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NFL: Why betting on the underdog in the Super Bowl is such a good play
Super Bowl Sunday. It’s the biggest sports betting day of the year in North America. Some call it sports gambling Christmas.
According to the American Gaming Association, some 23 million Americans bet on the Super Bowl last season, accounting for around $6 billion in wagers.
A lot of that money is bet on the underdog, and in the Super Bowl – especially in recent Super Bowls – that decision is proving to be a prudent move.
For a number of years now, the underdog has carried the day on Super Bowl Sunday. Betting the underdog in the Super Bowl often isn’t a gamble as much as it often proves to be a sound investment.
An Upsetting Trend
If were to merely look upon the outcomes of the past three Super Bowls, you’re likely to less inclined to lean toward an underdog play. Favorites have won two of the past three big games. But three games is not a trend. It’s a very small sample size.
Eight games? Now you’re getting warmer. Twelve games? You could consider that to be a trend. Eighteen games? Oh yeah. Totally trending.
Well, as a matter of fact, the underdog has proven to be the winning play in six of the past eight Super Bowls. Underdogs cashed paydays for bettors in nine of the past 12 games, as well as in 13 of the last 18 Super Bowls played.
The last seven times the underdog was a winning play, the betting choice didn’t merely fail to cover the point spread, they were outright losing favorites. Overall, underdogs have won outright in 10 of the last 18 Super Bowls.
Three underdogs beat the spread – the Arizona Cardinals (+7) lost 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 43. In Super Bowl 34 the Philadelphia Eagles (-7) fell 24-21 to the New England Patriots. The year before in Super Bowl 33, the Carolina Panthers, also seven-point underdogs, bettered the line in a 32-29 loss to the Patriots.
Another reason to bet the underdog this season in Super Bowl 54 – the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl 53 as 2.5-point favorites. The favorite has won back-to-back Super Bowls once in the past 24 Super Bowl games.
Tom Brady Is A Terrible Favorite
Selected 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Patriots, Tom Brady is the ultimate underdog story. He’s won (six) and played in (nine) more Super Bowls than any quarterback in the history of the NFL.
No wonder he’s not been such a great Super Bowl favorite.
When he’s been at the helm of the favored team in the Super Bowl, Brady is a dismal 2-5. And those two wins have come in the last three Super Bowl games, so he’s actually been bucking the trend of late.
Brady as underdog, though, is a different story. He’s 2-0 in that scenario, winning outright in both Super Bowls in which he helmed the underdog.
He led the Patriots to a 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams, who were whopping 14-point favorites, in Super Bowl 36. And in Super Bowl 49, Brady carried the Pats to a 28-24 decision over the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle was listed as the one-point chalk in that game.
Double The Digits, Double The Underdog Wager
Making a team a double-digit favorite in the Super Bowl is like handing Superman a bucket of Kryptonite. It can only lead to bad things.
Perhaps it’s the weight of such lofty expectations that gets to these overwhelming favorites. Whatever the case, giving an underdog 10 or more points to work with tends to the gift that keeps on giving to the sports bettor.
In the last five Super Bowls in which there was a double-digit favorite, the underdog has won outright three times, beat the spread once, and one game ended in a push. The Green Bay Packers, favored by 14 points, beat the Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl 31.
Overall, the favorite has won seven of the 14 Super Bowls in which they were given a double-digit advantage in the point spread. But those seven wins came during the first nine instances in Super Bowl history where there was a double-digit favorite.
Legendary Super Bowl Upsets
The Patriots were 18-0 when they met the New York Giants as 12-point favorites in Super Bowl 42. But Giants QB Eli Manning engineered a 17-14 Super Bowl upset of New England. Manning (twice) and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles (Super Bowl 52) are the only quarterbacks to beat Brady in the Super Bowl.
