Betting on pre-season Super Bowl odds requires consideration on multiple fronts, but can be a great way to get an edge on a team a bettor feels is undervalued. The gold standard for Super Bowl betting was arguably set this past season when some bettors anticipated that quarterback Tom Brady would end up on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency and got odds on the Bucs before Brady was officially a member of the team.
The introduction of sites such as SimBull, which allows bettors to purchase stocks in a particular team, means that Super Bowl odds are not the only way to make long-term bets on an organization, but Super Bowl odds remain a viable option. This article will explore how to decide if a Super Bowl bet is the right move for a particular bettor and if it is, how to calculate odds to find undervalued teams.
The first thing to consider with a Super Bowl bet, or any season-long bet, is how it will affect your bank. Two key considerations in any bet or investment should be the return on investment and the time needed to realize that return. Season-long bets, even if made in the first week of September, will tie up the stake placed for roughly four months if betting on division winners, and for more than five months if placed on the Super Bowl. In the example of betting on Tampa Bay before Tom Brady signed with them, the money is tied up for closer to a year.
For some bettors, the available bank is large enough that Super Bowl, Division Winner, and player award bets can be placed without affecting the ability to bet week-to-week during the season. For others, that is not the case, and if that is true, it probably makes more sense to place bets each week. Whether those bets are spreads, over-unders, or player props, the turnaround time is far shorter.
A useful framework to use when thinking of a bet on a team to win the Super Bowl is to look at the proposition as a parlay bet. To simplify this process, this exercise will set aside the case of the #1 seed in each conference, as that team gets a bye in the first round, which would take a “leg” off the parlay.
This hypothetical parlay would consist of a team making the playoffs, then winning four consecutive playoff games. To make this example more concrete, the DraftKings playoff and Super Bowl odds for the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers will be used.
In June of 2021, DraftKings listed the odds to make the playoffs as +137 for the Miami Dolphins, and -177 for the San Francisco 49ers. The Super Bowl odds for these teams are +3000 for Miami and +1400 for San Francisco.
Those odds translate to a 42.2% chance the Dolphins make the playoffs, and a 63.9% chance the 49ers make the playoffs. These numbers do not account for seeding, and any attempt to project playoff opponents and venues would make this exercise hopelessly complicated, especially as the injury-heavy nature of the NFL makes it difficult to project what a team’s roster will look like if they do make the playoffs. Therefore, a simple assumption will be made that both the Dolphins and 49ers would have a 50.0% chance of winning any playoff game.
To calculate the odds that a series of independent events will occur, the odds of each event are multiplied together. In the case of the Dolphins, this would be the 42.2% chance they make the playoffs multiplied by the assumed 50% chance that they win each of their playoff games and take home the Super Bowl. That works out to 42.2% x 50.0% x 50.0% x 50.0% x 50.0%, or a 2.6% chance that they win the Super Bowl. For the 49ers, the 42.2% would be swapped out for 63.9%, and the resulting chance that they win the Super Bowl would work out to a 4% chance.
There is some overly simplified math in use here, but if it were assumed that each of the 32 NFL teams had an equal chance to win the Super Bowl, each team would have a 3.125% chance to take home the Lombardi, so these odds for the Dolphins and 49ers pass a basic sanity test.
With these basic odds in hand, a comparison can be made to the Super Bowl odds. For the Dolphins, the +3000 odds translate to a 3.23% chance, and for the 49ers, the +1400 odds translate to a 6.67% chance. In both cases, the basic math done earlier suggests that these Super Bowl odds are not long enough, and they are not great bets to place, regardless of the amount of time needed to realize the return.
This exercise ultimately comes down to the odds that the bettor assigns to each event; for instance, if the odds on the 49ers winning each playoff game were set at 60% rather than 50%, it would shift the odds of winning the Super Bowl from 4% to 8.3% and would indicate the bet at +1400, or 6.67% break-even, makes some sense. As a bettor fills out such odds to gauge a Super Bowl bet, it is important to remember that a Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos team won a playoff game, so don’t go too crazy overrating a particular squad.
While it’s impossible to come up with the “correct” odds that a particular team will win the Super Bowl, the hope is that this framework helps BeerLife Sports bettors think about the problem a bit more critically. A final piece of advice, from the Tom Brady example, is that if a bettor has a strong inclination that quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and/or Deshaun Watson will play in 2021, and of where they would play, Super Bowl odds are one avenue to indirectly place a bet on that outcome.
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.