Welcome to Sports Monocle’s second annual Gentleman’s Guide to the Super Bowl. We’ll combine some of our Monocling tropes from our Recap and Picks columns, as well as place some fake wagers on our favorite Super Bowl prop bets. Enjoy!
Derek: How much Super Bowl preview talk have you descended into? Did you have a favorite/least favorite storyline?
Will: Virtually none. I’ve stayed away. I saw a reporter ask Cam Newton something about socks and sandals, and that was my signal to bury my head in the sand as deep as possible. The week before the Super Bowl is the worst.
Derek: On a scale of bitter Seahawks fan to Jim Nantz, how excited are you to watch this game?
Will: So Jim Nantz is the excited one here? Whatever the scale, I’d put myself at a hungover Troy Aikman level of excitement. My time would probably be better spent resting and making sure I get enough liquids, but hell, if the game’s on, I’m gonna watch.
Derek: How are you hoping this plays out? Are you rooting for either team? Do you just want to see a good game? Would you prefer a defensive slugfest? A shootout? What’s the ideal game script?
Will: Just want something fun to watch. I don’t care who wins, nor do I care how they win. I’d be happy to see either Peyton Manning or Cam Newton win. As long as it’s reasonable close I’ll be fine with it. I’m just here for the lolz.
Derek: Who will cause more eye-rolls worldwide: Phil Simms or Mike Carey?
Will: Based on sheer volume, Simms in a runaway.
[Odds per sportsbook.ag]
Lady Gaga’s rendition of the National Anthem (From when the first note starts until she completes saying “brave”) will be over or under 136.5 seconds?
Derek: If I’m betting on something so arbitrary and fixable, I’m betting on the outcome that’s more fun to root for. So the question becomes “would I rather watch Lady Gaga sing an efficient national anthem or take part in a bunch of excessive nonsense that ends with her singing ‘brave’ for 30 seconds?” It’s no contest–over for me.
Will: The average duration of the last 10 Super Bowl national anthems is reportedly 1:57 — 117 seconds. This line being almost 20 seconds higher suggests that some Gaga antics have been planned. As much as I would love to wager on a big Apollo Creed-style thing happening, I’ll still take the under. The song ain’t that long. (All bets are off if there’s a fiery equipment malfunction.)
Will either team score in the first five minutes of the game? Yes (+145) or no (-175)?
Derek: I’ll say no. I don’t trust the Bronco offense to do much scoring, and Cam is probably going to be so amped up he’ll need some halftime bear sedatives before settling into a groove.
Will: I’ve come around on the idea that this could be something of a defensive struggle, so I shall take no here. The average NFL drive this year lasted 2:40, and these are two of the best defenses in the game. I look forward to Ted Ginn taking the opening kick to the house.
Semi-related: College Ted Ginn was one of the most fun players I’ve ever watched. Seeing him turn the corner and go into Olympic sprinter mode was the most exciting thing. People talk about players running like gazelles, but he really did. His movement wasn’t jagged; he ran in big beautiful brushstrokes.
You know what, I’m switching to yes. Teddy’s taking it to the house the first chance he gets.
Will there be a missed extra point? Yes (+325) or no (-450)?
Derek: We’ve been building to this all year, right? Blair Walsh missed a game-winner a few weeks ago, Stephen Gostkowski missed a big one last week, and now it’s someone else’s turn. Throw in the dangers of smug in the air and there’s going to be a sad picture of a kicker on the front of newspapers Monday morning.
Will: Are you kidding? It’s the Super Bowl. Of course there will be a missed extra point. You think Brandon McManus and Graham Gano have the stones to live up to that pressure? No way. We’re bound to see at least one miss.
If Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown, his first celebration will be: open shirt Superman motion (+120), dances solo (+180), goes to crowd and gives ball away (+225), dances with teammates (+1000), spikes ball (+2000), hands ball to official (+4000), or dunks on goal post (+5000)?
Derek: Every spoiled front-running child in America has convinced his/her rich parent to buy them a ticket on either end zone. With all those winking CEOs and tiny outstretched arms, I’ll say the ball goes in the stands first.
