mike: That is a basketball team!
Tom: They are! And they haven't changed their name since I last noted their existence!
Mike: That is a rare quality in an NBA franchise.
Tom: Basketball-reference tells me the Raptors are an average defensive team and a bad offensive team. James is averaging 29.5 points per game, though, so Eli's low completion total will still leave him under LeBron.
Mike: I remember people whining about James on the news last night, so it seems that he's on a bit of a streak, maybe? Sure, why not. We'll go with James.
-Wes Welker Receptions Pick (-115)
-Lebron James Assists Pick (-115)
Tom: James is averaging 7.0 assists per game, while Welker's o/u is of course 6.5 receptions.
Mike: Honestly, I'd take Welker receptions against James field goals.
Tom: FGM? He averages 10.7. I wouldn't go that far, though I would still take Welker here.
-Tom Brady Touchdown Passes Pick (-130)
-Ray Allen Three-Point Shots made in the game Pick (+100)
Tom: Now we get a true Boston prop. The Celtics play the Knicks, and Allen averages 2.7 threes per game.
Mike: I'm going to go with Allen, just because why should LeBron be the only one kicking the Knicks around?
Tom: The Knicks do seem to be a below-average team defending the three-point shot, so I'll go with Allen as well.
-Tom Brady Touchdown Passes Pick (-115)
-Boston Bruins Total Team Goals Pick (-115)
Tom: The Bruins are playing the Flyers on Sunday. The Bruins lead the league in goals, and the Flyers are average or a little below defensively. I think Brady will throw three touchdown passes, so what are the odds the Bruins score four or more goals as opposed to two or fewer? I'll be optimistic and say they add to Philly's woes. Bruins.
Mike: Four goals really isn't a massive number in the new NHL. That said, Brady may have four touchdowns. Who knows! I hate the Flyers, so we'll go with Bruins.
-New York Giants Total Team Points Pick (-115)
-Henrik Lundqvist Saves Pick (-115)
Mike: They really don't think the Giants are going to score much, do they?
Tom: Lundqvist has played in 36 games and has 1019 saves. That's 28.3, and the Giants O/U is 27.
Mike: Which, as we went over earlier, I think is a bit low considering the quality of defense they are facing. Giants.
Tom: Trust in the Giants, you do. Have faith in the Rangers defense, I do not. Lundqvist.
Mike: Honestly, who takes notes on their tablet?
Tom: Well, seeing as I don't own one, I don't. A law school classmate did.
Mike: Maybe -- maybe if you have a real keyboard, it might make sense to do so, sacrificing the benefit of layout by fiat for a digital format to your notes, but virtual keyboards are pretty awful.
Tom: This was more of the PDA-style tablet, though, and she carried around a regular keyboard to type on and used the tablet as a small laptop.
Mike: Right, that at least kind of makes sense. Here, everybody is using some gimpy crappy tablet office software to take notes that get shuffled away and never seen again because they forget what they named the file in their rush to leave.
Tom: Anybody who's ever had me send them a half-done email because I was typing on my Blackberry phone can attest to the non-optimal effect of non-full size keyboards on fat fingers.
Mike: But that's not what this commercial is really about. It's about having the cool toys and everyone but this poor sad sack has the new hotness.
Tom: It's not even about having the cool toys so much. This is a business meeting. If it made that much sense for everybody at the company to have a tablet, the company would buy everybody a freaking tablet. I am aware of this having happened in the real world.
Mike: Yeah, that much makes sense, but no, this is a low-tech shaming. What a rube this guy is. Using that old, stupid, reliable, and useful technology when he can use this new shiny thing and only be slightly less productive!
Tom: Ah, but it isn't reliable technology. See the wet patch on his shirt?! Personally, when I carry a pen, which is most of the time, I carry it in my pants, not my shirt pocket.
Mike: I have yet to see a pen actually explode like that. I've actually had nosebleeds that stained my shirt. Never a pen.
Tom: This feels more like a tablet commercial than an EBay commercial, though. I know, they show non-identical tablets.
Mike: That's rather my point. You, the non-tablet-owning viewer, are suddenly very self-conscious about your lack of a tablet. Fortunately, this helpful commercial just showed you how to rectify this situation immediately!
Tom: Drive to Best Buy after work, buy one, and come to work with it the next day?
Mike: You actually go to physical stores? That is so three years ago.
