Super Bowl props: Jersey number bets, Chiefs first downs, Patrick Mahomes for MVP and more – The Athletic
By Jon Greenberg and Zac JacksonFeb 11, 2024
The Chiefs beat the 49ers in overtime to win Super Bowl LVIII.
It’s here. The Super Bowl is today. The biggest gambling weekend of the year… until the first weekend of March Madness. It’s the only week where every idiot has thoughts about what you should gamble on. Good thing our idiots, Jon Greenberg and Zac Jackson, are here to give you some insight on their favorite bets. No coin flip picks here!
All odds from BetMGM.
GREENBERG (2-2 on conference championship Sunday, 64-72-2 overall): It’s Super Bowl week, which means that you and I are in our home cities. The Browns, of course, have never made a Super Bowl and the Bears have appeared in just two. (I heard they won one of them, but no one here ever talks about it.) Our editors wouldn’t dare invite us to Las Vegas to help out for fear of losing us as employees after we strike it rich betting the NBA and playing Pai gow poker all week. So we’re left to our own devices, desperately trying to pick winners in our homes.
I just went back and looked at our playoff futures from a few weeks ago and saw that … we’re not doing well. You had the Ravens to win the AFC and I had Lamar Jackson as my MVP along with a Ravens-Niners Super Bowl. Alas. I still have McCaffrey MVP +1000 alive.
Now, the question arises: Can you bet against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl? Judging by the numbers we’ve seen from various sports books, the answer is no. The public is hammering Kansas City.
As it stands, the Chiefs are 2-point underdogs to San Francisco, though I’ve seen the line dip to +1.5 over the past week.
Before we get into the various props and side bets, where do you stand on the spread? On one hand, I love taking the Chiefs as underdogs (something I regrettably didn’t do two weeks ago). But on the other hand, the public is so often very wrong.
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But underdogs have done very well at the Super Bowl lately, often winning outright. Of the last 10, only three favorites have won and covered, depending on where you got the Bengals. Underdogs have outright won six of those games. In that span, the Chiefs have won as an underdog (last year), lost as a favorite (three years ago against the Buccaneers) and won as a favorite (four years ago, against the Niners).
I’m wary about overlooking the 49ers, but I also can’t bet against Patrick Mahomes again. Chiefs +2.
JACKSON (1-3, 57-64): Same. I’m not going against Mahomes. I’m just not.
The Chiefs have the better quarterback, the better kicker and maybe the better defense. Certainly in the playoffs to this point — though it all seems like a long time ago — the Chiefs have had the better defense. No one has stopped Travis Kelce in the postseason, and though Zay Flowers certainly helped, the Chiefs have played like a team that’s built for these moments.
I started the playoffs well and barely picked a single winner over the final two weekends, but I feel good about this. Kansas City +2, Kansas City moneyline and a day of recovery PTO Monday.
GREENBERG: Your declarative statements make me nervous, but I’ll stick with my bet. Though, perhaps if I faded you more often, I would’ve had more money in my account when I jumped on Chiefs +2.5 after it opened.
I know people who were waiting, in vain, for the moneyline to tick up a bit after the opening. But it’s currently at +110. If that number isn’t high enough for you, consider taking Mahomes as MVP at +130. It’s not sexy, but it’s the right play. If the Chiefs win, Mahomes is the MVP. Unless the rules have changed and the NFL is just letting Swifties vote by text or something.
Speaking of side bets, what’s your overall philosophy on Super Bowl betting? There are so many angles and vehicles for which to waste your money. I try not to spread myself too thin while still having a stake in the action. So I’ll probably go with a handful of bets, nothing too crazy.
JACKSON: Yeah, if the Chiefs win with Mahomes using Kelce and Rashee Rice as his main targets on two or three scoring drives similar to the ones they’ve already put together this postseason, then it sure seems like Mahomes would be MVP. You’re also right that’s not a sexy number, so it comes down to your tolerance (and bankroll) for diving through and trying to make a guess on which player would be most likely to record a pick-six or, say, something like three sacks to become a longshot winner.
It’s probably going to be the winning quarterback… or Deebo Samuel.
In general, it comes down to what your flavor is — and what your attention span is, too. I have a friend who doesn’t really bet anymore but he still bets the Super Bowl coin toss. I have a friend who grinds and digs and ends up playing props on the punters and wide receivers at the end of the depth chart. These aren’t teams I normally see in my standard travels, and the Chiefs’ offense was so bland for most of the year that a lot of that stuff doesn’t appeal to me.
I like the Chiefs to win the game, and one number sticks with me: Chiefs second-half totals are 18-2 to the under.
Considering I was big on the under in the AFC title game and it got there after a wild start, I’m inclined to ride that, too.
Some books will let you bet the second-half under now — for example, BetRivers has under 24.5 at -130. At others, you have to wait until Sunday.
In general, I’d remind any prop chasers that if you’re doing it for anything more than entertainment value or happy hour tab money, shop around. The prop market has exploded, and if you’re into things like a rush yard total or a number of first downs, every yard counts.
Going back to the start of December, the Chiefs are giving up an average of just four points in second halves over their last eight games. Four! So while I’m a little worried about the game total under given that we have great offenses and great play-callers in ideal scoring conditions, I can absolutely see the defenses settling in and the tempo slowing in the second half, as has been the case in the Chiefs’ last two games.
For purposes of clarity here, we’re using BetMGM numbers as of Monday afternoon.