Six years earlier, when the Patriots survived in the AFC playoffs against the Oakland Raiders via the controversial Tuck Rule, everyone should have known to bet them as a team of destiny when they were 14-point underdogs to the St. Louis Rams. New England won 20-17 on Adam Vinatieri’s field goal on the final play of regulation.
The AFL was making its final appearance in the Super Bowl when the Kansas City Chiefs faced the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl 4 as 12-point underdogs. It was no contest. The Chiefs completely manhandled Minnesota 23-7, launching what would become a Super Bowl tradition of failure for the Vikings, one of two NFL teams that is 0-4 in Super Bowl games.
The Iron Clad Guarantee
When it comes to Super Bowl upsets, they all take a backseat to Super Bowl 3. At Miami’s Orange Bowl to face the 15-1 Baltimore Colts, no one gave the AFL champion New York Jets a sliver of hope, especially the oddsmakers, who established Baltimore as 18-point favorites.
Through the first two Super Bowls, the mighty Packers had proven NFL dominance, beating the Chiefs 35-10 as the 14-point chalk and dominating the Raiders 33-14 as a 13.5-point betting choice. The AFL-NFL merger was two years away, and the junior circuit had displayed little to convince football fans that their teams could hold a candle to the NFL powers.
50 years ago today, Joe Namath delivers on the most famous guarantee in sports history as the Jets upset the Colts in Super Bowl III. pic.twitter.com/NtTmonPM79— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 13, 2019
Poolside at their Miami hotel, Jets QB Joe Namath boasted that things would change. He went out on a limb, guaranteeing that the Jets would win on Super Bowl Sunday.
Everyone had a good laugh but Namath had the last laugh. A powerful running game, Namath’s precision passing, a stout defense and three Jim Turner field goals paved the way to a 16-7 Jets victory.
It remains the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, and one of the most iconic underdog stories in the history of sports.
Super Bowl Underdogs Who Won Outright
- Super Bowl 52: Philadelphia Eagles (+4.5) New England Patriots 33
- Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos (+4.5) 24 Carolina Panthers 10
- Super Bowl 49: New England Patriots (+1) 28 Seattle Seahawks 24
- Super Bowl 48 Seattle Seahawks (+2) 43 Denver Broncos 8
- Super Bowl 47: Baltimore Ravens (+4.5) 34 San Francisco 49ers 31
- Super Bowl 46: New York Giants (+2.5) 21 New England Patriots 17
- Super Bowl 44: New Orleans Saints (+5) 31 Indianapolis Colts 17
- Super Bowl 42: New York Giants (+12) 17 New England Patriots 14
- Super Bowl 37: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4) 48 Oakland Raiders 21
- Super Bowl 36: New England Patriots (+14) 20 St. Louis Rams 17
- Super Bowl 32: Denver Broncos (+11) 31 Green Bay Packers 24
- Super Bowl 25: New York Giants (+7) 20 Buffalo Bills 19
- Super Bowl 23: Los Angeles Raiders (+3) 38 Washington Redskins 9
- Super Bowl 22: Washington Redskins (+3) 42 Denver Broncos 10
- Super Bowl 17: Washington Redskins (+3) 27 Miami Dolphins 17
- Super Bowl 15: Oakland Raiders (+3) 27 Philadelphia Eagles 10
- Super Bowl 4: Kansas City Chiefs (+12) 23 Minnesota Vikings 7
- Super Bowl 3: New York Jets (+18) 16 Baltimore Colts 7
- Super Bowl Underdogs Who Beat The Point Spread
- Super Bowl 43: Pittsburgh Steelers 27 (-7) Arizona Cardinals 23
- Super Bowl 34: New England Patriots (-7) 24 Philadelphia Eagles 21
- Super Bowl 33: New England Patriots (-7) 32 Carolina Panthers 29
- Super Bowl 30: Dallas Cowboys (-13.5) 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 17
- Super Bowl 23: San Francisco 49ers (-7) 20 Cincinnati Bengals 16
- Super Bowl 10: Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) 21 Dallas Cowboys 17