Fishing in Lockness – Super Bowl

by dave on February 1, 2013

My Vegas condo agreement requires me to publicly tout gambling picks for the week. I can’t GUARANTEE A FIVE STAR LOCK OF THE MILLENNIUM, YOU ARE A COMMUNIST TRANSVESTITE IF YOU DON’T BET ON THIS but I can identify the games that seem to me to have an essence of Lockness about them, which smells like a mix of algae, brackish water and lizard breath.

Also, I am totally welcoming of all communists. Transgendered, transvestite or other.

The Super Bowl is many things, but above all else it is an event more obsessed with its own importance than even Guy Fieri. Calling itself the Super Bowl is bad enough but then try to use that Narcissistic phrase in an advertisement without NFL agreement, and watch the lawyers descend like a pre-game parachutist. The Super Bowl is so wrapped up in projecting greatness it even sees itself as beyond numbers – the universal language.  Yet, if you really look at it, the Super Bowl isn’t beyond numbers, it is defined by numbers.

Two teams on the big stage for the first time in at least ten years. Two brothers at coach. One megalomaniacal, possibly homicidal, possibly PED-assisted great and glorious leader (#52) playing his last game for the glory of God (or just using the ‘retirement’ excuse to bask in the lavish praise of a sycophantic media, i.e., pulling a Favre). One young quarterback (#7), coming out of northern Nevada and off the bench to utterly change the offensive identity of a team and win one more game than his predecessor, who has become the new mayor of the Island of Misfit Quarterbacks (#11).

And, most importantly, an innumerable number of betting options.

Even before I came to Las Vegas and immersed myself in sports gambling, 24×7, I looked at the Super Bowl through the prism of gambling – especially since it has now been 14 years since the Broncos made the game. Reading about crazy prop bets all week; putting together betting pools with friends on the day of the game with a free dinner as stakes. With hours of build-up on the day itself, something above and beyond listening to five ex-players discuss the same six over-analyzed storylines is necessary to avoid going insane.

Even this year, with at least a modicum of rooting interest with the Niners in the game, the game is still defined for me by gambling. Yes, I will be happy if the Niners win. But I will be REALLY happy if they win by four or more. Throw in the myriad of prop bets and a decent sized Total bet and I will spend the day as conflicted as a Log Cabin Republican while I try to determine which bet I should be cheering on at any given moment.  But this is the last chance to bet on football this season, so it is absolutely time to go all out.

Will I make a killing on the game? Probably not. If I have learned anything, I will probably win a few bets, and lose a few more with the only determinant of profit being that I win the big bets and lose the small bets.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. I have lost nowhere near the amount I prepared to lose this season and am not the biggest fan of the options available for the game, so while I will have more bet on the game than any other game this season, it won’t be so much that I will be selling my hair if I lose. I will (almost assuredly) end the season with a  bankroll down but not catastrophically down.

This game will have moments of fandom stress and it will have moments of sports-bettor stress for me but in the end it will be defined by emotion. Specifically, sadness. This marks the end of the ride for me. On Monday morning, the restraint raises, I standup and dis-embark from the roller coaster. I am not returning to work (or even Denver) immediately but wandering around the amusement park for the next month and a half just won’t be the same with my favorite ride now closed.

So I guess I need to savor every moment of this last run around the track. Even if my stomach drops a few times as the cart drops out from underneath me, I need to remind myself to enjoy the momentary nausea. In a week, I will desperately miss every moment, even the disappointing ones.

Lockness #1 – San Francisco (-3.5) vs Baltimore

As should be expected for the biggest gambling event of the year, there appears to be little value on bets for the Super Bowl. My system came up with the Niners by 6.5, so I waited as early Baltimore money came in this week and moved an opening Niners -5 line down to -3.5 before betting. I would really love to get the Niners to -3 or lower but I don’t see that happening. If anything it is going back up.

The obvious comparison for this Ravens team is the Giants teams that won two Super Bowls in the last six years. A quarterback leading a limited offense by minimizing mistakes and making occasional big plays. A defense that looked questionable all season rising up in the playoffs to out-play their season-long performance. You could even make an easy comparison of Ray Lewis and Michael Strahan (older player in his final season, who gets by on reputation more than performance). With that logic, the Ravens are the obvious play. As much as I love historical parallels, in this game there seems to be one giant asterisk to this comparison. And I don’t mean an asterisk in the ‘Ray Lewis is doing this by taking PEDs’ sense.

In both the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, those Giants teams defeated teams that relied on high scoring, pass-happy offenses and mediocre defenses that would do enough to let the offense out-score the other team. In both seasons the Giants beat both the Packers and Patriots – teams that follow this script year in and year out – by putting immense pressure on the quarterbacks while doing just enough on offense to win the game in thrilling fashion. The problem with applying this script to the Ravens is that while their run to date has aligned, the Forty-Niners do not fit the script at all.

