Published Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017 | 6:18 p.m.
Updated 2 hours, 27 minutes ago
Super Bowl 51
For the sixth time in the past 13 years, the New England Patriots are the betting favorite in the Super Bowl.
Local sports books opened the Patriots as 3-point favorites over the Atlanta Falcons ahead of Super Bowl 51 on Feb. 5 in Houston. Betting lines began surfacing before the Patriots wrapped up their 36-17 victory Sunday night over the Steelers as 6-point favorites in AFC Championship Game.
“Matt Ryan and the Falcons look unstoppable but now they’re going up against (Tom) Brady and the Patriots, who look just as good and are more experienced going into this,” said Jason McCormick, sports book director at Red Rock Resort. “I think that’s going to weigh on everyone’s head, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this went up.”
McCormick went into Sunday expecting to post the Patriots as a 3.5-point favorite over the Falcons in their potential matchup. Atlanta essentially shaved off a half-point by blowing out Green Bay 44-21 as 6-point favorites in the NFC Championship Game.
It was the first game throughout the entire playoffs that Station Casinos and MGM Resorts International profited on the point spread. The majority of public bettors loaded up on the Packers.
Casinos’ wins were still modest, however, because the game eclipsed the over/under of 60.5 points. The Steelers’ final touchdown also brought a windfall to bettors as the AFC Championship Game went over the total of 50 points with less than four minutes to go.
The Patriots’ and Falcons’ high-flying offenses have the Super Bowl over/under set at 59.5 points, the highest in the history of the NFL’s championship game.
“You just can’t make it high enough,” said Jay Rood, MGM’s vice president of race and sports. “People aren’t afraid to put big money on the totals anymore. We almost had as much money on the overs as the sides today.”
The public’s winning streak should boost betting volume on the Super Bowl. Rood described the average bettor’s bankroll as “flush right now,” and said they’d be itching to put the excess cash into action on the final game of the season.
Last year’s Super Bowl, where the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 as 5.5-point underdogs, set a state record with an overall handle of $132.54 million wagered. It would be a surprise if this year’s game didn’t surpass that figure.
“This is a great quarterback matchup, and an overall great matchup for the props,” McCormick said. “People are going to want to bet on everything, and we’re going to want to give them those opportunities.”
Once the Falcons prevailed in Sunday’s first game, it was important for the Patriots to join them to give the state the best chance at another Super Bowl betting record. Falcons vs. Steelers would have been around a pick’em, which would have eliminated moneyline bets on each side to win outright.
The only Super Bowl to not set a state record for betting volume in the last five years was the only one without a moneyline, when the Patriots edged the Seahawks 28-24 as 1-point favorites two years ago.
The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook made the Patriots a minus-150 (risking $1.50 to win $1) moneyline favorite in Super Bowl 51 with the Falcons coming back at plus-130 (risking $1 to win $1.30).
Bookmakers cautioned not to discount a surplus of wagers on Atlanta to win outright.
“The Falcons have been somewhat overlooked but they got their fair share of the action today,” Rood said. “It was definitely the public mostly all over Green Bay, but a lot more people are starting to buy into Atlanta.”
The Falcons would be one of the biggest underdog champions of all-time, as they were as high as 80-to-1 to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season. Even at the enticing odds, hardly anyone bet on them, according to Rood.
Atlanta has only one previous Super Bowl appearance, a 34-19 loss to Denver as 7.5-point favorites in 1999. New England has now reached the final game seven times since then, starting with their 20-17 victory over the Rams in 2002 as 14-point underdogs.
The Patriots are 4-2 straight-up and against the spread in the Super Bowl over that span, and usually commanded the bulk of the action on the betting line. Bookmakers lean towards that happening again, even though New England won’t be the most popular play on the board.
That’s reserved for the over. Bettors will be undeterred by the astronomic number.
“How can you bet a game under right now with the way these teams go over every game?” McCormick said. “I think people see these teams and all they do is attack, attack and attack. They feel like these offenses are impossible to stop.”
Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.