Tom: I may be a ridiculous stereotype of a suburbanite who's in the city like five times a year, but my residence is still conveniently located next to major shopping centers. If I were to buy a tablet, I would want one I could physically handle before doing so. Physical stores are quite handy for that sort of thing. Even when they don't have quite the same array of tablet variety as this conference room.
Mike: Well, they didn't want to offend anybody, since these sorts of people are rabid about associating with a brand, you basically not only have a racially and gender-wise balanced cast, but now also a brand-balanced suite of tablets! I'm sure they had to hire another marketing intern for that.
Tom: Yes, but despite their scorn for him, let's not pretend that all tablets are created equal. Once he has a tablet, the mocking will switch to the owner of the oldest and least powerful tablet. For all he knows, he may be mocked at the next day or the next week's meeting for his terrible tablet instead of his pen and paper.
Mike: True, if there's anything worse than not following the trend, it's following yesterday's trend. But this is comforting, in a way. Engineers, particularly those who are -- ahem -- vocal on various websites, constantly scorn people for their vapidness. As we see here, there are always nerdy ways to be a useless, vapid person! So hooray for us! We are all terrible people, every one!
-Over/Under 1 minute 34 Seconds
Tom: 1:34 seems like a very short over/under for a celebrity anthem, even if it is more or less how long Clarkson's past renditions have been.
Mike: The few anthems I've seen this year have been longer than I remember them being. Since we have long since left any sort of rationality or lip-service to causation behind, I'm going to say Over based on that.
Tom: Over for me as well.
-Super Bowl XLVI or official NFL shirt 2/1
-Patriots Jersey or shirt 12/1
-Colts Jersey or shirt 12/1
-Giants Jersey or shirt 15/1
-Anything else 1/3
Tom: I really can't see an anthem singer wearing a jersey from one of the teams involved. Even when Faith Hill sang the Super Bowl XXXIV anthem after singing the anthem at a Titans game earlier that year, she didn't wear a Titans jersey. I'll go with Anything else.
Mike: There is zero chance that the league lets her wear anything that would suggest favoritism, and she has enough taste to not wear some branded Super Bowl or NFL shirt, so I'm with Anything else as well. Also, 5/2 seems like really stupid odds for someone forgetting/omitting a word from the national anthem. Clarkson is enough of a professional that she can remember the words to a song she has been signing her entire life.
Tom: Maybe it's just me, but I've actually forgotten the words to the anthem when asked to write them down cold before. Granted, I seem to have an exceptionally poor memory for getting songs absolutely 100 percent correct, but that surprised me when it happened.
Mike: Are you a professional singer who is often paid to sing this song?
Tom: I'm closer to a professional non-singer who is paid not to sing any songs.
Mike: So probably not the best comparison, no.
Tom: Fair enough.
-Any other color +250
Tom: Moving on to the halftime show, I enjoy the prop that specifies the color of her hair at the start of the halftime show, as though it might change at some point during the show.
Mike: Well, they do need to be specific. My question is: do wigs count? I don't know why they did not allow for this eventuality.
Tom: I would presume it's the apparent color of her hair. In that case, I would guess a wig she's wearing and then discards would count.
Mike: Ah, but you know what assumptions do. They let the book choose whichever side makes them win more.
Tom: Funny, and I just thought they make us attorneys write documents that are 58 pages long instead of three, which leads to everybody else hating us.
Mike: I have to go with blonde. Has Madonna done anything in public in any other hair color in the past decade?
Tom: I have no idea if Madonna's actually done anything in public in the last decade. I may not have noticed her existence at any point in the last decade unless she did something Super Bowl-related that I'm not remembering off the top of my head.
Mike: That's true, you really are the last person to ask about that.
Tom: But I'll go with blonde as well, just because that seems to be her iconic hair color.
Mike: I like the hat prop, mostly because hats are classy, and more people should wear hats in all circumstances.
Tom: Hats today mostly means "baseball caps," which generally does not mean classy.
Mike: Which brings up the age-old question: is a closed dome "indoors" for purposes of hatiquette?
Tom: From my Lucas Oil Stadium experience, it can appear pretty "outdoors"-y with the sunlight streaming in. Then again, with a kickoff at 6:30 PM local time, sunlight probably won't be a factor.
Mike: I'm going to go with "outdoors," then, so we can avoid any potential faux paus.
Tom: Enjoy your classy hat world, then, because she's not wearing one. No.
