Steinberg: Analysis of big game

The nasty little secret behind a portion of the popularity of the NFL is the passion for betting which generates billions of dollars every week.

When you are at a game and hear cheering after scores that seems disconnected with the action on the field — it is occasioned by the point spread. Now many of you may not know that a point spread is not an indication of what oddsmakers think in respect to the outcome on the field. It is set at the midpoint which will motivate equal numbers of bettors to back each team.

There are dozens of novelty bets on the Super Bowl game which start with which team will win the coin flip and continue on each second — how far will opening kickoff go? Who will be first player to touch the ball? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

The one action that can destroy professional sports is a connection between players, executives, agents and gamblers. The presumption is that games are played on a level playing field. If fans ever suspected that player performance and effort had anything to do with gambling, it would reduce the sport to professional wrestling status.

I have spent 40 years staying away from gamblers and betting. When I would visit a player hotel prior to the game and discover that my quarterback client had a bad thumb that was unreported but would prevent him from gripping the ball properly — that would be invaluable information to bettors. So for your entertainment only, here's how I analyze Sunday's Super Bowl matchup.

The New England Patriots are the most superbly run franchise in professional sports. They have a brilliant and decisive owner, outstanding player evaluation and the best coach in the NFL in Bill Belichick. He has outcoached other teams on a regular basis by designing game plans that accentuate strengths and finesse weaknesses.

Tom Brady is the Joe Montana of contemporary football, with three Super Bowl rings. He is able to elevate his play in critical situations to a transcendent level. He has multiple receiving weapons — two incredible tight ends and the best possession receiver, Wes Welker, in the game.

If Brady is given enough time he will move the team and score. The New York Giants defensive line puts a ferocious rush on the quarterback. They have the ability to put the most intense pressure on Brady that he has seen all year. He has a very quick release, but finding time to throw may be a major problem.

The New York Giants are also well-coached. Their quarterback, Eli Manning, has blossomed this year into a franchise quarterback and he already has a Super Bowl victory through clutch passing on his resume. They have a bruising rushing game. Manning has multiple targets. Wide receiver Victor Cruz has emerged as a star.

The Patriots defense is ranked at the bottom of the NFL. If they cannot put pressure on Eli, slow down the running game and cover the fleet-footed receivers well, the Giants could score at will.

The Giants were 7-7 with two games remaining in the regular season and looked like they would not make the playoffs. But they regained momentum and have come together to play at the highest level.

The Patriots were 13-3. Arguably the Giants' schedule was tougher and more physical.

Weather will not be a factor because the game is played in a dome. Bob Kraft has been a great friend and a creative leader among owners. He came to Newport Beach with his wife to my 50th birthday party bringing a jersey with my name on the back. He lost his beloved wife in the off-season and is a sentimental favorite. But unless they can slow down the Giants and protect Brady it may be a long day.

The other heavily contested competition is the battle of the superstar commercials on the broadcast. It costs up to $3.5 million for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl broadcast (up from $3 million last year). Advertisers save their best and most creative concepts for this broadcast and the right ad can dynamically alter a company's status.

This will be the first time since 1976 your correspondent has not encamped in the Super Bowl city. And the first time in 25 years not hosting the biggest day-time party of the week.

There's always next year.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or

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