Friday, January 06, 2006

Super Bowl Prop: MVP with the big underdog

Super Bowl Prop: MVP with the big underdog

I am starting my research and thought process on Super Bowl props. Here is a recount of a bet made 4 years ago that I thought was interesting.

Back in New England’s first Super Bowl victory, I had an account with an aggressive sports book. They were willing to put up props on request for the Super Bowl. I requested that they put up lines for the MVP. It is my understanding that these type of lines are not available in Las Vegas because they can offer wagers that are determined on the field of play. I guess boxing and other judged sports are considered on the field of play, but judging for the MVP, either in a game or for the league, is not allowed. So one can only find these lines offshore.

The St. Louis Rams were a big favorite in that game. The Patriots were getting 14 points and +400 on the money line was a bet that one could find on both sides (-400 on STL and +400 on NE were available at different books). In fact, +400 is a low money line for a game lined at 14. If that was in the regular season, the line would have been closer to +1000. In the Super Bowl, pointspreads seem to be higher than normal, and money lines seem to be lower than normal (relative to the pointspread). See my other essay regarding Big Lines in Championship games.

This offshore sports book put up MVP lines. In general, they seemed to be in line. Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk were the two big favorites. The New England players were heavy underdogs. Antowain Smith was probably the favorite for NE as he was a decent RB. At that time Tom Brady was the new kid on the block. He was thought to be a game manager, rather than a throwing QB. They put up odds of 8-1 on Brady to win the MVP.

Thinking that if NE were to win the game, they would likely have an unlikely monster game from their QB, I decided to bet Brady at 8-1. I didn’t think that Brady was a good QB, I had no idea he would turn out to be the great player he is today. But I just thought this price was cheap. QBs get all the glory in the NFL, so if Brady and Smith had equal games if NE won, Brady would be likely to get more credit. Plus, the odds on Smith were lower (and unrealistic) at 5-1, so it was either bet on Brady or pass.

But I was not interested in being naked long Tom Brady to win the MVP at 8-1. In fact, I thought 8-1 was probably the right price on NE to win the game given the line of 14. Since I was able to find STL -400 in the money line, what I did was to take both of those bets in a small portfolio.

STL -400 money line
Tom Brady to win the MVP at 8-1

The only way I could lose (after balancing the bets correctly) was if NE won the game and someone other than the NE QB won the MVP. In effect, I was betting Brady had a 55.5% chance of winning the MVP if NE won the game (1/9 for Brady divided by 1/5 for NE to win the game). The part on NE winning was hedged out with the STL money line. Was this a good bet? In retrospect of course it was since it won, but it is possible it wasn’t a positive EV bet at the time. What is important here is that I was able to narrow down exactly what I was betting, and isolate the wager into terms that made it easier to evaluate. If I had thought Brady only had a 50% chance of winning the MVP if NE won, then I would have passed. Instead, I analyzed that the NE starting QB had a very high chance of winning the MVP if NE won, and I thought 55.5% was cheap.

Looking back, Brady didn’t even have that good of a game. He was only 16 for 27 with 145 yards and 1 TD. However, Smith was under 100 yards rushing (92 yards on 18 attempts) without a TD and the leading receiver was Troy Brown with only 89 yards and 6 receptions (and no TD). Ty Law scored a TD on a INT, and maybe he should have been considered for the MVP – but let’s face it, defensive players rarely get the recognition they deserve (except for Ray Lewis when he won the MVP in the Super Bowl, but that had a big story behind it). So the voters just automatically looked towards the QB. The last drive probably put him over the edge, but before that last drive, Brady was probably hovering around only 100 passing yards for the game! QBs just get more credit when they win.

So for this upcoming Super Bowl, if there is a big pointspread, look to see if you can find high odds on the underdog’s QB to win the MVP. Remember, it has to be good in relation to the money line of the game.

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