Will: This is the first one where I’m not sure if it’s a real prop or not. I think it is, and I think hands ball to official is the play here. There’s gotta be like a 1% chance that he makes a big show of giving the ball to the ref with a giant grin on his face. Then on the next one he gives the ball away. Something like that.
Which number will be higher: the number of points LeBron James scores vs the Pelicans (+1.5) or the distance of the game’s shortest made field goal (-1.5)?
Derek: I’ll say LeBron. The Broncos have a great defense and a poor offense, so I could see a gimme field goal no matter who has the ball. Unless of course Riverboat Ron doesn’t plan on kicking at any point.
Will: I bet there will be one super short field goal — like 25 yards at the most. Kevin Love is out for the Cavs, and they’ve kinda been playing like crap lately, so I think it’s LeBron in a runaway — especially when he’s getting a point and a half to boot.
Derek: Heh. Boot. That’s another word for kick.
[Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.]
Carolina (-5.5) vs. Denver
Derek: I count myself among the many who thought the winner of the NFC Championship would win the Super Bowl. I haven’t changed my opinion there, but I will grab the points in this situation. While all the attention has gone on Cam and Peyton, I think the man who decides this game is Wade Phillips. The Panthers are the more balanced team, but Denver’s defense is the best unit in the game. He found a way to hit Brady (Brady never gets hit) in the AFC Championship, so I’m sure he’s cooked up something special for Cam in the past two weeks. Maybe not enough to overcome Denver’s deficiencies on offense, but enough to keep it within six points.
Will: I think Carolina kills ’em. I mean, I also think it could be a close game — it’s the Super Bowl; of course it could be a close game — but I think Carolina runs all over them. I think they put Peyton Manning on his ass. I think the secondary keeps Demaryius Thomas under wraps. I think Carolina’s offensive line is a bunch of mean SOBs, and I think they run at Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware a lot to tire them out. I think the Panthers win big. I think Cam’s gonna dab on ’em and the whole deal.
Welcome to Sports Monocle’s first annual Gentleman’s Guide to the Super Bowl. We’ll combine some of our Monocling tropes from our Recap and Picks columns, as well as place some fake wagers on our favorite Super Bowl prop bets. Enjoy!
Derek: Will, you’re undefeated in your playoff picks so far this year. Care to comment? What’s your secret?
Will: Well, there that goes. It’s been pure, dumb luck to be honest with you. On more than one occasion, I have intentionally not thought that hard about the games, because I haven’t done that well when I look at fancy things like numbers. I’m sticking with my gut more often than not, and it’s worked, which is wonderful. That said, I don’t think I can sell my algorithms on the open market just yet.
Derek: Talk about the deflated footballs controversy for a few minutes.
Will: I don’t think I’m capable of doing that. I find it only slightly more interesting than watching paint dry on growing grass. I have not enjoyed the NFL at all this season aside from the games. It’s been as fun as following a Congressional race.
Speaking of stupid controversy, would you like to join the sports-commentating world in breathing fire over Marshawn Lynch’s disinterest in laying himself bare before the media?
Derek: Not really. I’m more surprised that journalists keep asking him questions. Of all the Seahawks players and coaches you could talk to, Marshawn will give you the least. It’s not like there’s a shortage of stories. If the Seahawks win, it will be Ken Norton Jr.’s fifth Super Bowl ring. Maybe talk to him? Kris Richard was a member of the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Now he’s the defensive backs coach and might be the new defensive coordinator after Dan Quinn goes to the Falcons. Ask him about it? I don’t get the fascination with Marshawn interviews.
Are you going to have any rooting interest in the game?
Will: I won’t know until kickoff. I don’t plan to root for either side, nor do I intend to put money down, but I have a hunch that I’ll find myself favoring one team as the game progresses. I think and hope it will be like how I watch the NCAA basketball tournament, when I’m Switzerland until one side wins me over.
Derek: Is there any chance Roman Reigns wins the Super Bowl?
Will: Absolutely. It’s not like the NFL’s reputation is any better than WWE’s right now.
Derek: Are there any storylines you wish got more attention over the last two weeks?
Will: Only everything related to football. I’ve learned a lot about strategizing vis-a-vis the media, but very little vis-a-vis winning a football game.
