The ESPN Super Pick ‘Em Extravaganza

Apparently not satisfied with his hard-earned victory in the Pigskin Pick ‘Em challenge during the regular season, Lucas invited me this week to participate in the Confessions of a Sportscaster Super Pick’Em challenge on ESPN.com. Eager for a chance at redemption, I accepted that invitation and spent minutes of thought on the following Super Bowl prop bets. Please note that Someone Still Loves You Alberto Riveron does not condone ACTUALLY betting on these items – unless you’re pretty sure they’re going to be correct, that is (and is actually legal for you to do so in your region and so on and so forth). For the sake of banging out a fast and fun column, let’s take a look at my personal choices (noted in bold) for the Super Pick ‘Em challenge below…

1. Which team will win the game – Baltimore (6 points) or San Francisco (4 points)?

Whoops, letting the prediction for my super-ultra-mega-jumbo Super Bowl preview later this week out of the bag early. Just pretend to be surprised when you see it on Friday, okay? Thank you!

2. What will be the length of the National anthem sung by Alicia Keys – 113 seconds or fewer (4 points) or 114 seconds or more (6 points)?

I find it hard to believe that anyone other than Bleeding Gums Murphy would be able to stretch “The Star-Spangled Banner” to two minutes or more. Even Christina Aguilera couldn’t go longer than 1:53 two years ago – and that was with horribly butchering the song in the process. I don’t doubt Ms. Keys’ dedication to embellishing the song beyond all normal recognition, but c’mon. Two minutes is insane.

3. What will be the result of the coin toss – Heads (5 points) or Tails (5 points)?

I’d just like to repeat my admonition from above that if you are actually betting on this particular proposition, YOU HAVE A MASSIVE GAMBLING PROBLEM AND NEED TO SEEK IMMEDIATE HELP FOR YOUR ADDICTION. Although…now that you mention it, 50/50 odds ain’t so bad…

4. Which team will receive the opening kickoff – Baltimore Ravens (7 points) or San Francisco 49ers (3 points)?

This seems like a nice calculated gamble to me. You’d assume whichever team wins the coin toss would just defer to the second half, right? Well, then why aren’t the point totals for this prop just 5 and 5 again? Does ESPN know something that we don’t? Or is there a tendency on the 49ers’ part to elect to receive the opening kickoff if they win the toss that I haven’t adequately researched because I’m lazy? TOO LATE TO CHANGE NOW, ON TO THE NEXT PROP…

5. Will either team have a double digit lead in the 1st Quarter– Yes: Either has a double digit lead in 1st Qtr (7 points) or No: Neither has a double digit lead in 1st Qtr (3 points)?

Double-digit leads that early on in a game are relatively rare, particularly for a game that seems like it will be fairly close. I now look forward to the 35-0 lead the Ravens will jump out to in the first ten minutes.

6. Will both Ray Rice (BAL) and Frank Gore (SF) rush for 50+ Yards in the 1st Half – Yes: Both rush for 50+ 1st Half Yards (8 points) or No: Either doesn’t rush for 50+ 1st Half Yards (2 points)?

Ray Rice has been having trouble getting to 50 yards TOTAL in the playoffs so far – plus, it’s not like the 49ers’ run defense is one of the best in the league or anything. And with Ray Lewis back at inside linebacker, the Ravens’ run defense has been much improved during the postseason, meaning Frank Gore’s going to have a rough go of it, too. I’m rooting for both these guys to make it because the game would be more exciting that way, but I have to choose the sure points.

7. Will a Touchdown be scored in every Quarter – Yes: 1+ TDs in every Qtr (7 points) or No: Any Other Result (3 points)?

If you figure that an average NFL game has around five or six touchdowns, that equals out to more than one a quarter, right? Taking another calculated risk here because the odds aren’t horrendous and the downside isn’t particularly steep.

8. Which side will record a higher total – Total Points Scored (4 points) or Jersey Number of the first TD Scorer or Tie (6 points)?

Essentially by choosing the jersey number option, I am guessing that the first touchdown comes on a pass to a wide receiver or a tight end (please, Lord, don’t let it be Michael Crabtree or Jacoby Jones!). But even if a running back scores the first touchdown, there’s always the possibility this could turn into a 13-7 defensive slugfest and my prop wins anyway. Can I get a what-what for making risky choices without any benefit of research?!

9. Will Beyonce perform the song “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” during the Halftime show – Yes (3 points) or No (7 points)?

I don’t know that I’ve ever listened to a Beyonce song all the way through in my life and even I know she’s going to play that song Sunday night. Thanks for the free points, ESPN!