The Ravens can’t just hit Colin Kaepernick in the face a couple times and watch him fold like Tom Brady. The Niners would rather hit you right back than throw it over you. The Falcons put pressure on Kaepernick in the NFC title game and San Francisco instead turned to a grinding running game and intermediate passing game utilizing Vernon Davis. Offensively the Niners don’t look like the Packers or Patriots. If anything they are migrating to an offense similar to the Redskins with a power running back and mobile quarterback. The Redskins put up 31 points on the Ravens. The Ravens scored 28 in that loss to Washington, but no one is confusing the Redskins defense with the Forty-Niner defense.

If we want to continue the comparison of Giants and Ravens, the next obvious point is that Giants team went into San Francisco and won last year’s NFC title. But they won in overtime, after getting two gift muffed punts. And don’t forget last year’s Niner offense with Alex Smith and few quality wide receivers was nowhere near as dangerous as this year’s rendition.

I think it will be close and low-scoring but the Forty-Niners hold on for a 27-20 win.

Lockness #2 – San Francisco/Baltimore Under (48)

Some simple math from the last sentence and you can tell, I think this barely covers. The total opened around 50 on Sunday evening after the two conference championship games but was immediately bet down to around 48 before I laid this bet on the following Monday morning. Given two strong defenses and the usual jittery starts to Super Bowls it is easy to expect a low scoring game but with the Ravens big play potential and the efficiency of the Forty-Niners offense, I don’t think this is a lock. I laid the bet so obviously I think Under is the better option of the two, but I retain little confidence.

Lockness # 3 – LaMichael James – Total Receiving yards Over 8.5 yards (+140)

The rest of these bets are some props I found after wading through the novella of bets posted by the LVH. Given how much time I spent thinking about prop bets lately it seemed like I should bet a few. When I first saw this, I assumed the pay-out was wrong – how could James NOT get 8.5 yards receiving? But a quick review of his season shows why. Five receptions for 40 yards on the season. Not a coincidence that averages 8 yards per catch is it? Maybe this is a sucker bet with a surprisingly low yardage number and high payout but I think it is value. James didn’t catch his first pass until week #13. He caught one in each of the two playoff games. In short, he is being worked into the offense more each week. All he needs are 1 or 2 swing passes or screens to easily cover this. With his speed and the lack of speed in the Ravens linebacking corps (see: retiring linebacker who resorted to sucking deer antler spray this season), I would expect James sees more playing time than has been his average. It is a fine line between trap and lock. This one smells closer to lock to me.

Lockness #4 – Frank Gore – Score a Touchdown in the First Half (+220)

The key to me for betting prop bets is to look for bets that show value and also align with your expectations for how the game will play out. Or, alternatively, show value and hedge other bets that align with your expectations for how the game will play out. These first two are based on my belief that the Niner offense will adapt and prosper against the Ravens defense. James to run past the defense with his speed. Gore to run right at them. We know if the Niners get inside the five-yard line, Gore will get at least one or two shots at the endzone. Winning over two times my bet, it is worth it to bet he will find that end zone before half time.

Lockness #5 – Will one quarter during the game be scoreless? Yes (+240)

Prop bets are meant to be fun. Designed to keep your interest in the game no matter what is actually happening on the scoreboard. To that end, prop bets are designed to appeal to people’s desires. As Jay Kornegay, who runs the sportsbook at the LVH told me, “people want things to happen”. They want to bet on Over and Yes. Therefore these bets have lower payouts. If you are making small prop bets for fun, what is the point in winning less than your bet? I am looking for long shots. This bet is the antithesis of what people want to see. If they want scoring, the last thing they want is a scoreless quarter, thus the long odds. With two decent defenses and younger quarterbacks unaccustomed to the big stage, it seems possible that one quarter during the game will pass without a score. Do I expect it to pay? No, of course not. They don’t pay $240 in winnings for a $100 bet on things expected to happen. But it COULD happen.

Lockness #6 – Hail Mary of the Week: Forty-Niners to win by 1-4 points (+350)

We’ve all been there. Bets have been going against us all day. Down to one last bet, it just isn’t worth trying to win less than double our money because when you are trapped at the bottom of a well, 3 feet off the ground is still deep in the well. We need the big score to get back. We could look for a parlay and hope 5 or 6 things all break our way or we can find one highly improbable thing that might, maybe, possibly, could happen and go all-in on it. This is the ‘Break Glass in Case of Emergency’ bet in the sports book.

As stated above I already have a much larger bet on the Niners to win by 3.5 or more. This was my hedge just in case they were to win by a field goal or less. After the Falcons burned me by a half a point in the NFC title game, I am sensitive to half-points here and there. This eliminates that problem completely. If the Niners win the game, I win something. With the long payout, I can bet a small amount and hedge a large portion of a much bigger bet on the spread.

Of course, there is also a best case scenario where the Niners win by exactly four (which sounds familiar for some reason) and I win both bets.

Regardless of whether I win any of these bets, it will be a bittersweet win. It would be nice to go out with a win obviously, but even with a win, I am still stepping off the ride one last time.

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