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Bengals, Rams, And Coin Flips, Oh My: Staff Prop Picks For Super Bowl LVI

The post Bengals, Rams, And Coin Flips, Oh My: Staff Prop Picks For Super Bowl LVI appeared first on SportsHandle.

The matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI represents somewhat of an anomaly.

The perennial doormat Bengals knocked off the AFC’s top two seeds in the Titans and Chiefs in returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in more than three decades. Meanwhile, the star-studded Rams ended Tom Brady’s illustrious career, then exacted a measure of revenge against the 49ers, their bitter NFC West rivals.

The showdown marks the first time in Super Bowl history that two teams seeded fourth or lower will meet in the Super Bowl. As of Thursday afternoon, the line hovered around Rams -4 to -4.5 at a litany of major sportsbooks throughout the nation. But the game inside the game features hundreds of creative props, ranging from ones that are non-football focused (will Dr. Dre perform first at halftime?) to the cross-sport variety (total receptions by Cooper Kupp vs. total gold medals by the U.S. at the Winter Olympics).

So here are our picks. As always, take Sports Handle staff recommendations with a grain of salt. When we completed this exercise two years ago, we went a hideous 3-for-12 overall. And while we put forth a more respectable showing last year, our record of 4-4-1 still did not turn a profit.

Eric Raskin: Jersey number of 1st TD scorer Under 23.5 (-140), DraftKings

I don’t mind paying the juice on this one (the over is priced at +110), as -140 means I need to win more than 58.3% of the time for this to have value, and I do believe the numbers are on my side here.

Among those who might realistically score the first TD with jersey numbers of 23 or lower are both starting quarterbacks (Matt Stafford and Joe Burrow), the two best WRs in the game (Cooper Kupp and Ja’Marr Chase), the Rams’ lead RB (Cam Akers), Odell Beckham Jr., and the Rams’ third and fourth receivers (Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek).

At 24 or higher, the biggest threats are Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Sony Michel. You also have all the tight ends (though C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Higbee are both hampered by injuries and the latter in particular seems on track to sit), plus Samaje Perine and a majority of the defensive players.

It’s a small sample size, but the players in the first group have out-touchdowned the players in the latter by a 9-5 margin this postseason. If you want to cross off a fluky one from Rams CB David Long Jr. (No. 22) in their wild card game, then you might also want to cross off the Perine screen TD against the Chiefs and the pre-injury Uzomah TD against the Raiders. Bottom line: The under should hit often enough to make the -140 price worth paying.

What’s that you say? A -140 bet bores you? You need something more exciting? OK, if you’re looking for a fun sweat rather than a value play, you can get +1400 at DraftKings on an “octopus” occurring. Sports dictionary time: An octopus is when a player scores eight points in two plays by racking up a touchdown followed immediately by a 2-point conversion.

According to a Twitter account that exists solely to track NFL octopi (what a time to be alive), there were only seven instances of an octopus this season — including two in one game from Ravens tight end Mark Andrews! Just six games out 284 have seen an octopus, so +1400 is atrocious value. The sharp money is on “no octopus” at -2500. But, dear lord, what a torturous sweat that would be, risking a hundred bucks to win $4 and feeling nauseous every time a team lines up to go for 2.

If you’re in the mood for something fun, and you’re responsible enough to bet it for an amount you won’t miss if it disappears (say, perhaps, an octopus-appropriate $8), this wager will inject a little extra energy into your Super Bowl Sunday.

Mike Seely: Pregame Coin Toss, Tails (never fails), -105, DraftKings

The year was … sheesh, I don’t remember exactly. The ‘90s? I was in my twenties and engaging in all the activities that people in their twenties engage in to impair their ability to recall specifics such as, uh, dates.

But I do know it was Super Bowl Sunday.

I know this because a large man named Maury burst into my buddy Jeff’s living room, where I was affixed to a pleather couch, and shouted, “Tails never fails!” Maury then informed us that he had a bookie back home in Iowa — this was before legal sports betting; hell, its was before the internet really took hold — and had placed like 50 bucks on the opening coin toss to come up tails.

When it did just that, Maury elatedly hurled himself around the room like Matt Foley (in a van, down by the river), and the rest of us celebrated as though he’d just been selected with the first pick in the 1998 — again, just guessing the year here — NFL draft by the Chicago Bears (his favorite team).

Tails never fails — except when it does. But cash on this 50/50 proposition and you’ll have gotten off on the best betting foot imaginable come Sunday. And if you don’t cash, you should definitely chase with a Gatorade prop. To this end, red’s never dead.

