Super Bowl XLVIII - Take the underdog

11:38 AM, Jan 30, 2014   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - One of the safest bets in pro football has been wagering on the underdog in the Super Bowl. Underdogs have covered nine of the last 12 games with six outright victories.

Last season, San Francisco was favored by 4.5 points but fell to Baltimore, 34-31. The year before, the New York Giants sent the favored New England Patriots back home a loser with a four-point victory as 2.5-point underdogs.

That was the second time in five years New York pulled off the upset win over New England as the Giants got the victory in 2008 as 12-point dogs. In fact, the underdog has four outright wins in the last six Super Bowls

There was a time when this phenomenon went the other way. Between Super Bowls V and XXIX (a span of 25 games), the favorite was a healthy 19-6. Incidentally, 11 of those 19 winners were favored by six points or more.

Only five favorites have covered in the last 18 years. One main reason why this has taken place is parity, which has made it difficult for favorites to dominate as much as they did back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Parity also has led to a mixture of different winning teams. Eight squads have won Super Bowls in the last 12 years with only New England (three), Pittsburgh (two) and the Giants (two) claiming more than one victory. Compare that to the 25 years mentioned earlier, which saw just nine different squads hoisting the trophy, and it is easy to spot how much more difficult it is for teams to remain dynasties.

It also does not matter which conference clubs reside in as four different AFC teams and four different NFC squads have won the title over the last 12 years. The two conferences were almost even going back to the 25 seasons from 1971 to 1995 when four AFC teams and five NFC clubs won.

The big difference since 2002 is that the NFC representative has covered the spread nine times while the AFC team has covered just three times. In addition, when the NFC team is the underdog, its against-the-spread record is 7-2 with four outright victories. That is the scenario for this year's matchup as Denver (AFC) is favored by two or three points depending on the sportsbook.

OVER/UNDER TRENDS

The last six Super Bowls have seen an exact split of overs and unders with three overs and three unders. Moreover, the pattern has been very strong with an under followed by an over continuing for all six years. Given that trend, one might suspect this year's contest will go under the 47-point total.

However, there is another trend that points in the other direction. All three games (of the six) where the total was in the 40s went over and the three in the 50s went under. Those folks who back this trend will take the over since the total is 47.

Another over/under trend has to do with which conference is favored. The AFC team has been favored in seven of the last nine Super Bowls and all but one went under the total. The one outlier was the Pittsburgh-Arizona game in 2009. Meanwhile, the over connected the only two times the AFC representative was the betting favorite.

THE FINAL TAKE

Taking in all the above statistical data, the one play that stands above the rest is Seattle plus the 2.5 points.

This is the first time since the 2009 season that the teams with the best record in each conference have reached the Super Bowl. That year, New Orleans (13-3) upset Indianapolis (14-2) by a 31-17 score. The Colts were not only favored by four points, but they also were led by a quarterback named Peyton Manning.

Will lightning strike twice in a span of five years against Manning? You can bet on it.

The Sports Network

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