Super Bowl Prop Bet Analysis: Which Team Will Score First & Will They Win The Game?
January 25, 2012 - by David Hess
It’s Super Bowl prop bet time!
Unless your team is still alive, one of the most entertaining aspects of the Super Bowl is the crazy number of prop bets* offered on the game.
Traditional examples include how long the national anthem will last, what color the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach will be, who the Super Bowl MVP will thank first in his interview, or the number of times the broadcast crews mentions the father/girlfriend/wife of one of the players.
This year, we’re planning on analyzing at least one prop bet every weekday between now and the Super Bowl, and deciding whether there is value on either side, or no value at all.
We’ll start today with a couple we found on our own, but suggestions are encouraged!
*For those unfamiliar with the term, “prop bet” is short for “proposition bet” and refers to bets made on events that either aren’t directly related to the outcome of a game, or that do pertain to the outcome but are quite different than merely betting on a specific team to win or cover. During the regular season, prop bets generally pertain to actions on the field, like who will score the first touchdown, or whether the team that scores first will win the game. During the Super Bowl, sports books offer many more prop bets than usual.
First Team To Score
Our first prop comes from 5 Dimes, and while it’s not very exotic, it does seem to have some value.
New York Giants score first -125
New England Patriots score first -105
This one jumped out at us right away. The Patriots are favored to win the Super Bowl according to the latest NFL Odds, yet the Giants are favored to score first? Sounds fishy.
Over the last 10 seasons, teams that score first are 1662-896, winning 65% of the time. In the playoffs, that drops to 65-44 (60%), which is understandable — since the games are closer, the first score is probably part of a massive early lead a bit less often.
However, 109 games is a smallish sample. If we expand our window back to the merger season, and we see a 63% score-first rate by playoff winners, over 411 games.
Our current Super Bowl prediction is that the Patriots have a 55.7% chance to win. Using that projection, if we assume the winning team scores first 60% of the time, and the losing team scores first 40% of the time, here’s how we expect the Super Bowl to break down:
New England wins 55.7% * scores first 60% = 33.4% scores first and wins
New England loses 44.3% * scores first 40% = 17.7% scores first and loses
New England scores first 51.1% of the time.
The break even odds on a -105 bet are 51.2%. So, using our most conservative assumptions, New England scoring first is essentially a wash.
If we think the team that scores first wins at a slightly higher than 60% rate then there is slight value on the Patriots. Plugging in more generous rates of 56.6% win odds (the current Vegas implied odds) and a 65% chance of the winning team scoring first, we get an ROI of +6% on New England scoring first.
*BEGIN EDIT* We’ve been notified via email and Twitter that we’re overlooking a key factor here. When New England wins the coin toss, they usually defer the kickoff the the second half, while the Giants usually elect to receive it immediately. That means the Giants will more than likely start the game with the ball. In a game expected to be as high scoring as this one, that does swing the odds back their direction. Our official conclusion on this one has been changed to reflect that.
Conclusion: No value … at 5 Dimes at least. As we went to press last night, we noticed the odds for this prop at Pinnacle were NYG -101 / NE -116. That’s a pretty big difference, and there’s likely value at one of these books. Given this new info, the value is probably on New York Giants score first -101 at Pinnacle. *END EDIT*
Team To Score First Wins The Game
This one is closely related to the first prop, so now is a good time to review it. Again, this is from 5 Dimes.
Team to score first wins game -165
Team to score first loses game +135
We just went over the research for this one. The historical probability of the team that scores first winning the game are in the 60% to 65% range. That, of course, means that the odds of the initial scorer losing are 35% to 40%.
The break even odds for the two props here are 62.2% for the -165 line and 42.6% for the +135 line. So “Team to score first wins the game” has a break even point smack dab in the middle of our expected odds of winning the bet. That means it’s the lesser of two evils, but still a no go.
Conclusion: No Value (but we’d go with “Team to score first wins game” at -165 if forced)
OK, tune in tomorrow for more prop bet analysis. If there’s a specific one you’d like to see us tackle, leave a comment below, and we’ll see what we can do!