NFL Betting: Super Bowl Best Picks and Advice

During the NFL season, Stadium sports betting analyst Nate Jacobson will break down every single point spread using lines as of Thursday morning. Here are his thoughts on the Super Bowl.

Note: Nate will discuss all of his Super Bowl bets on Friday’s Sharp Lessons podcast. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple for episodes and follow Stadium Bets on Twitter for more sports betting content.

I have given a lot of thought to the Bengals’ run this season and how hard it is to comprehend.

Going into the season, they had a win total of 6.5 and there were plenty of questions regarding how Joe Burrow would come back after suffering a significant knee injury in his rookie season. Zac Taylor seemed under-qualified to be an NFL coach after starting his career with a 6-25-1 record, and many questioned their decision to draft WR Ja’Marr Chase with the No. 5 pick instead of taking OT Penei Sewell to protect Burrow. In a division with the Ravens, Browns and Steelers, it seemed very likely Cincinnati would be at the basement of the AFC North again.

But things clicked for the Bengals with Burrow quickly gaining confidence off the injury, his LSU teammate Chase picking up where he left off in Baton Rouge and the free agents the Bengals spent money on panning out. The Bengals would eventually rally to beat the Chiefs at home in Week 17, and the victory clinched the division.

The Bengals were able to rest Burrow on the final day of the regular season and caught several breaks that day in terms of who they would host in the Wild Card round as the No. 4 seed. The Colts’ second-half resurgence made them look like a very tough out for any team in the AFC playoffs and all Indianapolis had to do was beat the Jaguars as 14-point favorites to secure a playoff spot — but Indianapolis lost in shocking fashion. Later that night, the Raiders beat Justin Herbert and the Chargers as three-point home underdogs in one of the craziest regular-season finales. Las Vegas somehow ended up as the No. 5 seed, and the Bengals caught the best possible matchup for their first playoff game.

A reason the matchup was favorable for the Bengals, other than the Raiders not being as good as the Colts and Chargers, was Las Vegas just played 70 minutes late on Sunday night in Week 18 and had to play in the early Saturday time slot on Wild Card weekend. Mix in cross-country travel and cold weather for a team from the desert, and it was an awful situational spot for the Raiders. Despite everything going against the Raiders in that game, Las Vegas outgained Cincinnati and the Bengals needed a goal-line stand in the final minute to survive.

Then the Bengals played the Titans off a bye and escaped with a 19-16 victory, even though they were outgained 6.8-5.4 on a yards-per-play basis, and Burrow was sacked nine times. It certainly looked like the Bengals’ run would end the next week in Kansas City, especially when the Chiefs marched down the field on their first three drives and scored 21 points. The Chiefs just needed one yard to go up 28-10 at halftime with the ball coming out of the break. But a mental mistake by Patrick Mahomes led to no points and totally changed the game. Just like in the first meeting against the Chiefs, the Bengals’ defense gave up only three points in the second half, and Burrow carried his team to an improbable overtime win, despite being outgained in total yards for the third-straight playoff game.

In my opinion, the Bengals are not better than AFC teams that missed the playoffs like the Colts and Chargers, and the Browns and Ravens at full strength. I would’ve bet on the Patriots against the Bengals if they were the No. 5 seed that played in Cincinnati on Wild Card weekend.

The Bengals, especially Burrow, deserve praise for their season, but they were fortunate with their path in the playoffs. When handicapping the Super Bowl, you have to ask: Is the Bengals’ run legit, or have they benefitted from a short sample size of close wins — which is unsustainable?

Side and Total Bets

The Rams, who were a 4.5-point favorite for most of the week, are currently a four-point favorite in the game with a total of 48.5. A move on both the side and total occurred soon after this matchup was set two Sundays ago after the odds opened (the Rams initially opened as a 3.5-point favorite with a total as high as 51).

Typically, the Super Bowl isn’t a game where I’m going to have a big bet on either side of the game, as the point spread is usually always correct for a game of this magnitude. As for this year’s matchup, if this game was a random Week 7 showdown between the Rams and Bengals, I would likely not have a bet on the game at all. I currently think the Rams will win, but I don’t trust them enough to cover the point spread.

The Super Bowl is a game where I focus most of my betting resources on the prop market. In order to find valuable prop bets, I try to think of how the game will play out. The most likely scenario I have for what will happen is the Rams will have the lead for most of the game, but they might have trouble putting the Bengals away as the second half goes on. I can also see a scenario where regression hits the Bengals, and the Rams dominate from start to finish.

