Johnny Avello was among those who saw the writing on the wall, not bothering to start at 57 or 58, instead jumping right in at 59 during the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Pittsburgh. Avello, executive director of race and sports at Wynn Las Vegas, offered a pretty succinct explanation.
“I’ll tell you what went into it: How about the Atlanta Falcons the last six games, averaging 39 points a game, and the Patriots over the last four or so averaging 37 points a game,” Avello said. “That’s what went into it.”
It’s been the story of the playoffs, as the over has gone 7-3 this postseason, including 5-1 over the past two weekends. Both of Sunday’s conference championship games eclipsed the total – 60 in the NFC final between Atlanta and Green Bay, 49.5 in the AFC final – as bettors continued to hammer the books by betting the over and cashing out.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, knowing there’s been a lot of scoring in these games,” said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports for the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, which opened the total at 58 and was at 59 within an hour Sunday night. “I don’t remember posting a higher number on the total for a Super Bowl.”
Indeed, that’s because he hadn’t. But the record-setting total isn’t scaring bettors away from the over – at least the public bettors, anyway.
“We’re a little high on the Patriots (at -3) and a little high on the over,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US, which opened the total at 58 but fairly quickly moved to 59 at its more than 100 shops around Nevada. “The public likes to play the over, and they’ve been paid off handsomely in these playoffs betting the over. I think we’re in a world of overs – NBA, college basketball, the NFL. People have the over on their mind.”
Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at The Mirage, said his shop and the rest of MGM Resorts’ books opened at 59 and got pushed to 59.5 Sunday night before getting a speck of relief with a sharp under wager.
“This morning, one of the professional bettors took us back to 59,” Stoneback said, adding he doesn’t think sharp action on the under will withstand an expected public deluge on the over. “The total is always a little bit inflated because of it being the Super Bowl. I don’t think the public is even gonna be looking at the under. The Super Bowl is one game where the public money can overcome sharp money.”
And in this case, it’s not as if it’s bad strategy.
“They’re riding the streak, filling their pockets by betting the over,” Stoneback said. “They’re not gonna change their way now.”
At offshore sportsbook TheGreek.com, sports director Scott Kaminsky was among the first to post a total, opening at 57.
“The total might be a little light, so I will move the total up quickly if someone so much as sneezes,” Kaminsky said Sunday evening. And in short order, he then bumped that number to 58 and then 58.5 by Monday.
Fellow offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu opened a half-tick higher at 57.5 and was sitting at 58 on Monday.
“Given the efficiency of these offenses, we did not hesitate making this the highest total in Super Bowl history,” said Scott Cooley, odds consultant for Bookmaker.eu. “The public bettors won’t think twice about betting the over, but we do expect to see some smart money on the under.”
The issue is whether it will be enough sharp money. As Stoneback said, he doesn’t think that will be the case at The Mirage and other MGM shops, and he wouldn’t be surprised if it reaches 60.
“Super Bowl weekend, when the public comes in – they were betting the over on the Packers-Falcons,” he said, while pointing out that the over trend, especially parlays of favorites and the over, has been hitting the books hard throughout the NFL season. “To me, it feels like college football now, running up and down the field scoring. At least it seems that way when you need the under. In 30 years, I’ve never seen a season like this.”
Perhaps the best thing that could happen is to see the total rise beyond 60. Tony Nevill, sportsbook director at Treasure Island, sees that as a distinct possibility.
“Will it break 60? I think so, yeah,” Nevill said, noting parlays will be the key. “You’ve just got to figure bettors will take Atlanta moneyline and tie it to the over, and other folks will take Tom Brady and the pointspread and tie it to the over.
“And of course, we’ll all be hoping for Brady to win by 1.”
In a low-scoring game, of course!
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.