Look Between the Lines: Handicapping Super Bowl XLIX
James Hernandez has more than 15 years in the sports handicapping industry and contributes weekly for FOXSports.com as our betting expert during the NFL season. Have comments or questions? Make sure to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jhern81.
Seattle Seahawks (+1.5) over New England Patriots
Head coach Pete Carroll leads his Seahawks into Glendale looking to become the ninth team in NFL history to repeat as champions (coincidentally, New England was the last team to do so in the 2003 and 2004 seasons). Standing in his way is the franchise that showed Carroll the door following the 1999 season, the New England Patriots.
This marks the second straight season that the top two seeds from each conference reached the NFL’s championship game. According to vegasinsider.com, it has been 33 years since a point spread closed at one point. That last occurred in San Francisco’s 26-21 win over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI. The only other time this happened was in 1973, when Miami defeated Washington 14-7 in Super Bowl VII as a one-point favorite.
Defensively, both these units feature playmakers all across the board, but where New England is very good, Seattle is great. Led by the best safety tandem in the NFL (Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas), this Seattle secondary is only surrendering 185.6 yards per game passing and 15.6 points per game. Combine that with an NFC-best 42 sacks and it’s easy to see why this Seattle defense is playing for a chance to have a seat at the table with the ’85 Bears, ’76 Steelers and 2000 Ravens. It’s been 10 years since the Patriots last won a Lombardi Trophy, and on Sunday, the Seahawks will extend their misery as they bring a second straight championship home for the 12s to relish.
Will there be a safety in the game? (Yes +525)
Prop bets are always a fun way to stay engaged with the big game. Although safeties are not a common occurrence in NFL games, the value of getting 5/1 on your money is just too good to pass up. Both defenses have playmakers to spare, and all it takes is a poor snap over Brady or Wilson’s head or a tackle for loss after a punt downed inside the 5 and you are collecting some cash.
Total interceptions in the game by both teams combined (over 1.5 -140)
I generally stay away from laying juice when betting props, but in this case, this is just too tempting. With the ball hawks flying around in both secondaries, we may see two interceptions in the first quarter. You know Brady is itching to test Sherman after their postgame encounter during the 2012 season, and if Wilson tries to visit Revis Island, he may not find it very accommodating. This is a more-than-fair price for a prop like this, so be sure to make this a part of your betting plan this weekend.
Will there be a special teams or defensive touchdown? (Yes +155)
Anyone who is expecting an aerial show on Sunday is sorely mistaken. Neither QB will be dropping back 50 times and airing it out. This game is going to be won in the trenches, with both teams doing their best to establish their running attack and control the time of possession. With that being said, the game may change on a great defensive or special teams play. In last year’s Super Bowl, we saw both. Percy Harvin took a kickoff to the house and Malcolm Smith took a Manning pass 69 yards the other way for a defensive score. Be sure to jump on this early, before the public sucks the value right out of the price.
Total rushing yards by Marshawn Lynch (over 89.5 Even money)
Lynch went over the century mark six times during the regular season and Seattle managed to win five of the six games. He is the heartbeat of this Seattle offense, and much of Russell Wilson’s brilliance stems from the success of Lynch on the ground. The path to victory for the ‘Hawks is on the ground, so look for "Beast Mode" to get 20 to 25 carries, and if he can get 4 yards per carry, he will easily surpass 89.5 yards rushing for the game.
Total sacks by the Seahawks (Over 1.5 +110)
The amazing thing about Seattle’s 42 sacks this season is their ability to create intense pressure while rushing only their front four. Dan Quinn rarely sends a linebacker or defensive back to create additional pressure, but you can expect him to have a few tricks up his sleeve in his swan song as the Seahawks defensive coordinator. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and company want nothing more than to send their DC out with a bang, so expect the Seattle defensive line to pressure Brady all day long and put him on his back at least two times.
Note: Special thanks to James Parziale, Sid Saraf and Ross Jones for making Season 2 of Look Between the Lines another successful one. You guys are the best!! Can’t wait for Season 3.