Forget the oddsmakers in Vegas. If you still can't decide who to pick in Sunday's Super Bowl, put your money where the mouth of a wolf was Saturday at the Alaska Zoo.
Denali, a 100-pound gray wolf with deceptive speed and a nose for the ball, picked the Patriots without a moment's hesitation.
He had his choice of two treat-filled, paper-mache footballs — one labeled "Patriots" and the other labeled "Eagles."
He didn't even glance at the Philadelphia ball. He veered straight to New England's, picked it up with his teeth and gnawed away until he scored a fist-sized ball of Triple A Brand Meat, which the zoo feeds its carnivores.
Granted, the Patriots' ball looked a little underinflated.
But zookeepers assured spectators that the playing field was even. Denali had been fed earlier, they explained, so when his handler led him out of the wolf enclosure to the spot where two tasty footballs rested on the ground, he wasn't apt to go for the first thing he sniffed.
This is the first time the Alaska Zoo has engaged in Super Bowl predictions, but Denali isn't the only Jimmy the Greek in the animal kingdom.
He is, however, one of the few who picked the Patriots.
At the Memphis Zoo, Le Le the giant panda picked Philadelphia by ripping down a giant Eagles banner. At the Cincinnati Zoo, Fiona the hippopotamus picked Philadelphia by eating greens out of an Eagles box. At the Phoenix Zoo, Fernando the sloth emerged (slowly) out of a box and climbed (slowly) onto some branches before reaching (slowly) for the Eagles container, where he found something pink to eat that may have been a flower.
And in a totally rigged bit of prognosticating at South Carolina's Myrtle Beach Safari, Ahren the eagle — the eagle! — eschewed a stuffed bear wearing Patriots gear and went for the one wearing Eagles gear.
Animals making predictions, whether in advance of a Super Bowl or a presidential election, may be a marketing gimmick, but it's a time-honored one.
Nicholas the dolphin is the go-to sports guru at Florida's Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and he's 6-1 when it comes to making sports predictions. Nicholas picked the Patriots last year and he picked them again this year.
Former Daily News sports writer Danny Martin, who wrote a weekly NFL picks column, once went head-to-head against a 14-year-old black Lab. In a showdown we dubbed Dannimal vs. The Animal, Danny the sports writer and Alex the dog both went 8-6.
According to the American Gaming Association, Americans are expected to bet $4.76 billion on Sunday's Super Bowl. (Of that, the association says, only 3 percent — about $138.5 million — will be wagered legally through licensed sports books in Nevada.)
Many have or will put down money on who they think will win. As of Saturday, the Patriots were 4.5-point favorites.
And many will make prop bets, short for "proposition bets," which can range from which team will score first to how many Philadelphia fans will be arrested after the game to how Justin Timberlake will enter U.S. Bank Stadium at halftime (the early odds-on favorite: zipline).
There are nearly 1,000 prop bets this year, according to the Bovada gambling site.
You can bet over-under lines on how long it takes Pink to sing the national anthem, how many times broadcasters will mention the temperature outside the stadium and how many times they mention Tom Brady's age. You can bet on what color shirt Bill Belichick will wear, and you can bet on whether he will announce his retirement after the game.
There isn't much you can't bet on, which is why the Super Bowl is the biggest gambling event of the year in the United States.
You could probably find a bookie willing to take a bet on whether Fernando can pick a winner faster than Pink can sing the national anthem. The smart money's on the sloth.