HOUSTON — Much like a high-end Las Vegas buffet featuring bottomless mimosas, you’re about to embark on a diverse journey that offers a little bit of everything as it pertains to Super Bowl LI.
From props to trends to a complete referee breakdown, the rundown is designed to arm you with a plethora of useful intelligence heading into Sunday’s marquee showdown between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
All props courtesy of the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.
1. Super Bowl LI will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday. Kickoff is 4:30 p.m. on FOX31. The home of the Houston Texans, NRG Stadium features an artificial playing surface known as UBU Sports Speed Series S5-M Synthetic Turf. The Patriots and Falcons play their home games on artificial surfaces.
In 13 games played on an artificial surface this season, the Patriots went 11-2 and 10-3 against the spread while scoring an average of 29.2 points per contest.
In those 13 matchups, the over was 7-6. At home, New England was 8-2 and 8-2 against the spread while scoring an average of 28.4 points per game (Over: 6-4). Playing on an artificial surface away from Gillette Stadium, the Patriots went 3-0 and 2-1 against the spread while scoring an average of 32 points per contest (Under: 2-1).
In 12 games played on an artificial surface this season, the Falcons went 8-4 and 7-5 against the spread while scoring an average of 35.7 points per contest. In those 12 matchups, the over was 12-0. At home, Atlanta was 7-3 and 5-5 against the spread while scoring an average of 36 points per game (Over: 10-0). Playing on an artificial surface away from the Georgia Dome, the Falcons went 1-1 and 2-0 against the spread while scoring an average of 34.5 points per contest (Over: 2-0).
2. In the six Super Bowls the Patriots have played under coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the average margin of victory was a minuscule 3.3 points, with no matchup being decided by more than four points. In order, here are the scoring differentials for New England’s last six Super Bowl appearances: 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4.
3. The coin toss: In the previous 50 Super Bowls, “tails” holds the edge over “heads” by a 26-24 margin. Additionally, “tails” has come up in each of the last three Super Bowls.
4. Coin toss continued: The NFC representative in the Super Bowl has won a staggering 17 of the last 19 coin flips.
5. More coin toss. In the previous 50 Super Bowls, the winner of the coin toss has gone on to win the game 24 times. Carolina won the coin toss last year in Santa Clara, Calif., but went on to lose the game against the Broncos, 24-10.
6. Coin toss conclusion: In the six Super Bowls New England has played under Belichick and Tom Brady, the Patriots have won the coin toss exactly one time, which came in 2012 when New England fell 21-17 to the New York Giants in Indianapolis.
7. The team to record the first score in the Super Bowl has gone on to win the game 34 times (34-16, 68%), which includes each of the last six Super Bowls. PROP: Will the team that scores first win the game: YES -175, NO +155.
8. The Falcons are a rock-solid 9-1 this season when scoring first, but an average 4-4 when failing to score first.
9. Experience: The New England roster features 21 players who have previously played in the Super Bowl. Conversely, the Atlanta roster includes just four players with prior Super Bowl experience.
10. Barking dogs: The underdog has covered the point spread in an impressive 13 of the last 16 Super Bowls. Additionally, the dog has won outright in five straight and eight of the last nine Super Bowls.
11. Super Bowl 51 will mark the eighth time in history in which the No. 1 scoring offense (Atlanta) will face the No. 1 scoring defense (New England) for the right to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy. In the previous seven instances in which the No. 1 scoring offense faced the No. 1 scoring defense in the Super Bowl, the No. 1 scoring defense has posted a record of 6-1 straight up and 6-1 against the spread.
12. Barring some sort of shocking, unforeseen development over the next few days, Super Bowl 51 will mark the ninth consecutive year in which the NFL’s biggest game closed with a point spread of seven points or less. In addition, 2017 is expected to mark the 14th time in the last 15 years in which the closing number was seven points or less. The outlier of the group? Well, that would be the New England Patriots, who closed as 12-point favorites in 2008 against the New York Giants. The G-Men went on to shock the world by upending the 18-0 Patriots by a final score of 17-14.
13. The OVER is a staggering 15-2-1 in the 18 games played by the Atlanta Falcons this season (10-0 home, 5-2-1 road).
14. The highest closing total in Super Bowl history is 56.5 points, which came back in February of 2010 when the New Orleans Saints took on the Indianapolis Colts (the under cashed with a 31-17 Saints victory). At the moment, Super Bowl 51 features a total ranging from 58 points to 58.5 points, depending upon the sportsbook.
15. Of the 50 previous Super Bowls to be played, only two (Patriots-Giants in 2008 and Saints-Colts in 2010) featured a closing total of 55 or more points. In both instances, the under cashed. In addition, just nine of the previous 50 Super Bowls have featured a closing total of 50 or more points. In those nine games, the under is 6-3.
16. The New England Patriots enter Super Bowl 51 having gone a ridiculous 15-3 against the spread during the 2016-2017 regular season and playoffs. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons enter Super Bowl 51 having gone an impressive 12-6 against the spread during the 2016-2017 regular season and playoffs.