10. Which player will score the first TD of the Super Bowl – Torrey Smith, Ray Rice or Frank Gore (6 points) or Any Other Player (4 points)?

In general, if your potential answers for a question are “Player A, Player B, Player C, or the Field”…well, you take the field. Particularly when you have 87 other options to choose from (yes, it’s possible that Mike Iupati could score a touchdown. Don’t take that possibility away from him!).

11. What will be the result of the first coach’s challenge – Upheld (4 points) or Overturned or No Challenge (6 points)?

I’d like to think that the HarBros are both smart enough to avoid the Mike Tomlin School of Challenging and will use their red flags in an intelligent and judicious manner. The wild-card here, of course, is Jerome Boger; he’s grossly incompetent and yet he’ll be refereeing the Super Bowl. NOTHING SHADY HERE. At this point, Jerome could look at a forward progress replay and determine that there needs to be a free kick on the next play and it wouldn’t surprise me. So this is a clear STAY AWAY for all you real gamblers out there.

12. Which player will be named Super Bowl MVP – Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis or Colin Kaepernick (3 points) or Any Other Player (7 points)?

See Question #10. Although the winning quarterback, admittedly, IS usually the one who ends up winning the award. Meh, we’ll keep our options open and laugh with glee when Pernell McPhee is hoisting that trophy after the game.

13. Which QB will record more Touchdowns in the game – Joe Flacco (BAL) (6 points) or Colin Kaepernick (SF) or Tie (4 points)?

My assumption is Dean Pees is smart enough to not try the Dom Capers defense against Kaepernick, but since I’m picking San Francisco overall, I might as well stick with Kaepernick in this category. Because throwing all your eggs in one basket is never a bad idea.

14. Will WR Randy Moss (SF) score a Touchdown in the game – Yes: Moss scores 1+ TDs (8 points) or No: Moss doesn’t score a TD (2 points)?

I will predict, however, that Jerry Rice snickers with glee at least three times during the course of the game.

15. How many points will be scored in the game – 47 Points or Fewer (5 points) or 48 Points or More (5 points)?

One of the toughest props on the table because San Francisco was one of the most deliberate teams in the league during the regular season – Seattle was the only team that played at a slower pace – but during the playoffs they’ve played two high-scoring games. I’ll stick to the lower point total for now, but I don’t feel good about it.

16. Which side will record a higher total in the game – Joe Flacco (BAL): Completions or Tie (6 points) or 49ers: Points Scored (4 points)?

Flacco’s averaged 19.37 completions per game this season (including playoffs); I think the 49ers will score at least 20 points. This one’s pretty straightforward!

17. Will there be a lead change in the 2nd Half – Yes: 1+ lead changes in the 2nd Half (6 points) or No: No lead change in the 2nd Half (4 points)?

Since, as stated previously, I believe the game will be a close one, this is a decent calculated risk, particularly since the 49ers are the superior team but will likely be behind at some point due to their laborious style of play. I now look forward to the 49ers’ 56-3 halftime lead.

18. What will be the length of the longest TD play in the game – 49 Yards or Fewer or No TD (3 points) or 50 Yards or More (7 points)?

Look, there are a lot of players on both sides who are capable of producing LONG touchdowns: Kaepernick, Torrey Smith, Vernon Davis, Jacoby Jones, etc. With that said, though…50 yards is a really long way away! And you’d think that both teams are well-coached enough to not give up back-breaking 80-yard plays in the biggest game of their lives, right? This is another one I hope I get wrong for entertainment’s sake, but I’ve gotta go under, captain.

19. Will there be a Defensive or Special teams TD scored in the game – Yes: 1+ Defensive or Special teams TD (7 points) or No: No Defensive or Special teams TD (3 points)?

10.7% of the touchdowns scored during the regular season came on either defense or special teams. So if the average game will have around five or six touchdowns, then we could reasonably expect .5 or .6 non-offensive touchdowns per game. Factor in two defenses with some of the greatest playmakers in the league today and two electric kick returners in Jones and Ted Ginn Jr. and I would have to think that the non-offensive touchdown expectation for THIS game would have to be higher than the above figure. So I’m going to toss this out as a low-risk, high-reward gamble and proceed to cry profuse tears of anger if Ed Reed gets tackled on the one-yard-line on an interception return.

20. Will any points be scored in the last 2 minutes of 4th quarter – Yes (5 points) or No (5 points)?

Finally, we end on another prop where the scoring distribution seems to be way out of whack. Are you suggesting, ESPN.com, that there’s a 50-50 shot of any points being scored in the final two minutes of the game when the average game this season only had 8.45 scoring events total? Surely you can’t be serious! But I’ll take it.

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