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Introduction to Super Bowl Prop BettingBy Kurt Boyer
A “prop bet” is shorthand for “proposition bet” at the sportsbook. Proposition bets are wagers placed on occurrences in a game other than the straight-up winning team, team-to-cover the point spread, or the Over/Under. Player performances, exact point totals and final scores, and even pregame and halftime events go in the “prop bet” category.
Prop bets on week-to-week football games can be hard to find in 2019-20. Bookmakers need time and research to set proposition, odds on NFL teams, players, and outcomes, and sportsbooks aren’t always willing to invest the necessary resources. In fact, some sportsbooks have begun using software to allow bettors to create their own prop bets on regular-season games. That’s fun, but removes the possibility of line-movement and of betting against the public.
That’s just one reason why the Super Bowl has become the prop-betting circus of the year in major American sports.
Sportsbooks go crazy setting prop odds on the Greatest Show on Earth. How crazy? Experts have speculated that 100s of different prop bets are offered prior to every Super Bowl on the internet alone. Add in-person gambling at FanDuel Sportsbook and elsewhere, and the numbers are unreal.
That doesn’t mean prop betting the Super Bowl has to be confusing or overwhelming. After all, there’s no rule that says you have to gamble on more than a single stat line or Yes/No proposition.
But what are the different types of Super Bowl prop odds, and how do they all work?
Let’s look at just a few of the most-popular examples.
Prop Betting on Super Bowl Outcomes
The most basic kind of Super Bowl prop odds involve possible outcomes of the game. Bettors can find prop odds listed in “table” form on exact margins-of-victory for the favorite or the underdog. Wagers on an exact-outcome line only win if things work out perfectly, unlike the point spread in which the New York Giants can “cover” with any winning margin above the number given. If you pick the Giants to win a Super Bowl by exactly 14 points, the bet loses unless the Big Blue prevails by 14. The upside is that the payoff odds are almost always generous due to the low probability of winning the bet.
Other kinds of game-outcome prop bets can pay off well before the final snap from scrimmage. Bookmakers offer Super Bowl prop odds on which club will score first, whether there will be a TD or a FG scored in the 1st quarter (or on the opening possession) and whether the initial scoring play will be a run, a pass, a kick, or a touchdown scored by a defense or special teams.
Then there are prop bets that only the most-dedicated handicappers take a shot at winning. Bettors can find proposition odds, for instance, on whether the final score will be “odds” (excuse the pun) or “evens,” so that 24-21 (45 total points) wins for “odd” while 30-14 (44 total points) wins for the “even” prop bet. Speculators try to handicap the odd vs even final-score prop by analyzing kickers, coaches, and potential 4th quarter scenarios to determine the likelihood of teams going for 2-point conversions or gambling on 4th down instead of adding 3 points with a field goal. But much like spinning a roulette wheel, such prop bets almost always come down to luck.
Believe it or not, “odds and evens” is far from the silliest prop betting option out there.
Super Bowl Prop Odds: Gambling on Player Performances
Another classic style of Super Bowl odds are found in player-performance prop markets. Usually couched in “Yes or No” question form, player-performance props ask gamblers to decide whether an athlete will surpass a certain statistical benchmark in his quest to earn a Lombardi Trophy.
For example, a proposition on the New England Patriots might ask, “Will Tom Brady throw at least 4 touchdown passes in the Super Bowl?” Next to the question should be a “Yes” moneyline and a “No” moneyline. Since Tom Terrific is among the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history (and since the Patriots like to pass a lot on occasion) the “Yes” market wouldn’t be likely to promise a 5-to-1 payoff (+500) or any such lucrative amount. In fact, when Brady was in his prime 5 or 10 years ago, a theoretical “yes” bet on “4 touchdown passes” might have come with prop odds shorter than (+200).
But say a less-heralded QB like Mitch Trubisky of the Chicago Bears makes it to the big dance. The bookmaker might adjust his statistical benchmark downward to “2” or “3” touchdown passes, and put longer odds on Trubisky’s likelihood to reach the goal.
There are team-stat props on the Super Bowl too. A sportsbook might proposition gamblers to wager on whether the Baltimore Ravens will sack the opposing QB at least 4 times. Successfully handicapping those odds involves more than just weighing the Ravens’ pass rush, of course – if Lamar Jackson scores 5 touchdowns in the 1st half and forces the other quarterback to have to throw passes early and often, the chances of Baltimore notching 4+ sacks go way up.
