What We Learned From Super Bowl 52
Photo Credit: Kirt Dozier-USA TODAY Sports
Dilly dilly! Even with all of the injuries suffered by star players — such as Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz — the 2017 season was incredible, and we couldn’t have asked for a better game to cap it off than Super Bowl 52.
In honor of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, here are nine quick takeaways from the game.
1. It’s Possible to Overvalue the Better Quarterback
Everything considered, it’s better to have Tom Brady than Nick Foles at quarterback — unless you’re throwing the ball to them, because Foles is the better receiver — but in Super Bowls the superior quarterbacks have been overvalued by the Vegas market. Before the game, the teams with the better quarterbacks in the past 20 Super Bowl matchups were 5-14-1 against the spread with a -8.00 Spread Differential. Foles isn’t as good as Brady, but people overvalued the extent to which that mattered.
2. Foles Is Actually a Good Quarterback
The Eagles could win with Foles because he’s actually a good quarterback. If his season with the Jeff Fisher-handicapped Rams is discounted — and it probably should be — Foles has strong career numbers, and after the Eagles adapted the offense to fit his strengths during the playoff bye he was nearly unstoppable, completing 72.6 percent of his 106 postseason passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns. During the season, the Eagles averaged 31.1 points per game (PPG) and a +6.12 Vegas Plus/Minus in Wentz’s 13 starts. In Foles’ five full games, they averaged 29.4 PPG and a +7.25 Vegas Plus/Minus. Foles is different from Wentz — he’s less athletic and dynamic — but the market drastically overestimated the degree to which Foles (in comparison to Wentz) would limit the Eagles’ ability to score points.
3. The “Bill Belichick Has Two Weeks to Prepare” Narrative Is #NotGood
Entering the Super Bowl, there was so much talk about how Belichick had two weeks to prepare for the Eagles but almost no talk about how Eagles head coach Doug Pederson had two weeks to prepare for the Pats. Belichick’s Pats have a negative ATS record when they and their opponents have had multiple weeks to prepare. In all likelihood, an abundance of extra time probably helps Belichick’s opponents more than it helps him. If Belichick had less time, he maybe wouldn’t have convinced himself that benching cornerback Malcolm Butler was a good idea. The Butler benching was a catastrophic tactical error, as the Pats allowed 300 yards passing for the first time since Week 6.
4. The Season-Long Market-Based Numbers Have Value
I bet the Eagles to cover, so I’m feeling pretty good as I write this, but I also expected the Pats to win, so it’s not as if I’m an oracle. Why did I bet the Eagles? They entered the Super Bowl leading the league with a +7.56 Spread Differential, and in Foles’ four full games that number was +9.50. All year the Eagles consistently outperformed expectations relative to the spread. Why should the Super Bowl have been any different?
5. The Problem With Trendy Underdogs?
There actually might be a problem with fading trendy underdogs in the NFL playoffs. Dogs backed by the public tend to do poorly in postseason play in every sport — except for NFL. Why? Maybe it has to do with the small sample of regular season games in the NFL relative to most sports. In MLB, for instance, when playoff dogs are popular the public is going against 162 games of data from the regular season. When NFL postseason dogs are popular, it’s possible the public is capitulating at the right moment and ahead of the bookmakers in choosing to ignore the limited sample of previous games. I might be wrong on my theory, but trendy playoff dogs might not be the anathema we’d assume them to be.
6. The Flu Generally Isn’t Good for Singing
Next time a throaty rock-style pop diva not known for her lung capacity gets the flu shortly before she’s supposed to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, bet the under.
7. Bet the Props
As many fantasy players know, props tend to be more exploitable than spreads and totals, so sports speculators should be sure to take full advantage of the props offered for all future Super Bowls. If you didn’t get as much prop action down as you wanted during the NFL season, don’t worry. You can still bet on NBA players every day with the FantasyLabs Props Tool.
8. The Super Bowl Isn’t an Ordinary Game
When betting on Super Bowl props, one should remember that it’s not just a regular game. Some of the trends established earlier in the season may no longer apply. For instance, it would be normal to expect Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks not to get a carry in any given regular season game. In the Super Bowl, though, the Pats tend to give carries to receivers on end arounds, and teams in general tend to be more aggressive with trick plays — which explains why both Brady and Foles were targeted as receivers. A lot of usage rates from the regular season apply in the Super Bowl, but some don’t.
9. Super Bowl 53 Is Just One Year Away!
The Pats are 4-1 favorites to win Super Bowl 53 followed by the Eagles at 8-1. It’s rare for runners-up to return the following season, but if Super Bowl 52 is any indication a Pats-Eagles rematch in Atlanta next year would be something special to see.
Photo Credit: Kirt Dozier-USA TODAY Sports