As of Wednesday afternoon, FanDuel customers took tails on about 66% of the handle and around 58% of all bets on the coin toss. Although heads prevailed in last year’s Super Bowl, the coin toss has landed on tails in six of the last eight Super Bowls. Overall, tails maintains a 29-26 advantage, hitting at a clip of 52.7%.

(And speaking of Saturday Night Live, check out this 1982 skit featuring Eddie Murphy from the losing team’s locker room. Dressed as Bengals player in the skit, Murphy jokingly blamed the defeat on the influence of the mafia.)

Chris Altruda: Cooper Kupp anytime TD and Over 104.5 receiving yards, +158, FanDuel

That’s right: From the guy who told you to take the over for Tyreek Hill’s yards last year, I’m going back into the well and riding with Cooper Kupp to be, well, Cooper Kupp and deliver a solid performance that could be MVP-worthy (+550? Sure why not!).

Kupp has put up monstrous numbers in Los Angeles’ last two playoff games, totaling 20 catches, 325 yards, and 3 TDs, but it is the week-to-week consistency that offers confidence in this pick. At least five receptions in every game. At least 40 YAC in all three playoff games. Fourteen games with a scoring reception. Thirteen 100-yard games. Forty-one catches for 597 yards and five TDs in five games vs. AFC opponents. And on and on and on.

While there is concern Sean McVay will mentally contort himself into a pretzel with play-calling, Kupp also serves as a security blanket, with 32 targets in the postseason. With the anytime touchdown not a cost-effective play, combining it with Kupp facing a team that ranked 30th in the regular season with 65 completions allowed of 20 or more yards feels like a winning play.

Gary Rotstein: Shortest TD Under 1.5 Yards, -125, BetMGM

One tipoff that there’s good value on this bet is that major sportsbooks competing with BetMGM price it far less favorably for the bettor (DraftKings -135, FanDuel -138, BetRivers -143). The other clue comes from how frequently it’s paid off in Super Bowls of late: five of the past six and seven of the past nine.

Yes, it may be true that there are 98 other yard-lines from which a player can score as opposed to just the opponents’ 1, but none of those has as much chance for success. Just ask Matthew Stafford, who himself has scored from the 1 in two of the Rams’ three playoff games this year.

On top of the high probability of being able to plow into the end zone from just a few inches, let alone an entire yard, the wager can benefit from every offensive coordinator’s favorite play: the end zone pass interference penalty that places the ball at the 1. That presents at least three – and even four, if necessary – opportunities to watch a team push it across the goal line.

For those who prefer their prop bets to be plus-priced, like last year I recommend “no team to score three straight times.” It succeeded again in Super Bowl LV — the fourth win for the prop in the past six years — but DraftKings is still offering +195 on it this year.

Jeff Edelstein: Super Bowl MVP, Bengals K Evan McPherson, 130/1, DraftKings

This is a ridiculous bet, obviously, as no kicker has ever won the MVP of a Super Bowl. But if the Bengals and Rams slog it out — which, based on the coaching tendencies of Sean McVay and Zac Taylor, actually might happen — McPherson becomes a viable longshot.

I mean, the guy is 9-for-9 this postseason, including two game-winning kicks. Is it so far-fetched to see this game end 16-13 with McPherson nailing a 55-yarder to win as time expires? At 130/1, seems like a not-terrible way of throwing out $4 to win over $500.

Matt Rybaltowski: Team with the longest made field goal, Bengals, -115, Caesars Sportsbook

Leading 27-13 in last month’s NFC Divisional Playoffs matchup against the Bucs, Matt Gay had a chance to ice the game with a field goal that would have put the Rams up by three scores. But Gay missed on the 47-yard kick, leaving announcers incredulous on how an NFL kicker could land a kick short from that distance.

McPherson, on the other hand, has been the epitome of cool throughout the playoffs. Last month, the Bengals defeated the favored Titans when McPherson connected on a field goal from 52 yards out with no time remaining. After taking a few practice attempts, McPherson told Bengals backup quarterback Brandon Allen, “Looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship Game.” 

McPherson, a rookie from the University of Florida, is close to breaking Adam Vinatieri’s longstanding playoff record for made field goals in a single postseason. The Bengals’ kicker needs three field goals in the Super Bowl to surpass Vinatieri’s record of 14. McPherson can set another record if he hits three field goals on Sunday of 50 yards or more, which would give him six in the postseason.

Although McPherson is still a rookie, he already owns the NFL single-season record for combined field goals of 50+ yards in the regular season and playoffs with 12. If he attempts one from beyond 50 on Sunday, there is a strong chance he’ll connect again. Rams’ fans, however, cannot be as confident in Gay.

