Not that the Super Bowl was ever going to draw anything less than stellar TV ratings no matter which teams made it, but CBS is getting a dream matchup to broadcast on Feb. 7. It’s the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, led by Patrick Mahomes and the most dynamic offense in the NFL, against the most recognizable star in the game, Tom Brady, trying to do the unthinkable and win it all at age 43 in his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It’s the beyond-debate GOAT QB against the one player you could see someday forcing a debate on that subject. Brady’s legacy is by no means on the line. But if he adds a seventh Super Bowl ring while denying the 25-year-old Mahomes his second, it puts added distance between them to perhaps prevent a rankings shakeup 15 years from now.
But that’s a conversation for TV talking heads to have ad nauseum for the next two weeks … and the next two decades.
GOAT status is not something you can bet on directly, so no sense further exploring it here.
What you can bet on — and something tells us a handful of people probably will — is Chiefs at Bucs (yes, it’s at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, making it a home game of sorts for Brady and company) two Sundays from now.
Three is a magic number, yes it is
Initial reports on Sunday night when the final whistle blew in the Chiefs-Bills game had Kansas City favored by 3.5 over Tampa and the total at 57.5. By Monday morning, both numbers had come down slightly.
Sampling eight prominent legal online sportsbooks at 9 a.m. ET on Monday, we see that KC -3 is now the unanimous spread, and the total bounces between 56 and 56.5:
|SPORTSBOOK||LINE||TOTAL||KC MONEYLINE||TB MONEYLINE|
|William Hill||KC -3||56.5||-165||+145|
|FOX Bet||KC -3||56.5||-162||+135|
The vig on that -3 or +3 varies a bit from site to site, so bettors who live in states with multiple sportsbook options — such as Michigan, where 10 online books went live on Friday, or Virginia, where new operators are going live one at a time — would do well to price shop.
Specials and bonus boosts on the big game are already flying. For example, at DraftKings, bettors are being offered a 55% single-use profit boost for any bet on the game (max bet $50), meaning you can turn its industry-best (for now) +148 price on the Bucs moneyline into a +229 return instead.
In his 10th Super Bowl, Brady finds himself helming the underdog for only the second time. The Patriots were a 14-point ‘dog to the Rams in Brady’s first postseason run in 2002 before being favored in his next eight appearances.
When the total opened at 57.5, it was the second-highest SB total ever, behind only the 58 line hung for the New England-Atlanta shootout in 2016.
The injury report
While Mahomes and Brady will, understandably, get the headlines, they’re not the only players on the field that matter. (Some might argue that the Bucs won the NFC title in spite of Brady, who threw three interceptions against the Packers on Sunday.)
Injuries to non-skill-position players tend not to swing lines, but they could very well determine the outcome.
For the Bucs, rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. missed the NFC Championship game with an ankle injury and fellow safety Jordan Whitehead injured his shoulder against Green Bay. The challenge of defending against Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce becomes that much tougher if Tampa is down one or two DBs.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs suffered a major injury en route to beating the Bills when left tackle Eric Fisher — Mahomes’ blindside protector — suffered what was speculated to be a torn Achilles. Kansas City was already playing without right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. As the Packers learned all too well, Tampa’s pass rush is one of the team’s strengths.
The Super Bowl will be a rematch of a Week 12 game in Tampa, in which the Chiefs were favored by 3.5 and, as part of a seven-game streak of winning every game without covering in any of them, prevailed 27-24.
Assuming fairly even betting on the Super Bowl, most of the sportsbooks will be rooting for Kansas City, as they have heavy liability on Bucs futures.
A handful of bettors were sharp enough to bet the Bucs before they even acquired Brady, including one pro who cashed a 35/1 ticket on them just to reach the Super Bowl:
TB stands for “Tom Brady Buccaneers” on these tickets. IMO odds better than 50/50 he ends up in TB. Major rift in NE. Better weapons, more money, easier path to SB, being “wanted.” I also think Brady would retire if he knew he was washed up, so Tampa is “live” if he signs. The… pic.twitter.com/Wta3KCP0or
— Ed Teach (@edteach23) March 16, 2020
Before the season started, FanDuel Sportsbook priced a Chiefs vs. Bucs Super Bowl at 29/1.
How did the books do on conference finals?
The Super Bowl is traditionally the single biggest sports wagering day of the year, but Conference Championship Sunday is no slouch either.
According to data from GeoComply, this past weekend saw a 260% increase over the same weekend in 2020 in the number of geolocation transactions recorded. For the layperson: To wager online legally in any state, the computer or device must be confirmed to be within that state’s borders, so geolocation transactions are a useful measure of betting activity.
The increase was predictable, given that several states that didn’t have regulated wagering a year ago now permit it. Among the more than 30 million transactions recorded by GeoComply, 7.5 million — 25% — came in the brand new Michigan and Virginia markets.
Although there was a late rush of “sharp” money on Tampa Bay, it would appear the sportsbooks did quite well on the NFC Championship game, given how lopsided the action was on the Green Bay side throughout the week.
PointsBet reported 76% of the spread bets and 79% of the spread handle on the Packers as of Sunday morning. Through Friday, DraftKings was seeing a similar 78% of bets and 74% of handle on the home team at Lambeau Field. FanDuel attracted a comparable split, with 74% of the bets and 82% of the money on Green Bay — including a customer in Pennsylvania who lost $320,000 on Packers -3.
On the plus side for bettors, they were also heavy on the over in the battle of the Bays, which came through with 57 total points scored. PointsBet had 71% of the bets and 70% of the handle on the over, while DraftKings, with a line of 51.5 that was at least a point or two lower than the industry average, got hammered from 78% of the handle and 75% of the bets going over.
The books all saw a more even distribution on the AFC title game between the Chiefs and Bills. FanDuel reported that 57% of bets and 62% of handle was on the Chiefs, which was about as lopsided as any operator got on that contest.
Photo by Kim Klement / USA Today Sports