Super Bowl LVIII last-minute bets -- props, picks, more
If I'm placing bets on a weekend, I'm not looking at full game spreads or totals. Those are efficient markets that have been bet into all week. Instead, I'm looking for the obscure. It's my specialty, anyway. It's what I build statistical models around to try to find an edge. If there's an advantage to be found now, it's in small markets.
So come along for the ride and see how we fare diving deep into some last-minute Super Bowl props.
First Accepted Penalty: Any Other Penalty (+350)
This is the "field" option, so we're betting on it being something other than: holding (+275), false start (+325), offside/encroachment/neutral zone infraction (+325), defensive pass interference (+800), delay of game (+1500), offensive pass interference (+2000) or no accepted penalties (+5000).
That leaves a lot for field, though. Think: roughing the passer, intentional grounding, too many men on the field, facemasks, unsportsmanlike conduct, and many more. These "other" penalties made up 30% of accepted penalties across the league this year and 29% for these two teams. Even though some are special teams penalties (and thus less likely to be first), I still think this is the value pick. Plus: Bill Vinovich's games had the lowest offensive holding rate (the favorite) of any referee this year. He won't have his whole crew with him for the Super Bowl, but the referee himself plays a role in holding calls.
I want to be fading sacks in this game, with Patrick Mahomes being one of the best quarterbacks at avoiding sacks (3.7% sack rate) and Brock Purdy better than average and a good chance neither team pulls out way ahead. Sadly, most of the value has been sapped from this prop: it was -130 as recently as Wednesday. I make it -162 so there's still a little left, as far as my numbers are concerned.
I also liked zero sacks in the game as a longshot at 40-1 (I make it 33-1) but on Thursday evening the price dropped to 25-1, so it's no longer a bet for the purpose of this article. But I'm mentioning just in case the price jumps back up or is available for more, elsewhere.
See: above. Hargrave is a good player who had 7.0 sacks and a 16% pass rush win rate at defensive tackle -- in the top 10 for the position. But! In order to get a sack in the Super Bowl he has to chase down Patrick Mahomes, who has not just the aforementioned 3.7% sack rate, but only a 12.6% sack rate when pressured (both stats second only to Josh Allen). I make Hargrave's under -385.
I'm clearly down on sacks across the board, but on Chase the number has gone too far. Young's playing time diminished when he was traded to the 49ers and he was widely criticized for a lack of effort on a Jahmyr Gibbs touchdown run in the NFC Championship Game. Will that lead to a reduced role in the Super Bowl? Maybe, but quietly Young has actually played a lot more in the postseason, playing 67% and 78% of the team's defensive snaps in the divisional round and conference championship, respectively. So given that, I'm willing to roll with my model, which prices Young at +208 to go over half a sack.
Kinlaw's playing time has dropped in the postseason, but I manually adjusted the model to expect postseason rate of play to continue for the Super Bowl -- and I'm still way over here, with 2.7 projected tackles + assists. Even though the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, the 49ers are weaker on the ground so the Chiefs will likely make an effort to run the ball at least some. Also remember: most of the season the 49ers were favored and winning -- resulting in fewer rush attempts from their opponents. But the Super Bowl is expected to be close, again meaning more potential rushes. Each one of those is a tackle opportunity for Kinlaw, if he's on the field.
This is the least sexy bet I have put in this column all year. But you know what? We've been committed to following the data and my models all year, so why stop now -- even to potentially win just a 10th of a unit? I make McDuffie's under --1216 -- I'm a little lower on Purdy's interceptions chances (see below!) -- and so I'm rolling with it.
I think Purdy's interception prop is influenced by recency: he threw an interception in the NFC Championship Game and has thrown five picks in the past four games. But I'd rather take the longer lens view: Purdy has not thrown an interception in 11 of 18 games this season. And while it's a close spread, Purdy's team is favored and that counts for something in terms of interception avoidance. I make the under -125.
The Chiefs have a good defense but they really have a good pass defense. San Francisco should be able to run on them and run a lot, draining the clock and taking pass attempts and completions from Purdy. Plus, I lean 49ers in the game (as does the spread) and if they get out to a lead that will only further San Francisco's desire to run the ball. My model forecasts 19.5 completions for Purdy.