Would you describe Super Bowl media day as more or less culturally significant than the Kid’s Choice Awards?
Derek: Less. I’m sure some kid out there pays close attention to the Kids Choice Awards and will get angry if their favorite doesn’t win. That’s a lot more care than anyone puts into Media Day.
[Odds per sportsbook.ag]
Will either team score in the first six minutes of the game? Yes (-105) or no (-125)?
Derek: Yes. With all of the excellent Seahawks fans traveling to Arizona, Tom Brady will be overcome by the noise. Like Peyton Manning before him, Brady will start the game allowing a safety.
Will: No. I feel like both defenses are capable of stopping their counterparts, and that most games begin like most dates end, with a sloppy feeling-out period.
The first touchdown of the game will be passing (-160) or something else (+130)?
Derek: Something else. Too tempting with those odds. The Seahawks have a ball-hawking defense and the Patriots have a good return game. That’s without even mentioning Lynch and Blount.
That gives me an idea. I’m off to pitch Lynch & Blount to HBO.
Will: Something else. The Patriots are decidedly pass-heavy, but the Seahawks scored as many rushing touchdowns as passing this year–20–with two more on defense and one on a blocked punt. It’s fun to wager on Marshawn Lynch and/or something weird happening, and in this case the odds make it too tempting to pass up.
Lynch & Blount sounds like a cop drama that TNT would have run if it existed in the 1800s.
Will there be overtime? Yes (+500) or no (-800)?
Derek: Sure, why not? I keep hearing that this might be the most evenly matched Super Bowl of all time. Let’s make it the first overtime Super Bowl of all time.
Will: Yes. Only because I want to root for overtime. Also, there’s a reason I don’t gamble.
Will there be a defensive or special teams touchdown? Yes (+150) or no (-185)?
Derek: As mentioned, yes, I do believe so.
Will: Yes. I’m coupling this with the first touchdown wager and imagining the first score is an interception return during which Kam Chancellor throwing a completely unnecessary shoulder into Tom Brady’s butt-chin. Yes, I’ll enjoy rooting for that very much.
Idina Menzel’s rendition of the National Anthem will be over 122.5 seconds (+105) or under 122.5 seconds (-145)?
Derek: I’m going over. She needs to be more than the “Let it Go” girl. This has the makings of being overdone.
Will: Under, for no reason at all. My bigger question: if you’re Idina Menzel, why would you not get a friend to put a large sum of money on this and control your wager’s destiny? Do they determine the time of the performance before the game? Is there a time clause in her contract? Is there an office devoted to protecting the integrity of the anthem? Why isn’t this the most fixable bet on the board? There has to be more to this.
Derek: Agreed. I can’t believe you can actually wager on something like this. Speaking of which …
More crotch grabs: Marshawn Lynch (-120) or Katy Perry (-120)?
Derek: Why can’t Marshawn Lynch just put his entire fortune on himself? He could just grab his crotch after every play. He would easily make a huge profit after the fines. He’d morph into the most hated Seahawk of all time after all of the 15-yard penalties, but he’d double his net worth in one day. I’ll go with that.
Will: Lynch, and I feel very strongly about this. The NFL has a lot of sponsors who pay a lot of money, and things tend to get more vanilla as more money is introduced. In a post-Janet world, Super Bowl acts can’t be too risqué. I am bearish on the Katy Perry crotch grab market.
And again, I have no idea why this isn’t super fixable.
Will Katy Perry show cleavage during the halftime show? Yes (-800) or no (+450)?
Derek: You know, when I first looked up this line, the odds for “yes” were -500. This might be the biggest lock of the week. My only question: does cupcake cleavage count?
Will: Yes. I mean, if you can’t do a crotch grab, you’ve gotta do something.
Who will the Super Bowl MVP thank first? Teammates (+175), Does not Thank Anyone or Mention Any on List (+200), God (+200), Fans/City (+700), Coaches/Owner (+800), or Family (+800)?
Derek: I’m going with God. Russell Wilson and Kam Chancellor would probably both thank God first, and there’s a decent chance one of them will be MVP.
