The New York Giants and New England Patriots go head-to-head in Super Bowl XLVI this Sunday.
Betfair Match Odds: New York 2.34, New England 1.74
Statistics are part and parcel of the NFL - its lifeblood almost - but there are a lot out there and knowing which to hold onto and which to discard can open the path to riches. I've picked out some that could have a game changing impact on Super Bowl XLVI or at the very least make you consider your betting strategy. I'll be taking a look at the Specials markets tomorrow and some of the data here will have an impact on those markets also.
Super Bowl outsiders, the Giants, have been attracting the majority of punters' money and momentum has seen the handicap line decrease from -4 initially to -2.5.
Whilst some of that move is allied to analysts' perceptions of the two teams and their relative strengths and weaknesses another factor is the fact that the lower seeded team has dominated against the spread (ATS) over the past 15 years. Over the past 15 years, the higher seeded team has covered a grand total of one Super Bowl points spread, while the lower seeded team has covered 12, with a pair of pushes where neither side covered.
Also starting to be factored in is the Patriots dismal record in big pressure matches, in those last eight games they have covered the spread just once, a record that dates back to 2006.
Questions are also being asked about the relative strengths of the two team's schedules and without doubt New York had the much tougher road to travel this season, only four teams in the entire NFL had a schedule that was weaker than the Patriots. New York finished the regular season with the second ranked schedule. In their last dozen games, they've faced virtually every elite team in the league - these same Patriots along with the Eagles, Saints, Packers (twice), Cowboys (twice), Jets, Falcons and 49ers (twice).
Plenty has been made of the Patriots wanting to take their revenge on the Giants after being defeated in their last two encounters against New York. But wind the clock back four years and only 22 players remain from the rosters of the two teams that day, when 106 players were suited and active.
If, however, you are taking the Week 9 contest as a guide, the Giants winning 24-20, then there is a strong case for supporting the Patriots as in the Brady-Belichick era they are 43-13 when attempting to avenge a loss, clearly they are a team that makes good adjustments and use that time to prepare wisely. Expect the Giants to be faced with some new and different plays from the Patriots this Sunday. The G-Men would do well to prepare some new schemes and tricks themselves.
Another case can be made for the Patriots with some anti-Giants arguments. New York's secondary was not an area of strength at any point this season; a major reason why this defence was ranked 23rd in ypg allowed and 22nd in scoring this year. If the Giants pass rush doesn't reach Tom Brady on a consistent basis, one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the history of the NFL could have a field day. Let's not forget that Brady is coming off a below par showing against Baltimore, and he's a quarterback with a long history of strong bounce-back efforts.
Defences are sure to play a big part in deciding the destination of the Super Bowl, and both have come under scrutiny this year, the Patriots D looks poor on paper in terms of yardage conceded. But they only gave up 21 points per game during the regular season and were joint third in the league on takeaways with 34, so don't completely abandon them. Having said that the Giants are now fit and healthy and the defensive line trio of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, with 30.5 sacks between them this season should pressure Brady all day long.
As with any Super Bowl, there's a case to be made for both teams. So far, punters have been making a much stronger case for the Giants but I think there's enough in these statistics to show that the game is very finely balanced on very thin margins.
New York Giants to register the most sacks @ 1.8 or better