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NFL SuperBowl 52: Eagles vs Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots

U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota

February 4, 2018, 3:30PM Pacific

Our power rankings work, which has fared quite well in the playoffs, makes the Patriots 1-2.5 points better than the Eagles on a neutral field this week. As such, we are compelled to back the Cinderella Philadelphia Eagles +4.5 in SuperBowl 52 (we actually loaded up on +6 just after the Pats bypassed the Jags in the AFC Conference Championship game, but, given that our power rankings approach handicaps this contest at Pats -2.5, we are comfortable with Philly +4.5).

The Patriots have indeed been the best bet in the NFL over the last two years. Since 2016, New England is 28-9 versus the number (including the playoffs). In fact, one would have to look as far back as 2009 to uncover a season where the Patriots finished with a less than 50% ATS win rate.

However, the perennial contenders have struggled against the betting line in Superbowl appearances. Quite remarkably, Tom Brady has led New England to the Big Game seven times over the course of his illustrious career (this feat is good for best ever honors). However, the superstar QB has managed to beat the betting line in only three of these instances -- with each ATS victory coming from the position of three point favorites or less; when expected to win the Superbowl by a touchdown or more, New England is 0-3 ATS.

And, while all betting trends don't bode well for the Eagles today, Evan Abrams of The Action Network observes that Superbowl teams that experienced 1.5 points or more of negative line value from open to close are a meager 2-13 SU and 4-11 ATS.

Similarly, The Action Network's John Ewing notes that since 2001 reigning NFL MVPs are 0-8 SU and ATS in SuperBowl outings.

More broadly, since 1990 (when the NFL instituted the current twelve-team playoff format) SuperBowl underdogs are 14-10-2 ATS. Moreover, since 2000, teams receiving points in the last game of the post-season are 11-5 ATS.

We interpret the Pats' (and favorites in general) struggles to cover in Superbowls as consistent with bettor's over-infatuation with favorites against-the-spread. This predisposition has been empirically documented. For instance, examination of the 1973-1987 NFL seasons by Golec and Tamarkin (1992) identified that the betting public does in fact unduly support favorites to cover. These authors assert that the bias against teams receiving points is actually on the rise.

Similarly, Wever and Aaland (2010), after examining NFL data from 1985-2008, concluded that NFL betting markets are indeed biased against underdogs (big dogs, in particular).

But, in the face of our intimation that the public is clustering around the Pats as a manifestation of human psychology rather than as a result of objective analysis, we note that, per SportsInsights, public wagering (as measured by number of spread bets) is approximately evenly split among the Patriots and Eagles (a scenario where the majority of wagers backed New England would better fit with this premise). Nonetheless, in aggregate, our power rankings work (primarily), with support from betting trends and research on bettor behavior all align us with the Eagles plus the points. We have made our beds accordingly.

Happy betting!!

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