Will: Teammates. God could be the winner because duh, it’s God, but both of these teams have faced adversity, at least in their own minds. They have had to band together to combat controversy. They’re warriors, damnit, and warriors thank warriors when they win a game.
Finally, the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning head coach will be Orange (+150), Clear/Water (+250), Yellow (+400), No Gatorade/Liquid Bath (+500), Red (+650), Blue (+700), Green (+900), or Purple (+900)?
Derek: Orange. It is the superior Gatorade flavor. You don’t get to the Super Bowl without figuring that out.
Will: Blue. I think Gatorade and the marketing world at large is sharp enough to color-code its beverages to the team colors, and both teams wear blue. Red or green are possible for the same reason, but I’m going with the one wager that puts both in range, and with solid odds. They’re in range, that is, assuming that my half-baked sports drink-related logic is as sound as I think it is.
[Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.]
New England (-1) vs. Seattle
New England: 14-4, 1st AFC East, #11 total offense, #4 scoring offense, #13 total defense, #8 scoring defense
Seattle: 14-4, 1st NFC West, #9 total offense, #10 scoring offense, #1 total defense, #1 scoring defense
Derek: I’m not picking against the Seahawks.
Oh, reasons? Fine. This game reminds me a whole, whole lot of last year. The Seahawks didn’t dominate in two home playoff games, while the Broncos came off a double-digit win against the Patriots. Though various pundits are acting like they picked the Seahawks from the beginning, I remember the Broncos love very well. They were favored. Just because the Seahawks didn’t blow out the Panthers or Packers doesn’t mean they can’t beat the Patriots. It happened last year.
I think the Seahawks will have an answer for Gronk. Jimmy Graham was the Gronk of 2013, and in two games, the Seahawks held him to four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Gronk is better than Graham because he blocks sometimes, and he’ll get his, but I think K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor will keep him from taking over.
I’m a little scared of Edelman, but other than that, I’m not sure how well the Patriots will be able to move the ball. Last year, the Seahawks clogged the short routes and dared Manning to throw deep. Worked like a charm. I imagine they will have a similar game plan this year. Brady hasn’t been great at throwing the deep ball lately. I think the Seahawks would be happy if they could force Brady to throw the ball deep to Brandon LaFell.
But the real place where this game will be won is THE TRENCHES. I think Michael Bennett will be playing some defensive tackle in this game to take advantage of the Patriots’ relatively weak guards and injured center. That would allow Bruce Irvin to move down to defensive end as a speed rusher. As we’ve seen many times before, if Tom Brady doesn’t have time, he won’t succeed.
On the other hand, can the Seahawks’ offensive line block the Patriots? Probably not on passing plays, but they’ve been very good in run blocking. Lynch is a beast, but few running backs have any success without a solid offensive line. The Patriots have struggled against zone blocking teams. The Seahawks can effectively mimic what the Chiefs did to the Patriots earlier this year.
And, let’s not forget: the team with the better defense usually wins the Super Bowl. Seahawks win, 24-20.
Will: I feel like Judge Smails lining up his final putt right now. My undefeated postseason is on the line. I need Billy Baroo if I intend to finish the job.
For this game, Billy Baroo is telling me to pick your Seattle Seahawks. There are, of course, a great many reasons to side with New England, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski chief among them. One could credibly argue that they are the two best players involved in this contest.
That said, I think Seattle has more really good players than New England does. Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, and Bobby Wagner are all among the best at their positions. The Seahawks strike me as the more athletic, physical team, and football tends to be a game favoring the more athletic, physical side. They’re mean enough to rock Gronk in the middle of the field, not to mention more conventionally-sized humans like Edelman and Brandon LaFell.
Still, these teams look to be as evenly matched as Snickers and peanut butter cups. I expect the game to reflect that, and I think the deciding factor will be the play of Wilson. It’s a bit frightening to bet on him having seen his play for 75% of the Packers game, but he’s got it, whatever it is. His guys believe in him, and he has enough wiggle to make unusual plays. He’ll evade a sack or two and melt the defense in the process.
Plus, he listens to Stevie Wonder and King Floyd before games. I can’t bet against a man like that today without hating myself tomorrow. Seattle wins 27-24.