Monday, January 28, 2013

Who Will Score First In The Super Bowl?

By Jeremy Conlin

My favorite Super Bowl Prop Bet is the player to score the first touchdown. It's a bet that I've nailed in each of the last four Super Bowls. Victor Cruz, Jordy Nelson, Pierre Garcon, and Gary Russell (via "the field") have all paid out for me. The best option is usually to identify three or four different bets that you like and throw a little down on each of them (as opposed to betting the house on one guy). Before I break out my own bets this year, I figured we should go through the odds for each pick, starting with the long-shots (all odds from

No TD Scored: +12500

This is bad news. 125-1 odds that two pretty good defensive teams will go without a touchdown over the course of 60 minutes? They're begging us to take this. They're saying that, statistically speaking, there's less than a 1% chance that the game ends without either team scoring a touchdown. Considering a little over a year ago these same teams ground out a 16-6 slopfest, those odds seem off. Let's come back to this one later.

Tedd Ginn Jr: +6500
Ed Dickson: +5000
Anthony Dixon: +4000
Vonta Leach: +3500
Joe Flacco: +3500

If the bet was simply "which players will score a touchdown?" these odds would be significantly more appealing, especially Leach and Flacco. But we're talking about the first touchdown of the game only, and the usage of these guys fluctuates way too much early in games to rely on them here. Let's move on.

Bernard Pierce: +2500
Jacoby Jones: +2500
Delanie Walker: +2500
LaMichael James: +1800
Randy Moss: +1800

If the Ravens receive the opening kickoff, Jones becomes a very intriguing option, but we won't know if they will or not until the bet is already closed, so that's probably a stay-away unless you have some sort of inside info that the Ravens will elect to receive and the 49ers will elect to defer should they win the coin toss. LaMichael James scored last week, and has seen an increased role since Kendall Hunter went down with an injury (including kick returns), but it's doubtful that he's involved enough early in the game to justify a bet.

Now we get into the more reliable choices. You'll see in a minute, but Vegas has already broken them down by team for us.

Dennis Pitta: +1200
Anquan Boldin: +1000
Ray Rice: +1000
Torrey Smith: +1000

Vernon Davis: +1000
Colin Kaepernick: +900
Michael Crabtree: +800
Frank Gore: +800

The 49ers have noticeably better odds to score first than the Ravens do, and this makes sense - if the 49ers are favored in the game, it would stand to reason that they'd be favored to score first.

I'm pretty confident that I can cross off Davis and Kaepernick right away. With Kaepernick at starting quarterback, the two have combined for five touchdowns in nine games. The odds of either of them scoring at all don't seem to fit with the lines given, let alone scoring the first touchdown of the game.

For the Ravens, it basically comes down to whether or not you think they'll be able to put together a sustained drive early in the game. If you think they can, Rice and Pitta are probably the two good bets. If you think Baltimore's only hope is to create a big play downfield (like they did against Denver, and like Atlanta did against San Francisco last Sunday), Smith and Boldin are your bets.

And here's one last line:

The Field: +750

This one makes no sense to me. The only offensive players who have scored touchdowns for either team this year that haven't already been listed are Anthony Allen, Tyrod Taylor, Tandon Doss, and Sam Koch, all from Baltimore (Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams scored touchdowns for San Francisco, but both are on Injured Reserve and won't be active). Ed Reed and Cary Williams each scored a defensive touchdown for Baltimore, and Donte Whitner, Ahmad Brooks, and Carlos Rogers scored defensive touchdowns for San Francisco.

Sam Koch is the Ravens' punter, and Tyrod Taylor is the backup quarterback. The likelihood of either of them scoring at all is effectively zero. Anthony Allen has a grand total of 16 carries this season, and Tandon Doss has been targeted as a receiver 21 times, for seven receptions. I'm dubious that either one of them will even be on the field on Sunday, let alone in a position to score the first touchdown of the game.

That basically means you're laying 15-2 odds that the first touchdown of the game will be an interception or fumble return. Special Teams touchdowns wouldn't even count because all the relevant special teams players (Jones, Ginn, James) already have individual odds listed. Does that seem like a good bet to you? Me neither.

The two best bets for the 49ers are Gore and Crabtree. They're in positions to score more often than anyone else on the team. James and Moss are decent long-shot bets, but not enough to get me to put money down.

As for Baltimore, I'm of the mind that their best chance to score early is with a big play downfield. I don't see them sustaining a long drive and Ray Rice plunging across for a 2-yard touchdown.

And that bet for no touchdowns scored.... I just have to. These two teams would go without a touchdown more than once every 125 games. 

The Bets:
Anquan Boldin (+1000)
Torrey Smith (+1000)
Michael Crabtree (+900)
Frank Gore (+800)
No Touchdown Scored (+12500)

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