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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, February 5, 2016 at 1:00 PM

The big story through most of the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl 50 matching the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers and the AFC Champion Denver Broncos has involved the very heavy one-sided action on the Panthers. The public has been betting Carolina almost exclusively (though the bulk of square action is still to come this weekend). That’s set up an interesting dynamic for sportsbooks who have to deal with this one-sided action.

Just one game to talk about…so let’s jump right in…



The first testers up offshore were in the -3.5 to -4 range…but it was clear right away that everyone (squares and sharps) wanted to bet Carolina at those numbers. Openers at straggler stores were more in the -4 to -4.5 range, and the money still kept coming. Stores who eventually lifted all the way to six finally did see Denver money hit the board...including a handful of very big bets.

Right now (Friday morning), most stores are showing Carolina -5.5…but their books are very unbalanced toward Carolina. (You can’t call them “balance sheets” if they’re so unbalanced!) If the game were being played Friday afternoon, sportsbooks would accept that position and root very hard for Denver. That’s what happened in the New England/Denver game in the AFC Championship. It worked out very well for sportsbooks because not only did Denver get the money…but that extra 10% vigorish really piles up in such circumstances! Because the game is being played Sunday, sportsbooks have to decide between:

*Moving to Carolina -6 and inviting in a ton of sharp money on the Broncos (plus any “square” money from Broncos fans who are waiting for the six).

*Staying at Carolina -5.5 and possibly getting even more unbalanced as additional square money on the favorite comes in between now and kickoff.

The premise of “the market” is that 5.5 and 6 are probably “bad” numbers that are a bit too high (particularly the six). If the public wants to load up on the wrong side of a bad number…while also paying 11/10 for the right to do so…then sportsbooks should theoretically be happy with their resulting position. Sportsbooks WOULD be if there were a thousand games like that every day. The math would take care of itself and the corporations owning the books would make a fortune.

The problem is that there’s only one game like this every year! Sportsbook exposure for a one-day disaster is very high if they accept extreme exposure. You can still lose your shirt on a smart bet.

What should we expect through the weekend? The most likely scenario to me is a tug-of-war between Carolina -5.5 (square public money) and Denver +6 (sharp dog money, with some square Broncos fans). Different stores will handle their challenge differently. Some won’t mind letting sharps take some of the risk on Denver because it creates a more conservative framework. There’s still a potential disaster if the game lands right on six. But, there’s still plenty of profit to be made if Carolina can’t cover a “bad” number.

Now, if Carolina money continues to flood the market…we may see that tug-of-war move up a tick to Carolina -6 and Denver +6.5. I’m fairly confident sharp money would come in VERY heavily if that +6.5 were ever to come into play.    

The Over/Under went up at 45. Typically the public loves betting Overs in the Super Bowl because you know the trailing team will keep trying to score the whole way. When there’s no tomorrow, offenses go all out. But, in this case, the line has come down a tick to 44.5 in most spots. In context, this actually represents fairly strong sentiment to the Under. We have a move off a key number that went against the historic direction of the game.


*Peyton Manning and the Denver offense is seen as being pretty bad

*Both teams have very good defenses

*Quants didn’t get an Over grading, which meant no early move higher

*The market is aware that this has been a low scoring stadium

Because of turf issues in Santa Clara, and possibly other factors too…this just isn’t track for a horse race! Carolina fans who envision a big game for Cam Newton like the Over. That’s been working for them all season (and is 2-0 in the playoffs). But there are no other constituencies for the Over in the market right now.

If the public does come in on the Over through the weekend (which is fairly common for a Super Bowl), I would expect a tug-of-war around the 45. The quants in particular will really like the Under at 45 or higher.

Does the market have this game pegged? Or, has Richie B. uncovered something that will influence the scoreboard in a way that hasn’t been fully accounted for yet? You can purchase my Super Bowl 50 selections right here at the website with your credit card Sunday morning. I hope you’ll join me all weekend for basketball too (another board sweep Thursday night with Temple and BYU!). If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours Friday or before the first games get started over the weekend.

This is our final NFL report of the season. Thanks very much to all of you who have been reading my “sharp” football reports since this web feature started. I will have midweek basketball market reports through February (college on Wednesdays, NBA on Thursdays). Then, we’ll have very intense March Madness coverage next month.

I hope all of you get a chance to experience Super Bowl weekend out here in Vegas at least once in your life. It’s one of the biggest thrills in all of sports…especially when we have a great game. Best of luck to you. Thanks for reading!


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Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

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