What do I root for in this Superbowl bet?
January 28, 2009 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Based on my Superbowl bet, what should I be hoping for?

I'm going to a Superbowl party where I'll be watching the game. I don't follow football at all so I figured I'd put a wager on it to make it more interesting.

A friend is running a betting system for a group of us selling "Superbowl Squares" (described here). The payouts are for the end of each quarter (none for end of game).

My numbers are (Cardinals-Steelers): 4-2, 6-1, 6-2, and 8-3. In my limited knowledge of football scoring, those don't seem like amazing numbers. Also, I know nothing about the play of the two teams.

Could someone take a very rough stab at my chances? More importantly, what are some realistic situations that I can root for which might lead to the right scores?

Should I be hoping the teams make touchdowns, but miss the kick that follows (wikipedia tells me that's called a "point-after touchdown") so that the score is 6-12? More examples would be appreciated, including the strenghts/weaknesses of the teams involved would be even better.
posted by ODiV to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I read the link, but I'm still a little confused on the rules of this contest. Are those numbers the LAST digit of the teams score after that quarter?

I think they must be; a team scoring one point on its own is a literal impossibility.

The basic units of scoring are 7 (touchdown and point after), and 3 (field goal), so go from there. Less common are 8 (touchdown with 2 point conversion) and 6 (touchdown with failed conversion. (A safety is two points, but they are so rare it's almost not worth considering).
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:25 AM on January 28, 2009

I would say your best chance is the game ending Arizona 28, Pittsburgh 23.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:26 AM on January 28, 2009

Whether you hope for touchdowns or field goals will not affect the outcome. If you REALLY are looking to affect the outcome this is what you do:

1. lookup superbowl quarter scores for the past few years.
2. if you see a pattern, find out which squares those would LIKELY occupy.
3. find the person with those squares and work out a "hey...lets combine our efforts. if i win, half of the winnings go to you, half to me. if you win, half to me, half to you.

Good luck, and report back to askme and tell us how any suggestions you take work out.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:28 AM on January 28, 2009

Here are a few things that don't happen very often in pro football: safeties, missed extra points and two-point conversions. Honestly, I don't think your chances are particularly good.
posted by box at 9:30 AM on January 28, 2009

Your numbers aren't great, but they're possible. (The ones ending with 2 are slightly less likely to come up, but not impossible.)

Here's a clarification on Wikipedia's poor hyphenation: It's not a "point-after touchdown," where "point-after" describes a certain kind of touchdown. It's the point after the touchdown, also known as the "extra point." Also abbreviated as PAT.

To know what to root for, you need to know how many points are assigned to each way of scoring. They are:

Touchdown: 6 points
Point after touchdown (or extra point): 1 point
Safety (person with the ball is tackled in his own end zone): 2 points
Field goal: 3 points

So, for your squares:

4-2: The 4 could be Cardinal's score of 14 (7 + 7 -- two touchdowns plus two PATs) or 24 (most likely 7 + 7 + 7 + 3 [field goal]). Or 34, 44, 54, etc.

The 2 could be a Steelers score of 12 (6 + 6 -- two touchdowns plus 2 missed PATs; or 6 + 3 + 3 -- touchdown + two field goals; or 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 -- four field goals), or 22 (now you do the math!) or 32 or 42, etc.

So by knowing those points, and by doing some math, you can come up with the possible situations in which you'll win at the end of each quarter.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:31 AM on January 28, 2009

In general it's usually hard to end up with scores that end in 6 or 2 in football if there are plenty of touchdowns being scored, but you'll want to hope for plenty of field goals (3 points each) rather than touchdowns where the teams miss the point-after.

The sixes you have for the Cardinals could turn into good squares, as their offense should be able to move the ball to an extent but might have trouble scoring against the Steelers' defense (top in the league this year), making it very likely the Cardinals will be kicking a lot of field goals. The Cardinals have a very good kicker, Neil Rackers, so I think this is a good possibility.

The other way to end up with an even number of points is if a team scores a safety for 2 points. Safeties are fairly rare, but again, Pittsburgh's defense would be the one to bet on if you're holding squares for them that end in 2. I know they already have at least one safety this year (against my favorite team, unfortunately). Personally, I think your best squares are probably the 6-1, 6-2, and if I was you I'd be cheering for the Steelers' defense to keep the Cardinals out of the end zone. Your 8-3 square could be good as well if the game ends up high-scoring (say, a 28-33 final score), but I don't think that's very likely unless the Steelers' defense completely collapses.
posted by sbrollins at 9:31 AM on January 28, 2009

Oh, I just re-read the link to the explanation and they don't mention assigning the squares randomly. Trust me, I didn't pick these numbers; we had a random draw. I don't know how anyone would sell a board of non-random squares for a set amount.

