We’re just two days away from Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. We caught up with OddsShark gambling expert Jon Campbell to get his tips for betting on the game.
(This interview has been edited for clarity.)
The Spun: New England is currently a three-point favorite. So far in the 2017 NFL Playoffs, the favorites are 8-2 against the spread. Given that, do you think there is some added value on the Falcons +3?
Jon Campbell: I think the Super Bowl, more than any other game, is a standalone game. They have two weeks to get healthy and prepare, and the media spotlight on them is unlike any other sporting event. So I think it’s really hard to go by playoff trends from this season, but looking at trends, if you do like the underdog, it’s worth noting that the underdog has won straight up the last five years in the Super Bowl and eight of the last nine years, and has covered the spread in 13 of the last 16 years. Atlanta is getting a lot of attention because of their offense.
The Spun: Based on what people in Houston have said, and some of the things we’ve seen from various ticket marketplaces, there doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming advantage for either team in terms of fan support in town for the game (an estimate by CBS, based on TicketCity is roughly 60-40 Patriots). Are the two fan bases a factor you look at when betting on the Super Bowl?
Campbell: I don’t think it has an impact on the game. It is something that oddsmakers have to factor into the line, because they set this line based on public perception, and one misconception is that they’re predicting what the final score will be. They’re not predicting the outcome, they’re predicting the market perception, so if they know a lot of people are Patriots fans and they’re going to bet on the Patriots, they have to shade the line accordingly. So it is important for the betting side of it, but not so important for the Super Bowl.
The Spun: Like the Falcons-Packers NFC Championship, one of the big gambling storylines for this game is the high total points number (58.5). Does that number seem too high, or do you like a shootout here?
Campbell: It’s the highest Super Bowl total we’ve ever seen, so it’s definitely a really high number. I like the under here, I don’t think it is going to go over. I took the over in the NFC Championship, which was the highest NFL Playoff total period, and that one did go over, but I think this one is going to go under. The Patriots’ No. 1 scoring defense isn’t getting quite enough respect from the betting public, and I think they’ll get enough stops, and I think the New England offense will try to control the clock a little bit more. And I think it’ll be able to against a Falcons defense that, if it wins, will be the worst defense to ever win a Super Bowl.
The Spun: You hit on what I have next here—the Patriots have not faced a very tough road in terms of opposing quarterbacks thus far this season. Sunday, they get the likely NFL MVP in Matt Ryan. I know you look at defense first when betting on football games. Are you worried about the Pats D maybe being a bit untested ahead of this match-up?
Campbell: I think the Pats defense is still underrated, which is surprising because they’ve been the No. 1 scoring defense. One factor here for me is that even though they’ve played weaker quarterbacks, they continues to cover the spread. Oddsmakers handicap that in when setting the spread, and New England is beating that market expectation consistently—more consistently than all but one other team in NFL history. New England is 15-3 against the spread this year. The ’89 49ers are the only team to cover more games; they went 16-3 against the spread. The Patriots are beating the handicap there, and whether its a good quarterback or a bad quarterback, they’ve shown that they can win these ones. In the NFL these days, I don’t think anyone has played a really strong contingent of quarterbacks, because there just aren’t that many in the league.
The Spun: The Super Bowl draws a lot more gambling action than most games, because you not only have the game itself, but you have prop bets and fun things on and off the field. Are there any prop bets that you like heading into Sunday?
Campbell: There are a few. I like Tom Brady to throw a touchdown in the first quarter. That one stands at -115. They’ll come out and get some yards, and the Pats are going to score early. I like a lot of the ones that are over completions and receiving yards for the Patriots. Brady over for 305.5 or 310.5 passing yards, depending what you see out there. I like under on the national anthem. That opened at 2:15, and the average is under two minutes in the last 10 years, and the under has come through in seven of the last 10 years.
The Spun: Who do you like in this game, and what’s the one major factor that leads you to that pick.
Campbell: I think the Pats are going to win this one and cover (-3). Defense wins championship, if I’m allowed to use that cliche. Just looking back, Atlanta is the No. 1 scoring offense and the Patriots have the No. 1 scoring defense. No. 1 scoring offenses are just 1-4 in Super Bowls going back to 2002, when they had division realignment. No. 1 defenses are 4-2. The Patriots will get some stops, and I don’t think Atlanta will against a very good New England offense.