Careful what you wish for when cheering for your player-performance prop bets to pay off. You might wish that an opposing team either scores quickly or punts quickly to increase the number of snaps an offense has to rack-up stat totals. But if your prop odds are on a running back to gain 100+ yards, and the opposition scores too many points too quickly, coaches could abandon the running game by the 2nd half…leaving your RB without enough touches to even gain 50 yards.
Prop Bets on a Super Bowl 54 MVP
FanDuel Sportsbook re-launched its Super Bowl odds section last Monday with 5 categories of gambling markets on the Kansas City Chiefs vs San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium. The “Game MVP” prop market asking bettors to predict a Most-Valuable Player of Super Bowl 54 is sure to get plenty of action.
While Super Bowl MVP prop lines are technically “player performance” odds, remember that pure efficiency on the gridiron is not all that goes into naming an MVP of the contest. Most player-performance props involve objective measures of success such as yards gained, TDs scored, and pass completions. Super Bowl MVP awards are more of a fan-reaction and popularity contest.
An offensive lineman such as Joe Staley of the 49ers might dominate Super Bowl LIV with half of a dozen pancake blocks and a “walk the dog” screen-pass deception on the winning touchdown. But it would still be almost impossible for Staley to win the Most-Valuable Player award, just as it is extremely rare for a defensive player to receive the honor.
Quarterbacks have won Super Bowl MVP awards 29 times, more than double the number of MVP honors given to all other position-players combined in the event’s history. Only 3 defensive linemen have ever won it, and no offensive lineman or tight end has ever gotten the nod. Former Green Bay Packer kick-returner Desmond Howard become the only special teams player to ever earn Super Bowl MVP hardware following a legendary performance in 1997.
If you’re looking to handicap some of the likeliest potential MVPs of Super Bowl 54, it’s best to begin with the offenses – namely QBs, wide receivers, and running backs.
Not surprisingly, quarterback Pat Mahomes of the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs is currently tops on FanDuel’s MVP-prop betting board with the shortest line at (+110). QB Jimmy Garoppolo of the NFC title-winning San Francisco 49ers is the 2nd-shortest line at (+240), or $240 paid out for every $100 wagered if the former New England backup is chosen MVP of the upcoming game in Miami.
Neither market may be the “value” wager that Super Bowl prop gamblers are looking for. It’s true that the Kansas City offense begins and ends with Mahomes, and the KC signal-caller often leads the Chiefs in rush yards in addition to passing yards and points-scored following a Sunday contest. But it’s rare for a player on the losing team to win the Super Bowl’s MVP trophy, and so a wager on Mahomes to win at (+110) must take into account the possibility that the Chiefs will lose the game, making an MVP selection from San Francisco a much more-likely outcome.
Meanwhile, if the run-heavy 49ers happen to win going-away as they did in the 2020 NFC Divisional and Championship rounds, it’s not unfathomable that Garoppolo will attempt less than 10 passes in 4 quarters. The 49ers completed 6 passes on just 8 attempts in a 37-20 NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers.
As hyped as any QB may be after winning a Super Bowl, it’s hard to imagine a QB going 6-of-8 and prevailing with the hardware over an RB or a WR who touches the ball 10+ times and racks-up triple digits in yards gained.
That’s where Raheem Mostert comes in. Mostert, the 49ers’ unlikely playoff hero at tailback, is currently a (+750) wager to earn the Super Bowl 54 MVP award. The 27-year-old RB has been cut from half of a dozen NFL clubs over the past few years, but has proven effective, even dominant when running behind Staley and a powerful San Francisco offensive line. If the NFC representatives lead at halftime, it won’t be surprising to see the 49ers give Mostert a lion’s share of touches in the 2nd half.
Finally, if the 49ers decide to blitz Mahomes at all costs and leave Kansas City receivers single-covered, the MVP award could end up going to a KC pass-catcher instead. Swift WR Tyreek Hill is a (+2000) or 20-to-1 Super Bowl MVP pick at FanDuel Sportsbook following a season in which he has averaged nearly 15 yards per catch.
Travis Kelce is also an (+1800) prop bet to become the 1st tight end ever to win the MVP award.
