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January 30, 2009
by Jeff Briggs
No day fills Gamblor's neon claws with money like Super Bowl Sunday.
Just as people who have no real interest in the Super Bowl feel compelled to watch the game, people who have no history of gambling feel compelled to throw money at it. Each of the last four Super Bowls has seen over $90 million wagered in Nevada casinos. If you couldn’t do the math for yourself, that’s a lot of money – by far the most gambled upon event of the year.
While the majority of the money is bet on the outcome of the game itself, people get severely bit by the gambling bug and feel the need to temp fate with several ridiculous prop bets, covering every facet of the game you can possibly imagine.
You can bet on seemingly every part of Bruce Springsteen’s halftime show, from the number of songs and specific set list, to band wardrobe malfunctions. Coin toss? Better believe you can bet on that. Feel strongly about who will have the most receiving yards, interceptions, touchdowns, or any other stat you can think of? Rest assured. you can find a place to place a bet on it. Will Gary Russell have over/under 2.5 yards rushing? Yes, that’s right – there are bets specific to the third-string running back (for the record, during the playoffs, he had five yards against the Chargers and none versus the Ravens).
Some bets are not quite as ridiculous. MVP Candidates and odds: Roethlisberger (1.75/1), Warner (2/1), Fitzgerald (5/1), Parker (6/1), Polamalu (10/1), and it continues all the way up (down?) to Adrian Wilson at 50/1 (Gary Russell is not listed). While these are all sucker bets, there may be some that remain intriguing (Polamalu, Boldin at 15/1, and Harrison at 30/1 might be some of the better risks).
Even those who don’t bet online or in Vegas will usually bet at home with their friends. There is the classic ‘squares’ bet that is as much of a requirement for every Super Bowl party as wings and beer. May I also suggest everyone throwing in a set amount of money and betting on the first commercial, or perhaps auctioning off products for a most commercials bet? Anything you can think of can be improved by gambling, and at no time is this universal truth more prevalent than Super Bowl Sunday.
As for the game itself, the over/under is set at 47 points, and the Steelers are favored by 6.5 points. My initial gut reaction was to go with the Steelers. Defense usually beats offense, and it’s hard to overlook the Cardinals rather pedestrian regular season, despite their playoff run. The Steelers are battle-tested and have the best defense since the 2000 Ravens. On the other side are the Cards and Larry Fitzgerald, who has played so well that it seems like no defense can cover him – double teamed, triple teamed, whatever – Fitzgerald has been unstoppable all playoffs. Opposite Fitzgerald is Anquan Boldin, who has been banged up for the playoff run but looks to be full strength now, and let’s not forget that he is also a Pro Bowl WR. Considering the Steelers D will be so concerned about Fitzgerald, Boldin should be able to find open pockets underneath the Steelers secondary all day long. Oh, and Ken Whisenhunt knows all about this Steelers offense, specifically Big Ben (who had the worst performance of his career in his last Super Bowl).
Now it looks like the Cardinals can win this thing, right? Their offense is too good. They have too many of the compelling storylines on their side. But no, sorry, they won’t. Favorites typically win the Super Bowl, and they usually cover the spread. If there weren’t an extra week to hype up the Cardinals, this wouldn’t even be a question, and it shouldn’t be one with the extra week.
The pick: Steelers 27, Cardinals 17