Over the last 10 years, the NFL has become a passing league and running backs have seen their importance diminish but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a gambler some money on Super Bowl Sunday.

James White
New England running back James White came close to being named Super Bowl MVP last year but finished second to quarterback Tom Brady. (Image: Sports Illustrated)

The rushers for New England and Philadelphia are definitely the second option on both offenses. Dion Lewis of the Patriots was the NFL’s 14th leading yardage gainer on the ground with 896 yards. The Eagles tandem of Jay Ajayi was 17th with 873 yards and Legarrette Blount at 26th with 766 yards.

The Patriots had the best offense during the regular season and passing yards were almost at a 3/1 ratio to running. The Eagles were at a 21 margin and relied on the run more when starting quarterback Carson Wentz was lost in December to a season-ending knee injury. Now that back up Nick Foles has won two playoff games and led his team to the Super Bowl he has been throwing the ball more.

Ground Game Losing Traction

The last time a running back won the Super Bowl MVP was in 1998 when Terrell Davis led the Denver Broncos to a 31-24 victory over Green Bay. The Georgia alum rushed for 157 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns and was a unanimous pick for the award.

Flash forward nine years and in last year’s big game tailbacks were not used nearly as much. Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman had 11 carries for 75 yards while New England had a trio of running backs in Legarrette Blount, James White and Dion Lewis. Blount had 11 touches and gained 31 yards. White carried the ball six times for 29 yards and Lewis had six carries for 27 yards.

White scored two touchdowns on the ground and another by catching the ball and still finished second in the MVP voting to New England quarterback Tom Brady. Even Brady said he thought White should have gotten the award.

Running to Rusher’s Defense

That doesn’t mean the running backs should be ignored when looking at placing wagers. While the position is not the dominant force it once was they still are playing a role in the game.

Prop bets reflect this. The Eagles rushing tandem of Ajayi and Blount are 25/1 and 60/1 to win MVP. For the Patriots, Lewis is 20/1 while White checks in at 60/1.

There are still attractive side wagers to be found with running backs. One of the best is on Lewis scoring a touchdown. The yes is +180, while the no is -220. Think he’ll do it in the half and the yes is a +425, while the no is -600.

Similar odds can be had for Ajayi and Blount. Ajayi is a +180 to score a touchdown in the game and a +375 to do it in the first half. Blount’s odds are even better. He is a +190 to score in the game and a +400 to find the end zone in the first half.