Mike: Keep hope alive! Yes.
Mike: Four times is an awful lot of shots for someone who isn't Robert Kraft.
Tom: I don't remember how NBC broadcast the Cardinals-Steelers Super Bowl, but CBS and Fox the last two years have shown a lot fewer "famous people in the crowd" shots than we anticipated. Under.
Mike: Yeah, Under.
Tom: And speaking of ... even if you're Robert Kraft, you're not getting shown on TV four different times before the game is over. Under.
Mike: My earlier statement was a joke, yes. He'll get two shots. Under.
-Over .5 (-150)
-Under .5 (+110)
Mike: I think the world is over the Giselle story. Under.
Tom: If the Patriots win, you could get a celebratory-type shot. Over.
Mike: That ... is actually a really tricky one. There will absolutely be one. I suppose it depends on whether there is a similar play. As they come back from a post-halftime commercial they'll have a little bit about it, I assume, and if there is a long, questionable pass in the second half, they'll probably show it again.
Tom: You're ignoring that NBC has way too much televised programming to plug during the game itself for them to spend time delving into historical curiosities.
Mike: It's hardly a historical curiosity! It's one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history. Recent Super Bowl history, at least.
Tom: It's about as relevant to this game as FOX thought downfield coverage shots were to its game broadcasts this season.
Mike: Who cares if it's relevant? It's good television. Over.
Tom: Bah. Under.
Mike: Now, is mentions segments about Luck, or uses of his name?
Tom: Mentions on TV during the game, it would appear.
Mike: I think that's an easy over, just because Brady is playing, which means comparisons to Peyton Manning. And Eli Manning is playing, which means they'll talk about Peyton Manning, and it is impossible to talk about Manning without talking about the current Colts situation, which means Andrew Luck.
Tom: They're not plugging Peyton's next game. He won't exist unless Eli wins, and Luck won't exist at all. Under.
Mike: Oh, that's nonsense. You can't have a rivalry as big as Manning-Brady and have Brady in the Super Bowl again and not have a mention of Peyton Manning and the Colts' implosion. Again, it's great TV.
Tom: We'll just have to see about that one.
Mike: Indeed. Over.
Tom: Fruit punch is still my favorite Gatorade flavor, but I imagine it'd be a pain to get out of any uniforms short of the Texans ketchup bottle, er, Battle Red, monstrosities. Yellow.
Mike: I prefer lime, but green just isn't happening. I'll go with Clear/Water.
-Does Not Thank Anyone 11/4
Tom: As we learned from Drew Brees' speech, declaring greatness does not count as thanking.
Mike: What a dark, dark time that was.
Tom: Dark? That was awesome! I feel like this one needs a Field answer.
Mike: I think that's "nobody," really. Sadly, Beezelbub isn't on the li -- wait, "Coach." Sorry, Bill, I wasn't paying attention.
Tom: Thanking people is so 2008. Does Not Thank Anyone.
Mike: I'm going with Teammates, just because I think there's a good chance Eli is the MVP and he would probably think it terribly impolite to not do so immediately. He will then doff a fedora. In my mind.
-Over/Under Nielsen Rating 47.5
Mike: Last year's rating was the highest ever, right? I can't recall exactly what it was.
Tom: 46.0. It tied Super Bowl XXX for the highest rating since the Super Bowl Shuffling Bears drew a 48.3.
Mike: Two very large markets, plus a much-hyped rematch. I have to say Over.
Tom: This would be a relatively big bump over two teams with broad nationwide popularity. Betting against the NFL is never a good idea, especially with two large markets involved, but I'm going to say Under.
-Over/Under 115 Million Viewers
Tom: Last year saw 111 million, which did indeed set a record.
Mike: Consistent with my previous answer, I'm going with Over.
Tom: I'm going to be consistent as well and go with Under. Considering we can't really run the results of props like Patriots win and Bruins win Stanley Cup next week, that will be our final prop of the year. Make your own picks in the comments, though you'll have to keep track of your own results!
Tune in next week for a lot of crow and confusion, and quite a bit of bad math from both your Scramble writers and your fellow commenters. Plus, since we like to end the year on a high note, we'll announce the FO Playoff Fantasy Challenge winner, The Best of the Rest winner (Al Bogdan), and a few of our favorite commercials from this year's Super Bowl.
54 comments, Last at 05 Feb 2012, 7:34pm by shaezychick