Beating the Book: Super Bowl 56

Beating the Book: Super Bowl 56

This article is part of our Beating the Book series.

I went 2-0 last week, as both underdogs covered, putting me at 7-5 so far in the playoffs. But the Super Bowl should almost count as its own separate postseason for betting purposes, given how much money is wagered on it. 

Super Bowl 56

Bengals +4.5 at Rams (Total 48.5)

I went with "at" Rams because for the second year in a row the game is at the home stadium of one of the teams (last year was the first time in history), and there is likely some advantage from not having to travel and staying in your own familiar environment. But the Rams don't have a huge fan base in LA, the Super Bowl watchers are comprised of people from everywhere, and there is no advantage due to climate.

Every year I write about how the better defense typically outperforms against the spread in Super Bowls. I delved into this two years ago and bet (heavily) on the 49ers as a result, losing about $1200 in the process, but I stuck by the theory last year, and the Bucs' superior defense delivered for me against the Chiefs to recoup $100 of it. (I thought there might be a Patrick Mahomes exception to my theory, so I went light.) In sum, I was net -$1,100 for being correct for 112 out of 120 minutes the last two years -- recall the Chiefs were down 10 to the 49ers midway through the fourth quarter. 

In any event, I still believe in

I went 2-0 last week, as both underdogs covered, putting me at 7-5 so far in the playoffs. But the Super Bowl should almost count as its own separate postseason for betting purposes, given how much money is wagered on it. 

Super Bowl 56

Bengals +4.5 at Rams (Total 48.5)

I went with "at" Rams because for the second year in a row the game is at the home stadium of one of the teams (last year was the first time in history), and there is likely some advantage from not having to travel and staying in your own familiar environment. But the Rams don't have a huge fan base in LA, the Super Bowl watchers are comprised of people from everywhere, and there is no advantage due to climate.

Every year I write about how the better defense typically outperforms against the spread in Super Bowls. I delved into this two years ago and bet (heavily) on the 49ers as a result, losing about $1200 in the process, but I stuck by the theory last year, and the Bucs' superior defense delivered for me against the Chiefs to recoup $100 of it. (I thought there might be a Patrick Mahomes exception to my theory, so I went light.) In sum, I was net -$1,100 for being correct for 112 out of 120 minutes the last two years -- recall the Chiefs were down 10 to the 49ers midway through the fourth quarter. 

In any event, I still believe in the elite defense overperforms Super Bowl theory, and the question is whether the Rams qualify here. The Rams were ninth in yards per play (YPP) allowed during the regular season at 5.2, while the Bengals were 20th at 5.5 YPP. That's meaningful, but hardly a cavernous gulf. The Rams also finished third in sacks with 50, while the Bengals were 12th with 42. The Rams defensive front is plainly a concern for Joe Burrow, the most sacked QB in the NFL this year (51) and whom the Titans dropped nine times in the divisional round. Matthew Stafford was sacked only 30 times by contrast. For what it's worth, the Bengals had more QB pressures (170) to the Rams' 161 and a higher pressure rate, 24.5 percent to 22.8. But the Rams pass-rushing stats include games before they traded for Von Miller (seven sacks in his last seven games)  who has been a major factor of late. The Rams are also better against the run (4.0 YPA to 4.3) and they've picked off more passes (19 to 13.) 

Bottom line, the Rams have the better defense, it's one of the top five or so this year, and it's played better in the playoffs, the fourth quarter of the Buccaneers game notwithstanding. If they overperform the spread, I will certainly use it as a (small) datapoint in favor of my theory next year. But it would an outer-circle one, not one of the core like the 2015 Broncos, 2002 Buccaneers or 2000 Ravens. 

All that said, when I first looked at this game, I made the line a pick 'em. The Bengals have taken down the AFC's two top seeds on the road, and while the Rams have been a good team all year, they were never a juggernaut, certainly not better than the Chiefs and Titans. While the Bengals got some bounces in both games, they came back from a 21-3 deficit against the Chiefs, and their defense shut down one of the league's top offenses in the second half.  

Joe Burrow has come back from a major knee injury to establish himself as one of the league's best quarterbacks, and he's done it while under pressure all year, i.e., the Rams stout front will get to him, but as long as the protection doesn't cave in completely, it won't be anything he hasn't overcome several times before. The Bengals are also a team that can play from behind -- should the Rams get out to a double-digit lead, the game is not out of reach for them. Finally, they also have the league's second-best kicker who has been a big factor through three playoff games, something that matters in close contests. 

I won't make a huge bet this year, because of my Super Bowl defense theory, but given the Bengals are getting 4.5, and they have the better quarterback and more explosive offense, I'll take the points. 

Bengals 26 - 23

I went 2-0 last week and won my best bet (49ers) to go 7-5 in the playoffs. During the regular season my record was 139-130-3, my best bet record was 12-6 and I finished the Supercontest 46-43-1. In 2020, my record was 118-130-8, my best bet record was 5-12 and I finished the Supercontest 35-48-2. From 1999-2021, I've gone 2,947-2,756 (51.7%), not including ties. 

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NFL Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NFL fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Liss
Chris Liss was RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio from 2001-2022.
Will Bill O’Brien Help The Patriots Super Bowl Odds In 2023?
Will Bill O’Brien Help The Patriots Super Bowl Odds In 2023?
What Offseason Changes Will Mean For 2023 Patriots Super Bowl Odds
What Offseason Changes Will Mean For 2023 Patriots Super Bowl Odds
Early Look At Super Bowl 57 Spreads, Totals, And Moneylines
Early Look At Super Bowl 57 Spreads, Totals, And Moneylines
Target Breakdown: 2022 Season in Review for NFL Wide Receivers
Target Breakdown: 2022 Season in Review for NFL Wide Receivers