Free Super Bowl Prop Analysis: Which Team Will Score First?

posted in NFL

Over in our premium NFL forum, which is available to TeamRankings subscribers (sign up now), we’ve been posting daily, data-driven analysis of Super Bowl prop bets. We take care to do a deep, thorough analysis of each of the props we look into, and wanted to post one of our analyses on the blog to give all of our readers an example.

If you like what you see here, there are seven other props broken down in the NFL forum so far, with more coming. And if you’re a subscriber and you want us to look at a specific prop, just ask us in the forum! We love fielding questions.

Super Bowl Prop Analysis: Which Team Will Score First?

TR’s David Hess has rolled up his sleeves and jumped headlong into the data to explore this prop. The lines mean that San Francisco is the favorite to score first, but where is the value?

  • San Francisco: -135 (5Dimes), -132 (Pinnacle), -130 (Bovada)
  • Baltimore: +115 (5Dimes), +117 (Pinnacle), +100 (Bovada)

Historical Score-First Rates

As always, let’s start by looking at historical rates. These are the rate of the favorite scoring first in games with similar spreads (2 to 5) and similar over/unders (44.5 to 50.5):

  • Since the merger: 56% (652 games)
  • Since 2002 (when NFL moved to 4 divisions): 59% (327 games)
  • Since 2008: 61% (165 games)
  • Since 2008, games between 2 playoff teams: 61% (44 games)
  • Since 2011: 61%

So that would lead us to believe that San Francisco has about a 60% or 61% expected rate.

Score-First Rates This Year

Next, how often did each team score first this year?

All games: 10 of 19 (53%)
In wins: 8 of 13 (62%)
In losses: 2 of 6 (33%)

San Francisco
All games: 10 of 18 (56%)
In wins: 8 of 13 (62%)
In losses/ties: 2 of 5 (40%)

Adding It Up

Given the above team info, it seems like we should expect the winning team to score first about 60% to 65% of the time. Let’s use 62%. Given 65% win odds for San Francisco from our Game Winner picks page, that works out to:

  • SF wins and scores first: 65% * 62% = 40%
  • SF wins and BAL scores first: 65% * 38% = 25%
  • BAL wins and scores first: 35% * 62% = 22%
  • BAL wins and SF scores first: 35% * 38% = 13%

Do the addition and we get:

  • SF scores first: 40% + 13% = 53%
  • BAL scores first: 25% + 22% = 46% (due to rounding)

Reconciling The Difference

Hmm, that’s quite a bit different than the estimate we got from historical data. But let’s say together they give us a range: 53% to 61% chance that SF scores first (so a corresponding 38% to 47% that Baltimore scores first).

The break even rates on the lines we listed at the top are in the following ranges:

  • San Francisco: 56.5% to 57.4%
  • Baltimore: 46.1% to 50.0%

So the team data from this season (which gave us a BAL 47% estimate) would imply there might be a touch of value on BAL +117 at Pinnacle. However, the historical data (estimate of 61% SF) would lead us to believe there is solid value at all the SF lines.

However, we’re overlooking another factor here: this season, when the Ravens win the coin toss, they have mostly opted to defer. (Another one of our prop analysis posts in the NFL premium forum explores that trend.) That means if we’re going just off of historical data, we should adjust San Francisco’s odds up a little, since the teams that receives the ball first tends to score first.

Given the MUCH larger sample size involved in the historical data, I am more inclined to trust that estimate, rather than the one we tried to make based off of Baltimore’s and San Francisco’s 2012 data. That would lead us to suspect the value is on San Francisco. Taking into account that the Ravens are prone to deferring when they win the coin toss, we’re forced to lean even more over the the SF side of the fence.

The Verdict

Value on SF to score first, at any of the posted lines.

As always, please let me know if you think we overlooked something!

  • AM

    how about the likelihood that SF will get the ball first?….There are those who track this stuff and Baltimore always defers yet Frisco has only lately been deferring..

    I think data on the team getting the ball first scoring first needs to be taken into account…I would assume this would sway it even more heavily to SF given that they are probably somewhere between 3:2 and 2:1 to get the ball first.

  • AM

    If this is a subject we do not talk about just delete the comment. I will understand immediately why.

  • David Hess

    Yes, agreed. See the last sentence before the verdict. :)

    “Taking into account that the Ravens are prone to deferring when they win the coin toss, we’re forced to lean even more over the the SF side of the fence.”

    We didn’t go into detail here, because this was originally a forum post, and that topic that had already been covered in the forum. But to get a quick estimate, you can use the current lines for the “who gets the ball first” prop bet. Right now the odds are:

    SF -135
    BAL +115

    That works out to about 55% SF, so it makes me shade the estimates from the analysis above slightly more towards SF.

    It’s good that you’re thinking about angles like this! Details matter.

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