Bettor’s Playbook: A Super Showdown Awaits

Posted on January 20, 2020 - Last Updated on March 27, 2020

Pop the champagne early.

We already know this is going to be a wonderful betting Super Bowl when the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers battle on Feb. 2.

The Chiefs are installed as a 1.5-point favorite at DraftKings, FanDuel and PlaySugarHouse sportsbooks. This prompts bettors to seriously consider moneyline wagering and save a significant stash for parlays and props.

William Hill lists Kansas City as a 1-point pick. All books initially the game listed at 53.5 for the over/under.

As the Super Bowl continues to build up, it will be interesting to monitor line movements. There were times when it could jump because those who wagered with their heart on their favorite team bet enough to move it. Serious players waited to pounce on that movement if they saw the game differently from casual bettors.

A betting smorgasbord

But now, onto the world of props! The 54th Super Bowl boasts a menu of over 400 wagers. These are sure to entertain casual and veteran players alike.

The game will be a gala, a multimillion-dollar wagering frenzy (perhaps $6 billion, including illegal gambling).

And so, the bettors wait. And salivate.

These are two teams gamblers like, not simply for wagering reasons.

We couldn’t want more offensive contrast.  The Niners are a ground-and-pound machine, while the Chiefs resemble aerial ballet. They are fluid, precise and artistic as they practically glide down the football field.

Let’s examine the final wagering journey of both teams and obtain a glimpse at the big game’s overall matchup.

Kansas City, San Francisco regain glory

The Chiefs are a great story. They will appear in their first Super Bowl in 50 years, a period of 800 games, including playoffs, since defeating the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV. It happened in 1970. That’s one long drought between Super Bowl appearances, but it’s not the longest.

The sad distinction belongs to the New York Jets, who haven’t reached the big game since winning Super Bowl III one year earlier than the Chiefs.

Even one appearance, however, is better than the futility mark of many teams that have never played in a Super Bowl.

How Niners, Chiefs got here

For the final leg of its pre-Super Bowl journey, Kansas City was a 7-point favorite against Tennessee across the sportsbooks. FanDuel had them at 7.5 at game time.

The Chiefs unfurled record-setting fireworks to become AFC champions.  They had rallied from a 24-0 second-quarter deficit against the Houston Texans to levy a 51-7 blitz and win 51-31 in the divisional round. The teams set an NFL first-half playoff record of 52 points.

One week later, they repeated a decisive run.

Tennessee Titans’ bettors loved what they saw when their team jumped to 10-0 and 17-7 leads with long scoring drives. But Kansas City plugged the off-tackle openings where star running back Derrick Henry was plowing through and changed the championship game.

Tennessee went nowhere on three straight possessions while Kansas City delivered 28 unanswered points and outgained the Titans 342-33 in that span.

Quarterback Pat Mahomes shattered his rushing prop over/under and did something uncommon in postseason history. He became Kansas City’s leading rusher for the second straight game. Mahomes also found a way to break the back of his opponents for the second straight outing.  

With Kansas City about to settle for a field goal to tie the Titans at halftime, he bounced off a defender’s hit, tight roped the sideline and scored a 27-yard touchdown with just 11 seconds left in the half. That put Kansas City up 21-17 after trailing 17-7. Tennessee never led again.

The Titans did everything they could to contain him. But once Mahomes found the outside passing lanes, his quick release forged chunks of yardage before the Titans could react.

Kansas City scored 86 points in two postseason games and celebrated not having to go into Baltimore against the top-seeded Ravens in the championship round. Tennessee took Baltimore out one week earlier, 28-12.

How bettors played it

Although Kansas City had 70% of the spread handle at PointsBet, Tennessee had 91% of the moneyline tickets and 79% of the handle. The betting hope was that — with a payout of nearly 3-1 — Henry would go off and Tennessee could spring the upset. He scored early but tailed off.

At PlaySugarHouse.com, Kansas City had 69% of the spread-ticket handle and 60% of the tickets. As the temperature plunged to near zero, including wind chills, the over/under drifted down from 52.5 to 51 and 57% of the bettors took the over.

We speculated last week about taking a stab at the first score of a game being a field goal in the championship round.  We thought it was due. That prop hit in this game and paid in the neighborhood of 5-1.