Super Bowl Prop Bets Available Before the NFL Playoffs Conclude
It may be hard to understand why sportsbooks don’t put some of the weirder, wilder prop bets up for action well before 2 teams are booked to play in the Super Bowl. For instance, the odds-maker already knows what the odds of a coin being flipped Heads or Tails is going to be – 50/50. Why would she need to wait until the clubs are known to place odds on a Super Bowl coin flip?
But wait – some teams like to call “Heads,” and some like to call “Tails” when hoping to win the pregame coin toss. So if the bookie wants to word the proposition a little bit differently and ask which side of the coin will be chosen, or which conference will win rights to choose kick, receive, or pick an end zone, then “50/50” odds are no longer logical because the outcome depends in-part on the individual characteristics of NFL teams. She must wait and find out who the 2 conference champions will be, or risk posting a badly-priced betting line.
Some of the Super Bowl’s prop bets are tailor-made for early birds, however. A popular early-January market is the Super Bowl Match-Up, in which gamblers are proposed various combinations of NFC and AFC squads and must choose who will fight in February.
What are the Weirdest Prop Bets on the Super Bowl?
Some gamblers laugh when they see odds on celebrities and “wardrobe malfunctions” at the Super Bowl. But the bookmakers at FanDuel could be cooking up some “colorful” novelty props of their own for Super Bowl 54 in Miami.
“Novelty” prop bets for a Super Bowl can include:
- The color of Gatorade poured on the winning head coach
- Whether the Super Bowl MVP will thank God, his teammates, or his family first
- Odds on the opening coin toss
- Odds on the 1st penalty flag thrown
Once again, there’s more than meets the eye with the above Super Bowl betting lines. What feels like blind-chance betting to some may become a scientific study for others. Suppose you happen to know what flavor of Gatorade the NFC’s representative team likes to drink? In that case, you can place a confident prop bet on that color of health-drink getting poured over the winning coach…but it only works if the NFC wins.
Finally, the mother of all novelty prop bets is by far the simplest – odds on the opening coin-toss. Bettors can choose “heads” or “tails,” usually at matching payoff odds unless there’s a rush of action on heads or tails specifically for some reason.Don’t laugh at folks who bet on the coin toss. While the coin toss is truly impossible to “handicap” with any expectation of success, many dedicated Super Bowl bettors like to wager a small amount on the pregame coin-flip’s outcome for good luck. Others use a small bet on the coin-toss odds like an astrologer might use a horoscope. If they win the coin-toss prop bet, it’s a nice bonus to start 3 or 4 hours of live betting on the big game. If they lose the small wager, it’s a reminder to be cautious and not throw good money after bad in search of an in-play jackpot.
Some sportsbooks place (-115) or (-120) odds on either side of the coin flip, knowing that many gamblers won’t resist the temptation to test their luck before the game begins. But the oddsmakers at FanDuel have placed friendly (-103) payoff odds on the coin landing on heads and the same number on the coin landing tails, a lower-risk market for gamblers to throw a penny in the wishing well.
More FanDuel Prop Bets on Super Bowl 54
Let’s take a quick look at some of the additional Super Bowl 54 prop lines available at FanDuel Sportsbook.
The top market under the site’s heading “Big Game Props” is an eye-grabber. The proposition states, “Will the opening kickoff be returned for a touchdown?” The sportsbook has not bothered to offer a “no” bet since the odds on “no” would be so short as to constitute a negligible payoff no matter how many dollars were wagered. Instead, there’s simply 1 price on “yes” – (+8000) or 80-to-1. Most handicappers put the odds (the real odds, as in the chances) of an opening-kickoff TD in an NFL game at about 1% or 1-in-100 tries, and it’s important to note that NFL kickers are better than ever at knocking kickoffs into the end zone.
We should keep in mind a few other factors helping the chances of a surprise TD on the opening return, however. As of mid-week prior to Super Bowl 54, meteorologists are predicting a double-digit MPH breeze in Miami. San Francisco’s kicker Robbie Gould is well-respected but hardly an All-Pro in 2019-20. Mecole Hardman of Kansas City is a dangerous kick returner. Last but not least, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for the opening kickoff to be taken all the way for a TD in the biggest clash of all. Chicago did it against Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLI as Devin Hester’s epic dash gave the Bears the earliest lead in Super Bowl history…even though the Colts rebounded to win 29-17 and hoist the hardware.
