How to Avoid the Hype in Super Bowl Prop Bets

Helmets from the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals are seen during a press preview. Rich Fury/Getty Images/AFP.

The Super Bowl attracts more betting action than any other single game, which means there’s a horde of amateurs descending on the game for the first time in a year, muddying the waters. Here are our tips for avoiding the hype and navigating the muddy waters.

Super Bowl week starts with media day, where every player and assistant coach on each team are made available to the media, at the same time. The event is usually held in a giant arena or stadium, and it gives reporters the chance to talk to everyone they could possibly need to, in order to get all the information they need to write their game previews.

Of course, it’s tough to get any actual work done at Super Bowl media day because the reporters and players aren’t the only ones there. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other people crowding the floor at media day.

Over the years, comedian J.B. Smoove, Miss America, and Tonight Show intern Ross Mathews have all been part of the “media” covering the event. Their job is not to find out information to preview the game but to provide content for whatever outlet sent them, by asking crazy questions or filming elaborate sketches.

As a result, media day is a lot of fun, but not all that useful for the serious journalist.

Replace “journalist” with “gambler” and you’ve pretty much got the experience of trying to bet Super Bowl Sunday.

Each year, more people bet on the Super Bowl than any other single game. That means a massive horde of inexperienced gamblers will be putting up money for the first time in 11 months (because they’ll return for March Madness).

The gambling equivalents of J.B. Smoove and Ross the Intern can make things difficult for the serious bettor. Here are some tips for actually making money on Super Bowl Sunday.

Ignore the Hype

You’ve probably heard the adage “bet with your head, not with your heart”. Never is that more true than on Super Bowl Sunday. Like Media Day, the attention usually goes to the silliest and the biggest wastes of time.
Think about the first thing the local news will say when doing a story on Super Bowl bets: “You can EVEN BET ON THE COIN TOSS.”

The coin toss is an exciting bet to make. It occurs at the time when attention on the game is at its highest—right before kickoff—and it provides an immediate result. If you bet the over/under on Joe Burrow completion you’re going to wait three and a half hours to see if you won. The coin toss bettors will have long since stopped watching or caring about the game.

The coin toss is the definition of a 50/50 bet. There is no edge to be had, no method to use to increase your odds of winning. You’ll see some articles that break down past coin toss performance, but it’s all fools gold. Past Super Bowl toss results, which took place in different stadiums, with different coins and different tossers couldn’t have less relevance to future performance. Same with each participating team’s “success rate” at coin tosses this season. It’s the definition of an independent event.

It’s fun and exciting to bet the coin toss. If that’s what you’re looking for, by all means, go for it. But if you’re looking to make money, leave it to the amateurs.

It’s the same with the other fun props that get all the attention—the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach, who the MVP will thank first, first song of the halftime show. If you want to have fun at your Super Bowl party, feel free to play along. If you’re looking to earn, focus on the action on the field.

What to Focus On

There are plenty of prop bets that can reward someone for research and knowledge, even if Entertainment Tonight won’t be discussing the outcome. We won’t tell you which way to go in this year’s game, but just lay out some of the more intriguing money-making options.

“Team to score longest field goal” is one of our favorites. It depends on a number of factors, all of which are measurable and have history. The skill of each kicker, obviously, but also the level of risk aversion of each team’s head coach and the likelihood of each offense to stall around the 40-yard line. Strange things can happen in any game, but the information is out there to increase your odds significantly above, well, a coin toss.

“Team to take the first time out” is another interesting one. The last time out will likely be taken by the team that’s losing the game, in an effort to preserve time on the clock or ice a kicker, but the first time out is a different story. It looks at the clock management history of each quarterback and coach—how many times have you seen a quarterback forced to call time before the play clock runs down and he gets a delayed penalty? NFL analytics sites keep track of “unnecessary timeouts” by coaches. It can help improve your odds at this prop.

“Shortest touchdown” is a fun one that will go down to the wire. The over/under is set at 1.5 yards, so essentially, it’s asking if someone will get stopped on the one-yard line at some point in the game, requiring a sneak or dive to finish off the scoring drive.

One Fun One

If you’re going to get sucked into making a silly prop bet, the one to go with is the over/under on the length of the national anthem. Like the coin toss bet, it will be wrapped up by the time the game kicks off, and, with some work, there is performance history available—both on Super Bowl anthem length and of anthem length by the singer at previous gigs.

This year’s anthem has the lowest over/under number in two decades, because country singer Mickey Guyton, who will be doing the anthem, turned in one just over 1:20 at the National Memorial Day Concert, about 40 seconds less than the Super Bowl anthem average.

So crunch all those numbers and decide what they mean. And while the J.B. Smooves are crying by the salsa you can be cashing winners.