Super Bowl 55 Game Prop Math: The True Odds of a Safety, Missed Extra Point and Overtime
Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Harrison Butker
With Super Bowl 55 around the corner, prop betting season is naturally in full swing. And while most bettors are probably aware that the special, once-a-year prop options (Gatorade color, national anthem length, etc.) generally don’t hold any actual betting value, there’s no denying that they can add some enjoyment to the Super Bowl experience.
But this post is not so much about those novelty props as it is the ones that would be listed by sportsbooks as game props — think “Will there be overtime?” or “Will there be a safety?” — the sort of prop for which some historical research might actually tell us something about the value available, or, at the very least, how unfair the odds truly are.
So let’s not waste any more time. You can click to jump to a specific prop below.
All odds as of Jan. 27.
Will the Game Go To Overtime?
Best “yes” odds: +1200 (DraftKings)
The posed question is simple enough, and you can return a pretty sizable payout if the game does reach a fifth frame, but the question we’re really looking to answer is whether that payout is sizable enough.
The best odds available for the game to go to overtime (that I can find, at least) are +1200 from DraftKings — though you have to be a bit sneaky. You can find those +1200 odds by selecting “Tie” within the “Result at End of 4Q” offer in the Game Props section.
For a +1200 bet to worth betting, it needs to have at least a 7.7% chance of cashing. So the question we’re looking to answer has now become whether this game has at least a 7.7% chance of going to overtime.
Historically speaking, that’s a bit too high.
Over the past decade, only 144 of 2,560 regular-season NFL games (5.6%) have gone to overtime. Playoff overtimes have been slightly more frequent, though.
- Wild Card Round (since 1978): 12 of 156 (7.7%)
- Divisional Round (since 1970): 13 of 204 (6.4%)
- Conference Championships (since 1970): 8 of 102 (7.8%)
- Super Bowls: 1 of 54 (1.9%)
The cumulative playoff count comes to 34 of 516 games, a 6.6% rate.
While it is a smaller sample, I’m willing to grant that the playoff rate could be more telling for this prop bet, since there’s reason to believe that playoff games should go to overtime more frequently (they should be more competitive, evenly-matched games).
Still, though, a 6.6% rate implies fair odds of about +1420 — not enough to make the +1200 prop worth betting.
However, given that the complementary 93.4% rate of non-overtime games implies -1420 odds on the “no” option for this bet, there is technically a valuable -900 option available at William Hill, if you’re willing to lay that sort of juice (it would take a $90 risk to win $10).
Note that you could arbitrage that option with the +1200 payout to guarantee a small profit regardless of the outcome.
Will There Be a Safety?
Best “yes” odds: +850 (PointsBet)
The safety prop presents a similar, though slightly less juicy betting line, which might make sense at first glance considering you can probably recall a few memorable safeties in recent Super Bowl history — the ball being snapped past Peyton Manning on the first play of SB XLVIII and Tom Brady’s intentional grounding in the end zone in SB XLVI, to name a pair.
But +850 odds still require a 10.5% chance of cashing to be worth betting, so let’s get into the history of safeties.
Since 2001 — the last time there was a rule change regarding safeties — there have been 342 safeties in the 5,104 games played (playoffs included). That comes out to a rate of 6.7%.
The postseason has once again produced slightly greater figures, with the Super Bowl boasting an exceptionally high rate:
- All playoff games (since 2001-02): 18 of 221 games (8.1%)
- Super Bowls only: 9 of 54 (16.7%)
This time, though, I am inclined to lean toward the larger sample (though I don’t really need to considering the overall playoff sample is still below the profit barrier). While you could argue that playoff-game jitters may lead to more flukey plays, I find that less convincing than the argument for more frequent overtimes.
And I’m certainly not going to buy a 54-game Super Bowl trend on the basis of jitters.
So where does that leave us? Well, even if we put some weight into the playoff trend and call it, say, a 7.5% chance of a Super Bowl 55 safety, we’re talking about fair odds north of +1200 — which we aren’t near.
But again, the accompanying implied -1200 odds of there not being a safety do present value at books like William Hill, whose “No” odds sit at just -750.
They also give bettors another slight arbitrage opportunity when paired with the +850 “Yes” option at PointsBet.
Will There Be a Missed Extra Point?
Best “yes” odds: +250 (William Hill)
Bear with me here … or honestly, just skip to the bottom if you’re a normal person who doesn’t want to read an arithmetic ramble.
To get an accurate idea of the chance of a missed extra point, we need to first gauge the percentage of extra points that are missed (easy enough), and then come up with a number of extra points that we think will be attempted.
Luckily, we only have six years of meaningful data through which to sift since that’s when the field-goal distance on extra points was pushed back.
Since 2015, kickers have gone 6,875 for 7,329 on PATs — a 93.8% clip. Ryan Succop and Harrison Butker, specifically, have gone 203 for 218 (93.1%) and 186 for 199 (93.5%), respectively, over that time. And neither has really slouched in the postseason, either, with Succop going 11 for 12 (91.7%) and Butker 32 for 34 (94.1%).
Also worth noting: extra points in Super Bowls haven’t bent from the overall trend by much, sporting an 18-for-20 (90%) success rate since Super Bowl 50. In other words, there’s yet to be displayed significant reason to think that the Super Bowl produces more misses, so for the sake of this argument, we’re going to assume each kicker’s career numbers will carry over.
As for the second part of the equation, we’ll look to the listed team totals in the betting market to gauge the number of extra-point attempts each kicker should get. For the Chiefs, that total is 29.5 points, and for the Bucs, 26.5.
Each team scores about 84% of their points via touchdowns (including PATs), so that puts Kansas City’s touchdown output at around 24.8 points, and Tampa Bay’s at 22.3. Divide each by seven and we’re looking at about 3.54 and 3.18 touchdowns apiece.
In theory, that should also be the number of extra-point attempts for each kicker, but let’s first note that over the past five Super Bowls there have been five two-point conversions attempted — so we remove one attempt from the total count by subtracting 0.5 off each figure.
Now we have Butker attempting 3.04 extra points with a 93.5% success rate, and Succop taking 2.68 at 93.1%. So the chance of the two combining for a perfect PAT day comes to…
Which leaves a 32.7% chance of a miss — or fair odds of +206.
Whattaya know, value on a “yes” prop! Well, that is if you’re willing to trust the math of some guy on the internet.