On January 21, 1982, I was having dinner with the manager of the casino where we were dining, and the waitress came by to ask if we’d like drinks. She was met with an enthusiastic greeting from my host, Cal Kinney, and he motioned my way while ordering his drink and asking if I wanted anything.
While she was delivering my Tanqueray & Tonic, Cal quizzed her on who she thought was going to win the Super Bowl between the Bengals and 49ers?
“I like the 49ers,” she said with high pitched enthusiasm.
Before I took a second sip, a guy came by our table that was right out of Hollywood casting for an inhouse detective. His job was to keep his ear to the floor and negotiate scuffles with discretion and tact.
From across the table, Cal would later refer to him as his “Columbo.” He also asked him who he liked in Super Bowl XVI?
“The Bengals are better on the inside, they can control the game. I like Cincinnati,” ‘Columbo’ replied.
As he walked away, I said, “See, one of them is right and one of them is wrong. Either a waitress or your house detective is going to be right.”
But it’s not their job to be right, my host said with a grin on his face.
Three days later the 49ers won their first Super Bowl, and it was fortunate that when my research was done on the game I had agreed with our waitress.
Before that game was played, I thought the pick was razor thin. Even today, with a myriad of additional tools to isolate NFL winners, that game remains a close call. So does this Sunday's match 39 years later when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
I continue to weigh elements on who to pick in this weekend’s game, certainly this year reserving that final decision until we know what players are at the stadium to assure none were last minute losses based on the virus. While doing the work on this game, my first thought was to assume this would be a high scoring affair. How could it be anything else with Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady running the opposing offenses?
But, the guys setting the point spreads on this game, people with even more contacts and reasons for the numbers they post than I have access to, see it differently. The opening number on the over/under line was 57½, a big number to be sure but a clear reflection of the talent on both sides of the ball at quarterback.
The public almost always lines up on the ‘favorite’ and ‘over’ in a National Football League game. This year, they are favoring the Chiefs in the game giving three points and backing the over in the contest by an even wider margin. More than 70% of the bettors are lining up on the over in this contest.
That posted total, as previously stated, opened at 57½ points, so one would logically deduce that if the public is solidly on the ‘over’ that number has risen.
In fact, the over/under number has dropped in the 12 days it has been posted and currently is 55½ points at the sharper books, hovering at 56 in many locations.
When something like this happens, that is I think something is obvious in agreement with the public, but the guys that know the most move the line the other way, I always go on a search to try and locate what they see that I missed.
I think I found it.
For reference, I invite us to take a look at the game two years ago when Brady and his New England Patriots met the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. Those two teams contributed mightily to the second highest scoring season in NFL history, just a shade below the most ever scored in a season which was 11,985 in 2013.
All that scoring two years ago didn’t add up in the Super Bowl between Brady and Rams Quarterback Jared Goff. Super Bowl LIII had an over/under number that opened at 58 points and while the public lined up on the over side of that proposition, the books lowered that number to 55½ points. What did they know? Perhaps the bookmakers didn’t expect the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history, but that’s what they got.
The Patriots and Rams combined for the lowest total ever with New England winning the game, 13-3.
This year, NFL teams combined for a new highwater mark in league scoring, tallying 12,692 points in their 256 regular season games. No wonder the opening line on the total was so high, but more illuminating is why it has been reduced while the public is betting the over?
Turns out that all the talk of offense two years ago served to spike the motivation for the defenses in the game. While the offenses took the field expecting a flurry of points, it was the defenses on both sides of the ball that were on full alert.
Just like they are this season.
I’m going to have to track down that waitress before I pick the winning side in this game, but as far as the total is concerned, we’ve got a winner for you now.
Qoxhi Picks: Under 56 in Super Bowl LV