The teams for Super Bowl XLVI are set: the New England Patriots (15-3) will be the representatives from the AFC, and the New York Giants (12-7) will be the representatives from the NFC. This will be a matchup of two of the most successful franchises in recent NFL history, with New England going for its fourth Vince Lombardi trophy in their seventh trip to the big game, and New York seeking their fourth title in their fifth trip to the Super Bowl.
The two teams are quite familiar with each other, having faced off in the classic Super Bowl XLII in 2008, when the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history and ruined the Pats’ bid for a perfect season, winning 17-14 as a 12-point underdog. Now New England is looking to avenge that loss in Indianapolis on February 5th as New England’s coach/QB combo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady square off against New York’s Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning for the second time on the big stage.
The last time these two teams met was this season, a 24-20 Giants win in Foxboro on November 6. The G-men were 13-point underdogs going into that matchup, and the odds-makers have clearly learned something after New York won the last two meetings between the teams outright as a massive underdog. Giants QB Eli Manning seems to elevate his game against New England, leading last minute TD drives in those last two wins, including a TD pass to tight end Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left to win the game earlier this season. The ability of the G-men to generate a pass rush against New England QB Tom Brady will be another key to this game; they were able to sack him 5 times in their Super Bowl upset in 2008 and twice this season (while also picking off two of his passes) in their meeting. The Giants are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games and have covered three straight against New England, while the Pats are 4-4 ATS in their last 8 games. Overall favorites have won six of the last eight Super Bowls outright and 33 of 45 overall. The favorites are 26-16-3 ATS throughout the history of the game.
How The Line Has Moved Since Opening
The line opened up with the Patriots as three and a half-point favorites over the Giants at most sports books, the Wynn Las Vegas was one of the few sportsbooks to open with the Giants +4 and they quickly shifted the line down to NY +3.5 and now NY +3 when they took “a handful of bets on the Giants for between $30,000 to $40,000” at those levels. The action and chatter so far is coming in heavily in favor of the Giants, with many mainstream media types questioning the Pats’ status as favorites in light of their defeat of the lightly-regarded Denver Broncos in the divisional round, and their fortuitous win over Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game that was aided by a 32-yard missed field goal by Ravens’ kicker Billy Cundiff at the end of the game. BetOnline.com was the first book to drop the line to Pats -2.5 (-120) Monday night, perhaps a leading indicator of the trend for this game. The line was still there as of Thursday January 26th. The sharp money came in for the Giants at +3.5, and if you like the G-men you best pounce on that line if given the chance, but it looks like the horse may have already left the barn on that bet.
Many sportsbooks are hesitant to leave the line at 3 given the strong possibility of a push, which would be anti-climatic for bookmakers who earn a significant portion of their revenue on Super Sunday. So far in the playoffs the Patriots and Giants have both squeaked out 3-point wins in the Conference Championship games, New England by a score of 23-20 over the Ravens as a 7-point favorite and the Giants won at San Fran as a 2-point underdog. The line should hover in the Giants +3.5 to +2.5 range unless something unexpected occurs as both teams have a strong following and bettors for NY will come in strong at +3.5, while Pats bettors will come in at NY +2.5.
The key injury to watch is the status of Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski, who sustained an ankle injury in the AFC Title Game. He is expected to be ready for the game, but should his status change that could move the line down from NY catching 3 or even shift the Pats to underdog status.