PointsBet reported a sizable bet on Henry to get 125 rushing and 16 receiving yards. Unfortunately for the bettor, Henry was quiet with 69 rushing yards and -8 receiving.

Over … or under?

Let’s examine life through an “over/under” lense. Key plays included a Kansas City interception overturned by replay, leading to the first Tennessee touchdown, and Kansas City gambling on fourth down in field goal territory and converting en route to its first touchdown.

The Mahomes run before the half was also decisive. These three plays affected the over/under total by perhaps 12 points. That mattered in a bet that was decided by eight points.

The over won the last four playoff games after the under took the first six. Favorites covered every time the over came in during the postseason.

KC-San Fran: Prop hits paydirt

One of the hardest bets to make is a leap-of-faith prop in which two teams must win two games and a prohibitive favorite must lose.

But that ship sailed in after Sunday’s action.

Two weeks back, we outlined the prop that if Kansas City faced San Francisco in the Super Bowl, a guaranteed payout of 4-1 was possible because both teams paid 8-1 to beat the other in that game. It paid substantially higher than San Francisco opposing the top AFC-seeded Baltimore Ravens.

The idea was to take both sides of the San Francisco-Kansas City bet almost a month before the Super Bowl and win the wager automatically if those teams got in. Betting $100 on each, for example, would guarantee $800 for $200.

Bettors could also play one of the teams a little heavier as well.

The leap of faith was getting the Ravens to lose. And they did, as a 10-point favorite against Tennessee. San Francisco and Kansas City cemented this wager’s victory by winning their conference championships.

Futures betting is always tricky. It drains part of one’s bankroll, dangling a good payout but requiring several things to fall in place. In that sense, it acts like a Pick 6 Wager at a racetrack.

 But this one will be rewarding to some.

San Fran struttin’ to the Super Bowl

Give em an inch; they take a mile.

Give the San Francisco 49ers four inches and they take the NFC Championship.

The Niners parlayed a nail-biter into a glorious postseason position. When they held off the Seattle Seahawks by roughly four inches in the season’s final game, they became the No. 1 playoff seed rather than No. 5. They got two home games instead of two road assignments. 

The Niners responded by winning and covering each time. After defeating the Vikings 27-10 in the divisional round, they stormed to a 27-0 halftime lead against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game. They let up defensively before securing a 37-20 triumph as a 7-point pick.

The San Francisco ground game was so punishing that it delivered consecutive scoring drives. There were no passes on either drive.

With speedster Raheem Mostert having another great game, the Niners were unstoppable. Mostert brought blinding speed to gaping holes, accounting for 220 yards and four touchdowns.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t start.

An early injury to Tevin Coleman made Mostert the No. 1 back and he responded with a career game.

The San Francisco running game was awesome

They don’t have a bet for this, but San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not throw a pass for more than an hour and a half.

San Francisco, appearing in its seventh Super Bowl, has become what the books call a “public” team, generating more interest than one would think because of their name and reputation. The Niners had struggled in recent years but got that stature back by winning and covering consistently.

Game glimpse

Bettors, and the public, identify with the starkly opposite methods of excellence between these teams.

San Francisco wants to churn out chunks of yards and whittle the clock, perhaps denying Mahomes a couple of possessions. The key to the running game has been exceptional blocking and backfield speed helping this team use end-arounds and sweeps. The blocking is sophisticated, purposeful and a model of precision.

Garoppolo has a strong arm, but this is a run-first offense. Tight end George Kittle is a stalwart in the passing game, but this team is a running powerhouse.

San Francisco also has a swarming defense and will try to disrupt Mahomes.

That hasn’t happened in the postseason, however. Mahomes has been brilliant, shaking off the effects of injuries that shelved him twice during the season. The Chiefs light it up through the air to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Damien Williams is also adequate in the backfield, albeit more as a receiver.

By halftime of the Tennessee game, Kansas City had amassed an eye-opening statistic. In the last 16 times they had started from inside their own 10, the Chiefs had scored touchdowns 50% of the time.

Both teams have strong offensive weapons. San Francisco has a better defense.

No wonder the betting line reflects parity.

Dave Bontempo Avatar
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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