17. 17-year officiating veteran Carl Cheffers has been tapped as the head referee for Super Bowl 51. This will be Cheffers’ first Super Bowl assignment as a referee. In the 17 games that Cheffers officiated this season, the over posted a record of 9-8.
18. During the 2016 NFL season, Cheffers’ crew called an average of 12.82 penalties per game for an average of 109.94 penalty yards per game. This season, the league average was 13.33 penalties per game for 117.11 penalty yards per game.
19. Cheffers didn’t officiate a single game this season that featured either the New England Patriots or Atlanta Falcons.
20. Final word on Cheffers: The last thing the NFL wants is for its biggest game of the season, watched by millions around the world, to turn into a ref show complete with a plethora of yellow flags. So don’t be surprised if this officiating crew allows the Falcons and Patriots, especially on defense, to get away with an increased level of physical play. Over the last ten Super Bowls, the average number of total penalties enforced per game is 11.9. During the 2016 regular season alone, the average number of penalties enforced was 13.46. Cheffers already calls fewer penalties per game than the average ref, so the Patriots could have an edge here as they attempt to get very physical with superstar receiver Julio Jones.
21. Per multiple reports, the NFL is requesting that the retractable roof at NRG Stadium in Houston remain open for Super Bowl 51. However, the final decision will be made on Super Bowl Sunday based on the weather. For those of you who are curious, it takes approximately ten minutes to close the roof at NRG Stadium. As of the time of this writing, Sunday’s forecast in Houston calls for a high of 79 degrees and a low of 62 degrees with a 20 percent chance of precipitation.
22. The Patriots are an abysmal 1-4 against the spread over their last five Super Bowl appearances.
23. The Falcons have covered the point spread in five of their last six games overall.
24. The Patriots have covered the point spread by an average of 9.4 points per game this season.
25. The quarterback with the higher 2016 regular season passer rating has gone 7-2 SU and 8-1 against the spread in the playoffs. This is good news for Falcons fans, as Matt Ryan finished the 2016 regular season ranked first in the NFL in passer rating (117.1), while Tom Brady finished second (112.2). Note: These numbers do not include the Oakland-Houston game, as Connor Cook started at quarterback for the Raiders without having previously established a “qualified” passer rating.
26. File this under “absurd”: The Patriots have put points on the board in an astounding 31 consecutive quarters of football. For those of you scoring at home, the last time New England was blanked in a quarter occurred back on November 27 in New York against the Jets (first quarter). That’s a scoring streak that wound up one quarter shy of eight full games!
27. The Falcons may possess a secret weapon in assistant general manager Scott Pioli, who worked with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick from 1992-2008 and served as Belichick’s top personnel man from 2000-2008. Pioli has an intimate understanding as to the inner workings of Belichick’s mind and approach to game-planning. And in a showdown that currently features a razor-thin three-point spread, any edge could ultimately prove to be the difference maker.
28. MVP prop: For those of you interested in wagering on which player will win the Super Bowl 51 MVP award, take note that in the 50 previous Super Bowls, the MVP was awarded to a quarterback 27 times, a wide receiver 6 times, a running back 6 times, a linebacker 3 times, a defensive lineman 3 times, a cornerback twice and a safety, fullback and specialist once apiece.
29. Through 50 Super Bowls, the first score of the game breaks down as follows: Touchdown 24 times, field goal 23 times, safety three times. PROP: First score of the game will be: Touchdown -190, Any other score +170.
30. Speaking of who scores first, through 50 Super Bowls, here’s a breakdown of which position has recorded the first touchdown in the game: Wide receiver 23, running back 14, defense/special teams 5, tight end 4, quarterback 2, fullback 2.
31. When the Patriots defeated the Seahawks in the Super Bowl two years ago, Bill Belichick received two Gatorade showers. The first was the color “blue,” while the second was the color “yellow.”
32. Believe it or not, the Super Bowl has never gone into overtime. PROP: Will there be overtime: Yes +700, No -1100.
33. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw three or more touchdown passes in eight of 14 games this season, including three of his last four outings. However, in six Super Bowl appearances, Brady has thrown three or more touchdown passes just twice (2004 vs. Carolina, 2015 vs. Seattle). PROP: Total touchdown passes thrown by Tom Brady: Over 2 (-250), Under 2 (+210).
34. Speaking of Brady, the New England signal-caller recorded a completion of 40 or more yards in seven of 14 starts this season, including each of his last three outings. PROP: Longest completion by Tom Brady: Over/Under 39.5 yards (both options -110).
35. Over/Under on length of time it takes Luke Bryan to sing the National Anthem: 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Be advised that when Bryan sung the National Anthem at the 2012 MLB All-Star game, he was clocked at 1 minute, 59 seconds.
