Against the Spread
If you believe the models, then the Los Angeles Rams are the expected value play in Super Bowl LIII. According to the 50+ prediction models on The Prediction Tracker, there is a 52.7% chance that the Rams win the game outright and a 56.0% chance that they cover +2.0 points. That cover probability would naturally be a little bit higher at +2.5 points, which is where the line is at Westgate as of Thursday night.
At -110, risking $110 to win $100 on the Rams +2.0 carries an expected return of $7.60, which is right around the 85th percentile for ATS plays this season. On average, it would rank as a lower top-five play in most weeks. The sample size is tiny, but top-five picks went 44-34-3 (56.4%) during the regular season (no picks in Week 17), good for a positive return of $770 (9.5% ROI) if we assume each top-five bet was "to win $100."
In one sense, the Rams are this year's Eagles. Last year, my weekly column focused on five specific prediction models, and the Eagles were a unanimous five-model ATS Super Bowl pick at +4.5. Those picks finished last season at 35-22-2 (61.4%), or +$1,080 (18.3% ROI) if we assume each wager was "to win $100."
On the moneyline side, the models forecast a 52.7% chance of a Rams win, whereas current Westgate odds have them as a +125 underdog, which implies a 44.4% chance of a Rams win. If you believe the models, then you have a 52.7% chance to win $125 and a 47.3% chance to lose $100 on Los Angeles.
That nets to an expected return of $18.5 on a moneyline wager that risks $100, which is 80th percentile on the season and would just miss the top five in an average week. Top-five picks went 26-54 on the year (on almost all underdogs), finishing $1,916 (24.0% ROI) in the black if we assume each wager "risked $100."
Whether you believe the models or not, always remember to weigh your conviction against the probabilities implied by the odds that you're wagering. Rams +125 suggests a 44.4% chance they'll win the game —if you think their chances are better than that, you might find value in the Rams on the moneyline. Meanwhile, Patriots -145 implies a 59.2% chance that they'll win. Do you think it's higher or lower than that?
Super Bowl Squares
If you're participating in Super Bowl Squares (or Box) Pool, check out my annual write-up on your chances of winning with every final-score combination. The analysis takes the unique steps of factoring in 2015-2018's historically weird NFL scores and each team's probability to win the game, both of which are critical to understanding your chances (but are largely ignored if you pull up any old odds article on Google).
Good luck and enjoy the Super Bowl!
Regular Season Results - Against the Spread: 44-34-3 (+770) - Money Line: 26-54 (+1914, almost all dogs)
Net profit includes vigs - Assumes all bets "to win $100" (against the spread) and "risk $100" (moneyline)