You can bet there will be tons of wagers for Super Bowl LI.
Bettors plunked down a record $132.54 million on Super Bowl 50 last season, according to ESPN.com. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s five-year contract is worth $29 million less than that figure. For $132 million, you could renovate a college football stadium.
(That’s what the University of Illinois did with that kind of dough, for perspective.)
When it comes to wagering mega bucks, you’d think gamblers would lean on a surefire way to pick the winner. This might involve heavy analysis of match-ups and key players. There’s also coaching acumen and style of play to consider.
That’s not always how it goes. Here are unorthodox methods of choosing a Super Bowl winner. So long as you win big on the big day – it shouldn’t matter how you got there, right? Keep that in mind for Sunday as you pick a winner between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.
The white jersey factor
American Football Conference and National Football Conference champions alternate as official game hosts. Hosts get first dibs on uniform color choice. This season, the NFC’s Atlanta Falcons chose to wear their red jerseys. The question is: Why??
Teams in white jerseys are 32-18 in Super Bowls, including the Denver Broncos last season. Broncos general manager John Elway shook up the recipe and chose to leave the team’s signature orange jerseys back at the ranch. Denver had worn orange in four Super Bowls – and went 0-4 in those games.
Opponents have outscored them 167-38 in those four losses, too. In white, Denver lost Super Bowl XXI to the New York Giants, beat the Atlanta Falcons in them 12 years later, and won against Carolina last season. (Denver also has a win in blue jerseys, vs. the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.)
There’s one exception in the white-jersey era. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, in green jerseys, in Super Bowl XVL. Atlanta wore black jerseys in Super Bowl XXXIII, it’s only other game appearance, but Denver won that game 34-19 in – you guessed it – white jerseys.
Edge: New England. The Patriots are 2-1 in white jerseys in Super Bowl play.
The game before the game
Before players take the field, gamers take a seat and play out the game on a flat screen. Will Brinson of CBS Sports simulated the season game-by-game before a single game was played. He used the popular EA Sports video game 7. That model pitted Atlanta and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
Atlanta won that pretend game, 41-35. The video game, notable for incredible graphics, enhanced control and attention to detail in each new rendition, accurately predicted a surprising disappointment of a season for the Arizona Cardinals.
It also gave the Jacksonville Jaguars far too much grace with a division title and conference title game appearance. The Jags actually finished 3-13 as the AFC’s worst team.
The official EA Sports simulation has predicted nine of the past 13 Super Bowl winners. That includes three of the past five. It missed on the Carolina vs. Denver Super Bowl last season. It also pegged the winner (New England) and final score (28-24, vs. Seattle) the season before.
Edge: Atlanta. Not bad for a team that opened the season with 40-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl.
But even methods with decent track records are little more than chance.
For instance, being first in the alphabet for your location name holds no advantage. Same for being northernmost or southernmost in your matchup. (Easternmost has a 30-20 edge on the West through 50 Super Bowls.)
One spot that plays out bigger than geography or alphabetization: Man vs. Animal. Exclude the one machine vs. animal Super Bowl (Jets 16, Colts 7). Suspend belief long enough to consider Giants and Saints human. Do that, and there’s a distinct mascot trend.
Humans have beaten animals head-to-head in 23 of 28 Super Bowls. Much of that, but not all, can be attributed to dynasties from the 49ers, Steelers and Patriots. (Also to rough Super Bowl histories from Denver, the Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins.)
Edge: New England. A bird of prey from the genus Falco, despite all its majesty, is no contest for a trained soldier with a musket. Especially if he’s wearing white.
Patriots fans can order those championship hats. Wearing the jersey of champions lately (New England’s white jerseys) and given mankind’s dominance of animals in the NFL world, too, the odds are looking good for Tom Brady and his teammates. Unless Atlanta leaves them seeing red.