02/03/2011 3:37PM

In close Super Bowl, the under is the smart play

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Everything has a price.

Of course, we all know that in the world of the race and sports books, where every horse has odds on it no matter how hopeless, and every game has a spread and the oddsmakers will drive the line high enough until either side is equally appealing for bettors. “Everything has a price” is especially true for the Super Bowl, with several proposition wagers available.

DRF SPORTS: Super Bowl odds, StatFox matchups, and handicapping news

The matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers is a great one for the sports books. Both teams are two historic franchises with rabid fan bases, and both are very popular in betting circles, even among NFL fans from other cities. But the sports books paid the price to get this matchup two weeks ago, when the Packers and Steelers covered as favorites in the conference championship games and the majority of bettors backed them. I went 0-2 to drop to 3-3 in the playoffs and under 60 percent on the season at 30-22.

Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas

Packers -2.5 vs. Steelers (o/u 45)

There has been a lot of debate over this spread. Many think the Steelers should be favored. The Packers were the No. 6 seed from the supposedly weaker conference, whereas the Steelers were the No. 2 seed in the stronger one.

But the way bettors have been supporting the Packers down the stretch, the books felt the money would come in on them regardless of the spread. This is similar to the Auburn vs. Oregon scenario for the BCS title game; Oregon was the higher-rated team most of the season, but Auburn opened as the favorite when the final matchup was set.

There was some difference of opinion among bookmakers. Offshore giant Pinnacle opened at pick-em, but Olympic made it Packers -3. Here in Vegas, the Station Casinos went with Packers -1 1/2, the Las Vegas Hilton went with -2, and Treasure Island went with -3. Most books quickly met at -2.5, and for the most part that’s where the line has stood since. Treasure Island, formerly in the MGM Mirage but now owned by former New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin, has taken a stand and has held the line at -3, with the juice going from -110 to -120 to -125 for those taking the Steelers +3.

I’m leaning toward the Steelers in the game, but it’s not a strong opinion. These are two solid teams, and I can’t see much to separate them

I do like the game to stay under the total. The over/under in the Super Bowl is always set artificially high because the public likes to bet over, plus we’ve often seen these games turn into shootouts because offenses are aided by the longer TV timeouts and able to set up big plays.

But I really think the defenses, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the league for points allowed, will step up on the big stage. The total opened most places at 45 and, predictably, got bet up as high as 46 1/2, but then a funny thing happened − it started moving back down because too much value was seen in the high number. I locked in my play at 46 and advised people at my ViewFromVegas.com website to do the same before it dropped further. I still think it is a solid play down to 44 1/2, or 44 if you’re not going to kick yourself too hard if it lands.

PLAY: Under 45 points for 1 unit.

Super Bowl XLV proposition bets

There are two basic ways to bet Super Bowl props. One is to attack the openers, finding mistakes that the books made either in the numbers they hang or math errors in the juice attached to the props. Early bettors can also find differences at competing books and arbitrage, scalp, or set up middles, in which case it’s really not about having the right side.

The second way is to handicap the side of a prop that is more likely to hit, regardless of price. Since it’s too late to attack the openers, we’ll try to find an edge by looking at some props that fit in with my prediction of the game staying under the total.

Will either team score in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game? I’ll go with the “no,” which has been bet from -110 to -115. Big games often start slow as teams feel each other out. Plus, it’s not inconceivable that even a long opening drive can result in points but still take place after the 8:30 mark.

Will both teams make field goals of 33 yards or longer? The “yes” is a juicy +180. Unders are often the results of teams settling for field goals instead of touchdowns, and as I said, I think the defenses will be stingy and the offenses conservative.

Largest lead of the game? I like under 13.5 at +110. Again, I’m hoping for a close game, and if it’s low-scoring, it’s not likely either team will get up by 14 points. The Packers haven’t trailed by more than seven all season.

Will the game be tied after 0-0? The “yes” is +120. A tight game makes this more likely. I would love 3-3 at anytime, but if that’s the halftime score I’ll be happy in a lot of ways.

Total rushing yards by James Starks? Under 49.5 is -110. The Packers only recently found a running game, but the Steelers should send them back to being one-dimensional. I also like Starks under 16.5 attempts and under 11.5 yards for his longest rush. I’m looking under before over on other players’ props.

Player to score first TD? Ever since I tabbed Devin Hester to score the first TD in the Bears-Colts Super Bowl four years ago at 30-1, I’ve had people asking me for my pick on this popular prop. I’m taking a shot with Antonio Brown at 30-1. Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have a go-to receiver − Hines Ward would be the closest thing, and not a bad shot at 12-1 − but he has shown confidence in Brown.

Enjoy the game.