Day by day, bet by bet and conversation by conversation, Super Bowl 55 descends upon New Jersey online sportsbook bettors.
Operators have this line dancing between the Kansas City Chiefs -3 and -3.5 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chiefs backers weigh in when it hits -3, saving some gambling powder should the Feb. 7 line dip to -2.5, even for a second.
Tampa Bay bettors may believe that -3.5 is the best they will get, at least in the near term.
Play NJ caught up with Johnny Avello, director of race and sports book operations for DraftKings, to talk Super Bowl odds as the Big Game in Tampa (Feb. 7) is now less than two weeks away.
Super Bowl franchises matching pre-season hype
Kansas City was established as the pre-season favorite at +600 across most NJ sportsbook apps right after its Super Bowl 54 victory.
Tampa Bay was in the clouds, 50-1 in some jurisdictions until Tom Brady announced he would leave the New England Patriots for the Bucs in March.
And Tampa Bay steadily plummeted to just above 10-1 at most books.
“When the Brady announcement came, we took an influx of money on the Bucs and it continued to come in that way the entire year,” Avello told Play NJ. “They are the number one team regarding our liability. And the Chiefs are right behind them.
“Even though Tampa Bay would be a substantial loss for us, you don’t worry about it. It’s a separate bucket. You book the game as would normally do and let the chips fall where they may.”
And where did those chips fall in the pre-game analysis?
“The line on this game going into Sunday’s conference championships was that if the Buccaneers and Chiefs were to meet in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs would be -1.5, maybe -2,” Avello indicated. “It changed a little because of what we saw at the end of those games. We saw a Tampa Bay team that struggled to win a game and maybe won because of some of Green Bay’s bad calls during the game.
“Tampa Bay was not doing as well at the end of that game.”
And with Kansas City, there was “a team on offense that was as good as it could be.”
Even with the Buffalo Bills having a good defense, Avello said Kansas City looked like it “could not be stopped” and noted “(Patrick) Mahomes looked as if you’d think he had no injury at all.”
Remember, Mahomes had to clear NFL concussion protocols before being allowed to go against Buffalo.
“We equated all of that into a little bit of a higher spread right after the Sunday games took place,” said Avello.
Super Bowl first: Tampa Bay playing at home
For the first time in Super Bowl history, a team will play the game in its own stadium. That’s an edge for Tampa Bay, although the Chiefs nipped the Bucs on this field 27-24 late in November.
That was Tampa Bay’s last loss this season. The Bucs have reeled off seven straight wins since.
How big is home field with limited spectators?
“I would give it about a point (rather than the standard three)”, Avello indicated. “Many of the fans in attendance will not be Tampa Bay fans particularly. They are going to be letting in health-care workers, etc.
“What IS good for Tampa Bay is that the team is familiar with that field, and its players are able to stay in their own homes as opposed to Kansas City, which must travel. …
“These are factors that help Tampa Bay a little.”
Super Bowl memories and betting folklore
Avello, who was previously the Wynn Las Vegas sportsbook director, recalled a monstrous 2015 wager, redefining the meaning of seven-figure sweat. Few bettors experience a range of emotions like this.
“I handled a million-dollar bet for that New England Patriots-Seattle Seahawks game, “Avello said. “This bettor had the Patriots. Well, you remember that game.”
Oh yeah. New England nursed a 28-24 lead in the final seconds of this pick-em contest. But the lead was going away. The Seahawks were driving down for a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds. A miracle catch had led them to the New England 1 yard-line.
Seattle was going to barrel into the end zone with little time on the clock left for New England. The unstoppable Marshawn Lynch was in the Seattle backfield. Everybody knew it. This was a fait accompli.
“He’s a beast in that backfield,” Avello said. “There is no way on this earth you are going to stop him from getting that yard.”
Everyone knew Lynch was getting the ball.
Only … he didn’t.
The Seahawks got cute, tried a quick inside pass and it was picked off.
For New England fans and its seven-figure bettor, miracles don’t get any bigger.
“So after the game, when he’s getting paid, I asked him what led him to making such a big bet on the Patriots,” Avello recalled, grinning.
“He looked at me and said “I just had a feeling’.
“Wow, that is one heck of a feeling! Some games are really hard to watch when you have that kind of money on them. You are on pins and needles on every play, especially in a game like that. And at the end, the chances of winning that game for this bettor were very slim,” said Avello.
As far as if a similar scenario will unfold with Super Bowl 55, we’ll have to wait until Feb. 7 (6:30 p.m. kickoff) to find out.