The biggest event in American sports and one of the biggest in the world, the Super Bowl is also one of the best times for betting. As the second most-watched annual sports event in the world, trailing only the UEFA Champions League Final, it’s only natural that the Super Bowl would draw plenty of interest in betting. And among bettors, Super Bowl point spreads are also very popular.
But what exactly are Super Bowl point spreads, and how do point spreads work in the Super Bowl? If you want to know more about it, then join us; this guide will tell you everything you need to know about the theme.
Super Bowl History
For a long time, the NFL was the undisputed number 1 league in football. But during the early 1960s, the American Football League’s (AFL) growth presented a new challenge. Following a short but intense and expensive rivalry, the two leagues agreed to a merger in 1966. As part of the agreement, the NFL and AFL champions would face each other at the end of the season in a single game called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. On January 15, 1967, the first ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game took place in Los Angeles. The NFL champions Green Bay Packers beat the AFL champions Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
In 1970, Congress approved the merger. The two leagues, which still kept separate schedules despite the merger agreement, became part of the modern NFL. In the new league, the former NFL teams became part of the National Football Conference (NFC), while the former AFL teams formed the American Football Conference (AFC). Three NFC teams, the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers joined the AFC to even out the numbers.
With the merger, the AFL-NFL Championship Game was rebranded into the Super Bowl. The fifth edition became the first to adopt the name and its characteristic Roman numerals. All previous Championship Games were retroactively rebranded as Super Bowls.
The New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, with six each, have the most Super Bowl titles. Tom Brady is the all-time leader among players with seven Super Bowl rings, making the legendary quarterback more successful than all 32 franchises. The NFC has a slight edge over the AFC, holding a 29-27 record.
Out of the 32 teams, 12 have never won a Super Bowl: the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans. Out of those, the Browns, Lions, Texans and Jaguars have never played in a Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Point Spreads Basics
If you are not familiar with football betting, then point spreads probably sound a bit complicated. You’ve probably seen betting lines with a number accompanied by a negative or a positive sign. That is a spread. In a point spread bet, both teams are given a handicap. The favorite has a negative handicap, while the underdog has a positive one.
In a moneyline bet, which simply means picking the winner, the score isn’t important. However, in a point spread bet, the score is what really matters. For the favorite, winning the match isn’t necessarily enough to win the bet: it must also cover the spread, which means having a margin big enough to make up for the negative handicap. The underdog, meanwhile, can win the bet even if it loses the game, as long as the score margin doesn’t exceed its positive handicap. If the underdog wins the game by any score, it will also win the bet.
Super Bowl spreads work the exact same way. The favorite covers if it wins by enough points to make up for the spread line, while the underdog can win as long as the margin isn’t bigger than the spread line.
Super Bowl Point Spreads Tips
- The average Super Bowl margin of victory is 13.9 points. Of course, it all changes from one game to another, as it depends on the matchup. But it’s always worth monitoring the betting lines and how they move.
- Super Bowl spreads history tells us that the favorite covers the spread more often than the underdog, but it’s still pretty close. Through Super Bowl LVI, the favorites have covered the spread 31 times, compared to 25 for the underdogs.
- Here is an interesting Super Bowl point spreads trend: the team that covers the spread usually wins the game, which makes sense. Super Bowl spreads in history have been close, with bookmakers rarely moving the betting line above one possession. However, statistics tell us that the average winning margin is around two possessions. Out of the 56 Super Bowls, there were only seven games in which the favorite won but the underdog covered the spread. In other words, betting on the underdog to cover the spread usually means betting on their win as well.
Super Bowl Point Spreads Examples
- The record for the largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history was set in Super Bowl XXIV, which marked the fourth and final of Joe Montana’s titles. The Niners beat the Denver Broncos 55-10, comfortably covering the -12 spread.
- The smallest winning margin in Super Bowl history was, quite ironically, set the very next year in Super Bowl XXV. Following the Niners blowout over the Broncos, the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills had a much closer game. The Giants won 20-19 after Bills’ kicker Scott Norwood famously sent a last-second field goal attempt wide right. And the Giants also covered the spread, as the Bills were -7 favorites for the game.
- Super Bowl LVI marked one of the rare cases in which the favorite won, but the underdog covered the spread. Following a late touchdown drive, the Los Angeles Rams won 23-20 over the Cincinnati Bengals. But since the Rams were -4.5 favorites entering the game, the Bengals covered the spread instead.
Pros Versus Cons of Super Bowl Point Spreads
- Betting on the spread adds another element of fun to the game. Even when the game has already been decided, there is always a chance of a team scoring a few points to chase the difference and bring the score closer, affecting the spread.
- There is no need to overthink things when betting on Super Bowl spreads. Backing the team you expect to win makes sense. As explained above, the winner covers the spread more often than not.
- If you are going to back the underdog, then the moneyline bet will usually offer a better payout. Going back to the previous point, the underdog often wins the game when it covers the spread.
- It all comes down to the betting odds available. Sometimes, there are other markets that offer better value compared to a points spread bet.