I’m confident that the Super Bowl will get off to a slow start in regards to scoring, which is why I agree with the early move on the full-game under. I’m looking to bet first-half under 23.5 and the Bengals team total under. When I simulate the game, I get the feeling that the “second half to be the highest scoring half” prop bet is a smart bet.

I’m a proponent of the under due to the familiarity between head coaches Sean McVay and Zac Taylor (Taylor was previously on McVay’s staff before being hired by Cincy, as all the pundits have broken down this week). Super Bowls usually start slow with a feeling-out process, and I can see both coaches relying on the run early as they try to out-scheme their counterpart.

Quarterback Bets

I don’t have any passing-related bets for the Super Bowl, as all the numbers seem right to me. If you are inclined to make player prop bets on Matthew Stafford or Joe Burrow, make sure to think about how the game script will play out. If you think a team will trail early on, then look to bet overs on the quarterback whose team is losing in anticipation that they are throwing more often than not.

A quarterback bet that I usually like betting is taking the quarterback of the team I think will win to win Super Bowl MVP. Stafford is the favorite to win the award because the Rams are a favorite to win the game and a quarterback usually wins MVP in this era. While Stafford is the way I would look if I had to bet MVP, there are ways the Rams can win the Super Bowl without Stafford being the clear-cut star of the game.

If you think the Bengals will win the Super Bowl, I would bet Burrow to win MVP instead of the Bengals on the moneyline for a much bigger payout. It’s hard to see a scenario where Cincinnati wins on Sunday without Burrow being the reason why. Chase could have a huge statistical game, but it would be Burrow delivering the ball and padding his stats.

Rushing Bets

The Rams should have success on the ground against a Bengals defensive line that lost DT Larry Ogunjobi in their first playoff game, but I’m not confident that Cam Akers will get enough volume to go over his props. Akers has been inefficient and struggled with ball security since returning from an Achilles tear. Sony Michel is a sure-handed running back that was a key part of the Rams’ offense late in the season, and I can see a split in carries between Akers and Michel.

The Joe Mixon unders are appealing to me since I think the Bengals will be playing from behind, but Taylor loves running the ball and Mixon is the only running back on Cincinnati’s roster that I expect to record a rush attempt.

Receiving Bets 

It feels square betting over on receiving bets in the Super Bowl, but I’ve targeted some props in this department.

For the Rams side, I’m going to look past the props for Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., and target Van Jefferson over 29.5 receiving yards. Jefferson is a big-play threat that could see a consistent matchup against Bengals CB Eli Apple as Cincy focuses on Kupp and OBJ. Apple is the weak link of the Bengals’ secondary, and I’m predicting the Rams will look to pick on him with Jefferson being the beneficiary.

The Rams’ tight end situation is also intriguing because the Bengals struggle to cover that position with their linebackers. Mark Andrews and George Kittle feasted over the middle this season against Cincinnati, and Darren Waller and Travis Kelce went over their receiving yardage props in the playoffs. Rams starting tight end Tyler Higbee sprained his MCL in the NFC Championship Game, so his status is in doubt. Kendall Blanton appears to be the player who would replace Higbee, but because of the injury questions at TE, there are currently no widely available props for Rams tight ends.

Tee Higgins over 67.5 receiving yards is the prop I’m interested in on the Bengals side. It’s unclear how the Rams will utilize top cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but I would guess he sees a lot of Chase throughout the game. That would give Higgins a nice matchup against Darious Williams, and since I think the Bengals will be trailing, there’s a better chance Higgins will get opportunities for receiving yards.

Defensive/Special Teams Bets

When the prop bets were first released, one that jumped out to me was longest field goal made. One of the most important players in the Bengals’ playoff run is rookie kicker Evan McPherson, who has kicked four field goals apiece in all three playoff games. Clearly he’s a player the Bengals trust from long distance, and in the postseason, Cincinnati has been a team that tends to settle for field goals.

Add in the fact that Rams kicker Matt Gay has been shaky recently, and I believe that Bengals to have the longest successful field goal is a strong wager. Gay’s miss against the Buccaneers landed short from 47 yards out in fair conditions. His miss in the NFC Championship was from 54 yards out in a spot where it would’ve been too long to go for it on fourth and eight, but too close to punt near the end of the first half. I can see McVay being cautious trotting out his kicker for a long-distance kick unless it’s the end of the half.

Check out this thread on Twitter for all the Super Bowl props I make leading up to Sunday’s game.