Wiseguys, or gamblers who look for valuable lines wherever they can find them, may be casting wise eyes on the next market on the FanDuel board, which asks speculators to predict whether the opening play from scrimmage will be a run or a pass. “Run” is currently the shorter of the 2 lines at an optimistic (-120), no doubt thanks to San Francisco’s penchant for running the rock as often as possible. Run-heavy teams are known for occasionally calling play-action passes on the very 1st play, though, to keep the defense honest and possibly find an open WR for a big gain or a touchdown. Meanwhile, Kansas City is likely to pass the ball a lot in Super Bowl 54, and there’s about a 50-50 chance Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs will enjoy the maiden possession of the game. For those reasons, it’s likely that a number of high-rollers will go all-in on a (-105) “pass” prop bet that could pay off faster than you can say “complete.”
Another prop market asks whether or not a safety will be scored in the contest. “Yes” pays off winning bets at (+900) or 9-to-1, again making it likely that a few prop-betting aficionados will go all-in on the long-shot gamble. Kansas City’s team speed and dedication to special-teams excellence means that the Chiefs might be able to pin a “coffin corner” punt on the 1 or 2 yard-line of San Francisco, the perfect scenario to set up a safety with a negative play on 1st or 2nd down of the ensuing possession. Meanwhile the 49ers defensive line is so stingy that even some of the team’s backups could cause problems for the Chiefs’ punt protectors if Kansas City is forced into a 4th-down situation near its own goal line. Blocked punts that bound out-of-bounds in the end zone are recorded as safeties, as are blocked punting attempts which are recovered by the kicking team behind the pylons.
The popular “what will happen first?” market puts (-120) odds on Kansas City punting on its opening possession and (-105) odds on the Chiefs scoring points. Those numbers could be seen as slightly skewed by a number of veteran handicappers. Unlike his mentor Bill Walsh, Kansas City head coach Andy Reid doesn’t always “script” his opening 10 or 15 plays with hopes of immediately bowling-over a difficult foe. Instead, the Chiefs tend to stay patient early in playoff games, as was the case when Houston and Tennessee each took substantial leads on Kansas City in the AFC Divisional and Conference Championship rounds respectively. Mahomes is allowed to adjust and eventually get the offense rolling. There’s also little chance that KC will appear impatient and gamble on 4th downs in the 1st quarter, given that the club is as confident playing from behind as any NFL team in modern memory. In short, there’s probably a better chance Kansas City will punt on its opening possession than the 1-to-1.2 odds at FanDuel ascribe to the Chiefs.
Finally, an interesting (and sometimes hard-to-find) prop market at FanDuel asks whether the final play of Super Bowl 54 will be a kneel-down by the winning team. Kneel-downs occur when an NFL club must simply protect the football and wait for the clock to run out to seal a victory, with the game clock under 2 minutes and a trailing opponent wanting for time-outs. FanDuel offers (-170) payoff on a winning “yes” wager and (+135) on a winning “no” gamble, meaning that house handicappers are optimistic that the final play of the game in Miami will be a simple kneel-down from the “Victory” formation.
Once again, wiseguys may be tempted to take the (+135) “no” proposition. Kneel-downs in the last 2 minutes are more common in blow-outs than tight games, and the Super Bowl is likely to be an extremely close-fought contest in 2020. Also remember that the kneel-on-final-play proposition does not apply if a head coach orders a kneel-down to kill the clock prior to overtime or a game-winning field goal attempt. The market is not asking if a kneel-down will be the final play from scrimmage or the final regulation play but rather the official last snap of the 2019-20 NFL campaign. That factor helps the bettors who select “yes.”
How to Get Started Placing Super Bowl Prop Bets
We’ve only scratched the surface of Super Bowl prop betting – there’s lots more to discuss with Super Bowl LIV in Miami just around the corner. Click around and search this space for much more on the categories, markets, strategies, and pitfalls of prop bets on the NFL’s season-capping gala.
But if you’re ready to peruse some Super Bowl props yourself, “odds” are they’re only a few clicks away. Check out FanDuel Sportsbook and get in on the action with the most reputable name in sports gambling, or if DFS is your fancy, sign-up for FanDuel’s renowned Daily Fantasy Sports games and leagues.
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