And yes, you got it right drjimmy11, the numbers indicate the last digit of the score.

I'm afraid you might be right, nineRED, though I think the broadcaster here might replace the commercials.
posted by ODiV at 9:32 AM on January 28, 2009

Your numbers are pretty terrible. drjimmy is right, your best chance is the final game score. In general you should be rooting for Pittsburgh to be getting FGs and for Arizona to be getting TDs.
posted by milqman at 9:32 AM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, forgot two-point conversion: 2 points.

A team can opt to go for a two-point conversion instead of the extra point after scoring a touchdown. It's a regular play, not a kick, and will involve passing or rushing towards the end zone from the 2 yard line. Pretty much it's only done in really tight scoring situations.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:33 AM on January 28, 2009

Some odds, from all prior Super Bowls. Interesting, but the sample size is really too small to be meaningful. It would be better if it was run against all NFL games in a season or something like that. The Super Bowl isn't that different from an everyday game.

Should I be hoping the teams make touchdowns, but miss the kick that follows (wikipedia tells me that's called a "point-after touchdown") so that the score is 6-12?

Two field goals (2x3) are much more common than missed PATs.
posted by smackfu at 9:37 AM on January 28, 2009

Going on the assumption that those numbers are the last digit of the score at the end of each quarter, here are the remotely realistic scenarios. Decently realistic scenarios are in bold You could concoct more, but they would be incredibly unlikely.

Quarter 1:
Cardinals: 14 (2 touchdowns)
Steelers: 2 (safety), 12 (4 field goals)

Quarter 2:
Cardinals: 6 (2 fieldgoals), 16 (touchdown, 3 fieldgoals), 26 (two touchdowns, 4 fieldgoals)
Steelers: 21 (3 touchdowns), 31 (4 touchdowns, 1 fieldgoal)

Quarter 3:
Cardinals: 6 (see above)
Steelers: 12 (4 field goals), 22 (1 touchdown, 5 fieldgoals)

Quarter 4:
Cardinals: 28 (4 touchdowns)
Steelers: 13 (touchdown, 2 field goals), 23 (two touchdowns, 3 field goals), 33 (three touchdowns, 4 fieldgoals)

Your best chances of winning are at the end of quarter 2 or 4, but I don't consider either to be especially likely.
posted by christonabike at 9:41 AM on January 28, 2009

What milqman said. You should be looking for Pitt FGs and Ari TDs, but those numbers suck. I've never heard of random square assignments.

I actually think you're best bet is the first quarter... two TDs by Arizona (a pass happy team) and a safety from Pittsburgh. But that would require 3 first quarter possessions by the Cards ... not likely but crazy things happen. Hopefully you didn't put a lot down for the squares and you recoup your investment by enjoying the game more than you would have otherwise, as you envision possible scenarios in your head as the game progresses.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 9:44 AM on January 28, 2009

Oh, sorry, my four squares are valid for each quarter. I guess it wasn't as clear as I thought.

Otherwise, that's pretty much exactly what I was looking for, christonabike.
posted by ODiV at 9:46 AM on January 28, 2009

I've never heard of random square assignments.

How do you get people to pay for the crappy squares then? Do you use some formula to change the square price?
posted by ODiV at 9:55 AM on January 28, 2009

A random order for picking is cool, but generally it's just been first come first served in the times I've played.

The squares being good for any quarter is huge difference. Ari 14, Pitt 12 has good chance for later in the game, for example, where it would be pretty much impossible in the first quarter. Pitt 28, Ari 13 is probable final score in my mind.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:04 AM on January 28, 2009

While two-point conversions, missed PATs and safeties are indeed valid ways to score in the NFL they are exceedingly rare, especially in the Super Bowl, when teams are playing conservatively. There have only been 5 safeties in SB history, f'rinstance (though the Steelers have two of them).

The scoring in the game will come in increments of 7 and 3, which does not bode very well for your squares, but I think the 8/3 and the 6/1 are promising.

