The Super Bowl is the biggest NFL game of the year — both on the field and at the sportsbooks.
As the big game nears (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET on FOX and FOX Sports GO), you're probably eagerly anticipating your Super Bowl wagers. We'll have everything you need to know about prop bets later in the week; for now, we're focusing on the spread and over/under when the Patriots and Falcons square off in Houston.
So here are your Super Bowl LI betting odds, pick against the spread and the biggest Super Bowl gambling trends in the truly modern era — as defined by the 15 championship games since the Patriots won their first title at the end of the 2001 season.
This line opened at New England -3, and it hasn't budged in 10 days, which makes sense. This game feels like a three-point Patriots win.
Yet I'm taking the Falcons because I have a simple rule in the Super Bowl: Unless I believe the favorite is clearly the superior team, I'll take the points.
The Patriots are fantastic, to be sure. I'm just not certain they're head and shoulders above Atlanta, especially since I have questions about how New England's passing defense will stack up against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones — so give me the underdog to cover.
As recent history shows, that's not a bad idea. Let's break down the biggest Super Bowl betting trends since 2001.
How did both teams do in gambling terms this season?
Including the playoffs, the Patriots are an astonishing 15-3 against the spread this season, while the Falcons are 12-6.
As for the over/under? 16 out of 18 games involving Atlanta went over; New England was just 8-9-1 "against" the over/under.
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How have underdogs fared against the spread in the Super Bowl during the "Patriots Era"?
Astonishingly well, actually. Since 2001, when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, only three favorites have covered against the spread — and the underdog covered in the past five consecutive Super Bowls.
What about the money-line favorite?
Straight-up favorites have fared a little better in the past 15 Super Bowl, but not by much. The money-line favorite won six of those championships, including a run of four consecutive Super Bowls from 2003 to 2006.
Like with the spread, however, the money-line underdog won the past five Super Bowls.
Charles KrupaAP photo
Have the past 15 Super Bowls hit the over/under for total points scored?
Seven of the past 15 Super Bowls have hit the over. The average over/under in those Super Bowls was a shade under 48 points.
Three of the past four Super Bowls have gone over, as well.
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Does the better defense cover against the spread?
Defense might win championships, but it won't win you money. Only six of the past 15 Super Bowl teams to cover against the spread featured the better scoring defense between the two championship participants.
Who has the better defense? The Patriots.
David Butler IIDavid Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Does the better offense cover?
On the other hand, the better scoring offense isn't a safe bet, either. The better offense has covered in just five of the past 15 Super Bowls.
Who has the better offense? The Falcons.
Then again, how often a team scores isn't always a fair indicator of its true level of offensive talent — so what about a deeper look at offense?
I'm glad you asked!
Brett DavisBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Does the better rushing attack cover?
Nope! The team with the better running game (as measured by yards per attempt) covered in six of the past 15 Super Bowls.
Who has the better rushing attack? The Falcons.
Does the better passing attack cover?
Not really. As with the rushing game, the better passing attack (as measured by net yards per attempt) also covered in just six of the past 15 Super Bowls — and none of the past five.
Who has the better passing attack? The Falcons.
Does the team that forces more turnovers cover?
In fact, this is one of our strongest indicators for a Super Bowl cover. The team that forced more turnovers during the regular season covered in seven of those 15 Super Bowls, and that doesn't include Super Bowl XLVIII, which featured two teams that forced the same number of turnovers during the season.
Who forced more turnovers? The Patriots.
George GojkovichGetty Images
Does the team that surrenders fewer turnovers cover?
Keeping possession is important, but turning the ball over doesn't necessarily mean you'll fail to cover against the spread in the Super Bowl. The team that had fewer turnovers during the regular season covered in five of the past 15 Super Bowls.
Who surrended more turnovers? Both the Falcons and Patriots had the same number of turnovers in 2016.
Does the team with the better special teams cover?
Yes! Indeed, this is our strongest gambling indicator in the Super Bowl during the "Patriots Era." The team with the stronger special teams (as measured by Football Outsiders' DVOA) covered in eight of the past 15 Super Bowls, including the past four.
To an extent, that makes sense. The Super Bowl usually pits two very evenly matched teams against each other, so why wouldn't the often overlooked third aspect of football be the deciding factor?
Who has the better special teams? The Patriots, by the slightest of margins (New England was seventh, Atlanta eighth).
Getty ImagesDustin Bradford
Does the team with the better season-long margin of victory cover?
Cumulative margin of victory is one of the best signs of a team's overall skill level — but don't look to MoV to help you make your Super Bowl bet. The team with the higher season-long margin of victory covered in four of the past 15 Super Bowls.
Interestingly, in three of those instances, the team with the higher cumulative margin of victory was an underdog in the championship game and covered anyway.
Overall, then, there's a clear trend through all of these various categories: In the Super Bowl, you're wise to take the underdog.
Who has the better margin of victory? The Patriots.
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What is the average margin of victory in the Super Bowl during the "Patriots Era"?
Finally, in case you're looking for one meta-trend in Super Bowl results, consider this: The average margin of victory in the Super Bowl during the Patriots Era is 10 points, but those results fall into two distinct categories.
Nine of those games were decided by a touchdown or less, with seven of those nine decided by four points or fewer. The other six games were decided by double digits, with four of those six decided by two touchdowns or more.