Cross-sport prop: Baylor wins in NCAA tournament (-0.5) vs. Bengals’ TDs, SuperBook Sports

Baylor has hit a rough patch. After opening the season 15-0, the defending national champs dropped four of their next eight, capped by an 83-59 drubbing by Kansas last Saturday. During last spring’s title run, the Bears’ vaunted perimeter defense made it challenging for opposing guards to enter the lane. But with several injuries at the moment, Baylor has struggled to contain speedy guards in half-court sets.

We can dismiss the defeat to Kansas as an outlier, but Baylor has also lost at home to Oklahoma State, a team that is below .500 on the season and is in the lower half of Big 12 standings. In short, Baylor is not last year’s juggernaut that featured current NBA players in Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler. Baylor is even favored in the prop, albeit by a slim margin.

While the Bengals can ill-afford to settle for field goals in the red zone, I am fairly confident that Cincinnati will find the end zone multiple times on Sunday night. If the Bengals score three touchdowns, you will only lose if Baylor makes it to the Elite Eight. If the Bengals only score two, the Bears will need to return to the Sweet 16. At this point, Baylor will be lucky to make it out of the opening weekend.

Bennett Conlin: Matthew Stafford’s passing attempts, between 35-39, +250, BetMGM

I’ve seen a few well-respected bettors recommend taking the under for Matthew Stafford’s passing attempt prop, which currently sits around 35.5 attempts at most sportsbooks. A few of the sports betting writers and podcasters I follow jumped on the under when the prop sat at 36.5 passing attempts. I agree that an under could be a solid play, as the Rams are favored and could rely more on their running game against a Cincinnati rush defense that isn’t as ferocious as that of the Buccaneers or 49ers.

While Stafford may very well go under 36 pass attempts — he only threw 17 in an opening round playoff win over the Cardinals — taking Stafford to throw between 35 and 39 passes at +250 feels like a play with decent value. In seven of the Rams’ 20 games this season, Stafford has thrown between 35 and 39 passes, including when he tossed 38 in the team’s playoff win over Tampa Bay.

Jared Goff threw 38 passes in the team’s 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the Patriots a few seasons ago. Look for a more productive offensive attack from the Rams in this Super Bowl, but the number set by sportsbooks for Stafford’s passing attempt prop still feels like it’s on the money. I think he’ll finish with a total somewhere in the mid-30s, and at +250 odds, I’ll take my chances with him firing off 35-39 passes.

If you’re more bullish on lower passing totals, BetMGM also offers 30-34 passes at +250 odds, and you can even grab 25-29 passing attempts at +550. Expecting a performance like the Arizona playoff game? A prop on Stafford to throw between 0 and 24 passes is +2000.

Mark Saxon: Super Bowl MVP, Aaron Donald, +1600, DraftKings

The first thing everyone says when I tell them I like Donald at this price is, “Come on, we all know it’s going to be a quarterback.”

Yeah, OK, probably. QBs usually do win the thing, after all. Bart Starr won the first two they ever handed out, followed by Joe Namath and Len Dawson. Quarterbacks have won four of the last five — though it was the same guy, Tom Brady, twice. In all, signal callers have taken home the MVP trophy in 31 of the 55 Super Bowls.

Having said all that, my response is, “You’re getting the best player in the NFL at 16-to-1.”

Donald hasn’t quite taken over a game like he is capable of this postseason. He was credited with a half-sack against Arizona, and got to Brady for a sack and had a couple of tackles for loss in that Tampa upset. Still, despite plenty of double-teams, he has been credited with six QB hits. And on Sunday he’ll be facing the weakest offensive line he has faced since the Rams beat the Seahawks 20-10 back on Dec. 21.

The Bengals, per Pro Football Focus, had the 20th-ranked offensive line in the NFL this season. The unit allowed nine sacks in a playoff win over Tennessee. Maybe this is the game where Joe Burrow simply can’t operate given the chaos in the pocket? Yeah, the Bengals will game plan for Donald, but the last defensive guy to win a Super Bowl, Von Miller, also will be coming after Burrow, so they can’t get too fixated on Donald.

It’s going to take a lot for Donald to overcome the QB bias in this award, but it’s not hard to envision him sacking Burrow a couple of times, maybe forcing a fumble or blocking a punt or kick, piling up a few tackles for loss, and taking home the hardware.

 

The post Bengals, Rams, And Coin Flips, Oh My: Staff Prop Picks For Super Bowl LVI appeared first on SportsHandle.

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Author: Micheal May