36. Here’s your rundown of how the last ten Super Bowl National Anthems have played out:
Super Bowl 41: Billy Joel at 1:30
Super Bowl 42: Jordin Sparks at 1:54
Super Bowl 43: Jennifer Hudson at 2:10
Super Bowl 44: Carrie Underwood at 1:47
Super Bowl 45: Christina Aguilera at 1:54
Super Bowl 46: Kelly Clarkson at 1:34
Super Bowl 47: Alicia Keys at 2:35
Super Bowl 48: Renee Fleming at 1:54
Super Bowl 49: Idina Menzel at 2:04
Super Bowl 50: Lady Gaga at 2:09 (somewhat controversial)
37. Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman has recorded a reception of 27 or more yards in six of his last seven starts, which includes each of his last four outings. PROP: Longest reception made by Julian Edelman: Over/Under 26.5 yards (both options -110).
38. Speaking of Edelman, the New England wideout has recorded 118 or more receiving yards in each of his last three starts. In addition, Edelman caught nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots’ 28-24 Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks back in 2015. PROP: Total receiving yards by Julian Edelman: Over/Under 89.5 (both options -110).
39. The Falcons are 6-2 against the spread over their last eight games against teams with a winning record.
40. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan attempted 39 or more passes in just two of 18 starts this season (Week 1 vs. Tampa Bay, Week 6 at Seattle). PROP: Over/Under total pass attempts for Matt Ryan: 38.5 (-110 both options).
41. Defensive strategy: One element the Patriots excel at is their uncanny ability to significantly limit the opposing team’s most dangerous weapon. In this instance, that means Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. Look for Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to employ bracket coverage on Jones, which means utilizing cornerback Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe to jam Jones at the line of scrimmage while rolling a safety over the top for additional help. This leads us to…
42. PROP: Over/Under receiving yards for Julio Jones: 95.5 yards (-110 both ways). Remember, the Patriots held Steelers star wideout Antonio Brown to seven receptions for 77 yards and zero touchdowns in the AFC Championship game.
43. Defensive strategy continued: This information may lead many of you to believe that Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is in for a big afternoon. Perhaps. But take note that with Rowe or Ryan lining up on Jones, that leaves 2015 Pro Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler free to cover Sanu 1-on-1. That’s a bad matchup for Sanu. PROP: Over/Under total receiving yards for Mohamed Sanu: 45.5 (-110 both options). Note: It’s very telling that Sanu’s Over/Under is listed at a lower total than:
44. Defensive strategy complete: That brings us to Cleveland Browns castoff Taylor Gabriel, who has notched just 99 receptions in 42 career regular season appearances. At best, Gabriel is considered Atlanta’s No. 3 wide receiver. But if that’s the case, why is his Over/Under for receiving yards (50.5) listed at a higher total than Sanu’s? Hint, hint, you should consider playing the OVER here, as Gabriel will most likely have the most favorable defensive matchup of the group.
45. Oh yeah, I’d also recommend playing the OVER on total receptions recorded by Taylor Gabriel (O/U 3.0, Over -120, Under EVEN).
46. During the 2016 regular season, the New England Patriots defense surrendered a grand total of just six rushing touchdowns (fewest in NFL). Through two playoff games, this same defense surrendered only one rushing touchdown (vs. Pittsburgh). PROP: Will the Falcons score a rushing touchdown? Yes -230, No +195.
47. According to our good friend Marc Lawrence of Playbook.com, when a team scores 40 or more points in a playoff game, that same team is a shocking 11-18 straight up and 4-24-1 against the spread in their next outing. Take note that the Atlanta Falcons scored 44 points in their NFC Championship round victory over the Green Bay Packers.
48. The Patriots are 16-4-1 against the spread over their last 21 games after permitting fewer than 90 rushing yards in their previous game.
49. In the Super Bowl’s 50-year history, only six games (12 percent) have been decided by exactly three points. However, take note that five of those matchups have occurred since 2002 when Tom Brady and the Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI. PROP: Will the Super Bowl be decided by exactly three points: Yes +425, No -550.
50. For those of you interested in any proposition wagers that include an over/under on the final Nielsen Rating for Super Bowl 50, here’s how the last ten Super Bowls have broken down:
Super Bowl 50 (Broncos-Panthers): 46.6
Super Bowl 49 (Patriots-Seahawks): 47.5
Super Bowl 48 (Seahawks-Broncos): 46.7
Super Bowl 47 (Ravens-49ers): 46.3
Super Bowl 46 (Giants-Patriots): 47
Super Bowl 45 (Packers-Steelers): 46
Super Bowl 44 (Saints-Colts): 45
Super Bowl 43 (Steelers-Cardinals): 42
Super Bowl 42 (Giants-Patriots): 43.1
Super Bowl 41 (Colts-Bears): 42.6
51. Through 50 Super Bowls, no team has ever been held scoreless and no kicker has ever converted an attempt from 55 yards or longer.
Editor’s note: This story was written by Joe Fortenbaugh for Covers.com, a sister site also owned by Tribune.