As far as the strengths/weaknesses of the teams, it can be boiled down to Steelers = good defense, Cardinals = good offense.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:07 AM on January 28, 2009

smackfu: "Some odds, from all prior Super Bowls. Interesting, but the sample size is really too small to be meaningful."

Here's another analysis, a little easier to read. And it uses the quarterly scores for every game since the two-point conversion was created (1994). None of your numbers are very high on the list, unfortunately. Here's your expected percentage of the pot for each of the numbers:

4-2: 0.5%
6-1: 0.7%
6-2: 0.3%
8-3: 0.5%

Those percentages are pretty sad, but they are solidly in the middle of the pack.
posted by Plutor at 10:20 AM on January 28, 2009

and hosted from Uranus: "I've never heard of random square assignments."

When you allow people to choose their squares, combinations of 0s and 7s and 4s go quick, and then the people who show up later decide to keep their ten bucks instead of buying 9-2. Randomizing is the only fair way I've ever seen it done.
posted by Plutor at 10:23 AM on January 28, 2009

Squares %
70/07 3.80
74/47 3.71
03/30 3.21
41/14 2.23
04/40 2.04
71/17 1.93
77 1.93
73/37 1.93
00 1.71
63/36 1.63
44 1.59
60/06 1.54
01/10 1.48
34/43 1.45
18/81 1.35
33 1.19
31/13 1.00
80/08 0.95
16/61 0.95
76/67 0.89
11 0.85
78/87 0.83
64/46 0.82
97/79 0.80
57/75 0.76
90/09 0.74
84/48 0.72
93/39 0.72
50/05 0.72
58/85 0.69
69/96 0.69
49/94 0.67
24/42 0.65
83/38 0.61
02/20 0.56
91/19 0.56
66 0.56
32/23 0.54
35/53 0.52
45/54 0.50
86/68 0.48
72/27 0.46
88 0.41
26/62 0.35
21/12 0.33
52/25 0.33
92/29 0.32
89/98 0.30
95/59 0.24
15/51 0.24
65/56 0.22
82/28 0.22
99 0.19
55 0.19
22 0.04
posted by jckll at 10:47 AM on January 28, 2009

This post may be of interest to you. He doesn't tell you how the score came about, but it does show probabilities of each combination after each quarter, based on all NFL games 1994-2007. Here's the probabilities (as percentages) for your numbers for each quarter, to the nearest tenth of a percent. Since there's a hundred squares, greater than 1% is better than average and less than 1% is worse than average:
      Q1   Q2   Q3   Q4
4-2  0.0  0.2  0.4  0.6
6-1  0.0  0.4  0.5  0.9
6-2  0.0  0.1  0.1  0.4
8-3  0.0  0.0  0.0  0.7
(Caveat: It seems, though it's not entirely clear, that his "Q4" numbers are actually end-of-game numbers, which differ in case of a game going to overtime. That's a fairly small percentage of games, though, so I wouldn't expect it to hugely affect these numbers.)

Should I be hoping the teams make touchdowns, but miss the kick that follows

If you enjoy having your hopes dashed, yes. Extra point attempts were succesful 99.7% of the time in the first thirteen weeks of this season (at the time the linked post was written).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2009

Sorry, that's the same data Plutor linked to above, although it should be noted that Plutor's composite numbers assume a 10/10/10/70 payout by quarter.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:54 AM on January 28, 2009

The payouts for this wager are $250, $500, $750, and $1000 for each quarter, if anyone is interested.

Your thoughts on the relative likelihood of certain plays has been fun to read. The hard numbers I don't really care as much about, but it's nice to see a rough estimate of my chances. It looks like my squares are worth about half of what I paid for them.

In any case, I should be able to make up the difference in the poker game leading up to the event.

Thanks a lot for your answers guys.
posted by ODiV at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2009

By my count, I was always at least two plays away from a payout. I had fun hypothesizing, but wasn't too hopeful.

The game was pretty fun to watch anyway. I'm glad I wasn't one of the guys who came really close to winning, because that would just be really frustrating. There were a lot of spots where I was surprised at the outcome. (How do you get an extra four downs on the goal line and not get it in?!)

Thanks again for the answers.
posted by ODiV at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2009

Amusingly, despite the true claims of its rarity, there was a safety scored in the Super Bowl, and Arizona scored it.
posted by smackfu at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2009

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