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Superbowl Betting and Pointspread History – SportsUntapped.com
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Added January 30th, 2010 by David Glisan

Superbowl Betting and Pointspread History
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For many years now, the Superbowl has been the single biggest betting event at Nevada sportsbooks and during the Internet era its become a focus for offshore sportsbooks as well.  In a typical year, Nevada sportsbooks will take in excess of $80 million in Superbowl action.  Since that figure constitutes only 1 or 2% of the total betting on the game the actual amount of money riding on the game is likely in excess of $750 million.  People who don’t bet on any other sporting event during the year and have no interest in weekly NFL pointspreads discuss and debate whether the Colts or Saints will win and cover.

If you had gotten into sports betting over a decade ago, one of the first things you would have learned is that the favorite more often than not won and covered the Superbowl.  By Superbowl 29 in 1995 the pointspread tally gave the betting favorite in the game a 19-9 edge for a cool 67% winning percentage.  Note that there was no official line on the first Superbowl though the accepted number had the Green Bay Packers a -14 favorite over the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Pack won by 25, meaning that if you included the first game the favorite dominance to that point would have been even more pronounced.  For what its worth, the records herein won’t include Superbowl 1.

As a result of the favorite dominance in the Superbowl, the pointspread on the game became ‘inflated’ on the favorite.  Superbowl 29 saw the largest pointspread in the history of the game as the San Francisco 49ers won and covered over the San Diego Chargers as 18′ point favorites.  Since that point–and partially due to this shading of lines toward the favorite–the complexion of Superbowl pointspread betting has changed dramatically.  By 2005, the favorite held only a 21-15-2 historical edge and the current tally stands at 23-17-2.  Underdogs have taken the money in 8 of the last 12 Superbowl games including last year as the Arizona Cardinals covered in their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Through 1995, it was also very rare for the team that won the game to *not* cover the pointspread.  The 9 underdog victories against the spread included 7 that won the game outright meaning that only twice in the first 29 Superbowls had a team won the game and not covered the spread.  Since then, there have been six teams that covered the spread despite losing the game and in recent years its become very common.  Four of the last eight Superbowls have been covered by the underdog despite losing the game outright.

For the bettor, this has also served to recalibrate Superbowl pointspreads so that they’re a more realistic expression of the qualitative differences between the two teams.  While there may still be a slight shading toward the favorite, the opening number this year with Indy a -3′ point chalk is a pretty reasonable price.  Even the current line favoring the Colts by -5′ is not too outlandish by historical standards.

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