The Super Bowl the Bookies Want Back

By Alex H.
Baltimore's Super Bowl triumph could cost the bookies a pretty penny.

Baltimore’s lifting of the Lombardi trophy on Sunday night left a mixture of emotions for those in attendance, those watching on TV, and those laying bets down ahead of the game.

The jubilant Ravens players, coaches, front office personnel, and fans were joined in their feelings of good will by bettors taking the underdog Ravens ahead of the game. Baltimore covered both the +5 opening spread and the +3.5/+4 spread (depending on your bookie) at kickoff.

For the fifth time in six Super Bowl games, and ninth time in 12 games, the underdog came through on the biggest stage of all. That simple fact has left bookmakers joining San Francisco and its fans on the Monday morning misery bus.

Simply put: the Ravens have cost the bookies a whole wad of cash.

Baltimore kicked off Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season with 18/1 odds to win Super Bowl XLVII. That figure ranked the side ninth in the league, behind New England (11/2), Green Bay (6/1), San Francisco (9/1), Philadelphia (11/1), Houston (12/1), Pittsburgh (14/1), Chicago (15/1), and Denver (15/1).

Bettors that picked up that 18/1 bet – mainly fans of the team, I imagine – are sitting pretty today. But they’re not the only ones.

Baltimore’s surprisingly inconsistent season saw the Ravens bounce up and down in the estimations of odds makers.

A Week 3 victory over New England – the result of a Patriots field goal that might have been good but wasn’t called that way – saw odds of the team winning the Super Bowl shorten to 9/1 before a win over Cleveland triggered odds to shorten to 17/2. That marker represented the shortest odds available on Baltimore all season.

Following Week 4, Ravens odds began to stretch, thanks in most part to some truly unconvincing performances. Whilst the team went 5-1, only a Week 1 victory over Cincinnati was by more than a touchdown, and three wins were by three points or less.

The Ravens were 9/1 going in to Week 7’s clash with Houston, a game John Harbaugh’s side lost 43-13. Those odds slipped to 14/1 and then 18/1 following a bye week. Baltimore entered Week 10 with lengthier odds than during the preseason for the first time all year.

Those odds shortened to 12/1 with a trio of wins over Oakland (blowout), Pittsburgh (sans Ben Roethlisberger), and San Diego (an overtime nail-biter).

After Week 12’s narrow escape in San Diego, home loss to Pittsburgh marked the beginning of some dark days in Edgar Allen Poe’s city. Following a loss on the road to state rivals Washington, odds slipped to 22/1 before a thrashing at the hands of Denver saw the Ravens assigned 28/1 odds of winning the Super Bowl. This was a week bookies wish they could have back.

Yes, the Ravens were struggling, but even with some poor performances, the 9-5 side still looked a lock for the postseason. At 28/1, bettors backed the side hard. They didn’t know it then, but that would pay off big time.

Ravens odds shortened to 20/1 the following week with a win over the Giants, before a final loss to Cincinnati saw Baltimore enter the postseason with 22/1 odds of winning Super Bowl XLVII.

Of course, we now know how the story would pan out. A wild-card win over Indianapolis was followed by three straight upsets. Baltimore left Denver, New England, and San Francisco in its wake, going on to win the big game and remove the smile from the bookies’ faces.

It might not have been to the standards that the “Black Sunday” of Super Bowl XIII, but with odds of over 18/1 for such an extended period, made taking the Ravens straight up a profitable experience.

Add to that the fact that somewhere in the vicinity of 60 percent of bettors – depending who you bet with – also took Baltimore to cover the spread, and you have more than enough to make bookmakers rue the day Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, and Co. took to the field in New Orleans.

For bettors backing the Ravens, it’s time to rejoice. It’s time to walk the neighborhood with a stupid grin on the face that says, “I beat the bookies big time”, whilst plotting how to prize some green away from the odds makers next year.

For the record, Baltimore is considered 12/1 to win next year’s Super Bowl XLVIII. Fancy a bit of that action?

12/1 odds puts the Ravens in joint fifth place on the NFL Futures list with Seattle. So close yet so far San Francisco tops the list with 7/1 odds, a figure matched by the Denver Broncos, while New England (15/2) and Green Bay (10/1) are currently considered more likely to lift the Lombardi trophy than Baltimore.