GREENBERG: Everyone loves the game-situation props. Or at least they love tweeting about them if they win. Here are two for you: the Chiefs either scoring a touchdown (+250) or field goal attempt (+375) on their first drive. The Chiefs scored touchdowns on their opening drives just three times in the regular season, but they have done it twice already in the playoffs (and in the last regular-season game that Mahomes started). They’ve had six field-goal attempts on opening drives, including in the playoff win over Buffalo, and they’ve made five. Of their eight punts on opening drives, three happened in the first three games of the season and one was in the season finale with Blaine Gabbert starting. Only one opening drive ended in a turnover.
I won’t tell you what to do but I’ll take Chiefs’ first drive field-goal attempt at +375.
JACKSON: I like Rashee Rice over 33.5 receiving yards in the first half. Rice had 41 first-half yards in the last game, which is part of the reason I feel unlucky that my over 60.5 for the game didn’t hit. At Buffalo in the divisional round, Rice had 33 first-half yards on just three targets. But he had 92 yards at halftime in the wild-card round on six targets, and he had seven first-half targets in Baltimore. Mahomes goes to Rice and Travis Kelce. He only goes to someone else when he absolutely has to. I don’t even feel like I’ll need the Chiefs having the ball last to hit this.
GREENBERG: I was about to pick Brock Purdy to throw at least one interception at +100, which I saw the other day, but I just checked and it’s -120 now. The juice makes me less enthusiastic. But if you’re still interested, know that while the Chiefs were one of the worst defenses at collecting interceptions this year — just eight in the regular season — they do have two so far in the playoffs.
But I love your second-half under research. As you insinuated, that bet is not up on BetMGM, but you can obviously bet the first-half total and I’m going over 22.5. We should get a couple of touchdowns early thanks to some well-written scripts.
JACKSON: I know I’ve been all Chiefs, but that continues with one I really like. I’m not seeing it on BetMGM, but at DraftKings I see Chiefs over 19.5 first downs.
They had 22 first downs in Baltimore (16 in the first half), 21 in Buffalo and 25 vs. Miami. This is not a quick-strike offense. They throw safe-ish passes, and in big games, Mahomes runs when he needs to, which is often on third and fourth down to extend drives.
As you noted, their early scripts are working. Mahomes makes lots of things work, and in this bet is even a little bit of insurance on our Chiefs plays. If the Niners jump out to a lead, it might actually increase the chances this one hits. I think the number is off by a couple. This could be my favorite.
GREENBERG: That’s a smart play. Next, I’ll go with a touchdown prop for Christian McCaffrey. He’s -225 to score a TD and +225 to score multiple ones. I’ll take the latter. Travis Kelce is +600 to score two or more times. He’s only done that once this season, three weeks ago in Buffalo, but he’s been a machine in the playoffs (and the juice on his individual props shows it).
JACKSON: Kelce’s receiving yardage total is 71 (over -125). He had 75 yards and two touchdowns in Buffalo and 116 receiving yards in the AFC Championship Game. The last time he was under 71 receiving yards in a postseason game was the last Super Bowl against the 49ers, four years and 13 postseason games ago. I know the 49ers defend tight ends better than a lot of teams do and are well aware of Kelce’s importance to the Kansas City offense, but given the extra week of rest and the years of chemistry the Kelce-Mahomes duo has, that’s almost an automatic over 71.
I can only buy the new Taylor Swift CD if we win these prop bets, Jon.
One I normally like but really has me stumped here is this: Jersey number of the first touchdown scorer. Right now, 1-19 is even money, while 20 or higher is -130. Basically, are you riding Kelce and McCaffrey? Or are you guessing it will be someone else? I’m tempted to go with 1-19, a field that would include both quarterbacks, Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Isaiah Pacheco.
But going against Kelce and McCaffrey seems scary. Which side are you on?
GREENBERG: I’d go with 1-19 too. It’s called gambling, right?
How about betting on the color of the Gatorade bath? I actually can’t believe this is a bet on mainstream apps because it’s something that can be fixed or at least known ahead of time.
It was purple last year and orange four years ago. Orange was +500 a few days ago, but a ton of people bet it, according to a BetMGM press release, and so now it’s dropped to +325. Purple is down to +275. I have a hunch about blue at +375. I’ll go with that and try to get my Vegas resident brother to make friends with the equipment guys.
As for another nonsense bet, how about guessing the final score? Chiefs 27, Niners 24 for +6600. (It’s +6000 for the opposite.) If you think it’s going to be high scoring, go with Chiefs 31, Niners 27 for +25000. Both are worth a small wager, imo, but I’ll officially predict the first one.
JACKSON: I’d offer a word of caution in chasing or emptying the account just because it’s the Super Bowl. There are still three weeks left of regular-season Horizon League basketball, people.
I will look further, and I’ll be looking at rushing totals for both quarterbacks. I’ll also be looking at an old Super Bowl favorite: the number of players to throw a pass. No one is saving the trick plays for the Hall of Fame Game and McCaffrey has four career pass attempts. He hasn’t thrown one this season, but with the 49ers he’s 1-for-1 for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Outside of the Ravens-Chiefs under, I was awful on conference championship weekend. But that Rice over should have been a winner, and I feel confident going back to him this week.
GREENBERG: That prop brings back fond memories for me being in Detroit to see Hines Ward haul in a pass from Antwaan Randle-El. My buddy got us seats right in the corner of the end zone where Ward scored.
The only touchdown pass thrown by a wide receiver in #SuperBowl history
Antwaan Randle El’s perfect fourth quarter 43-yard reverse pass touchdown to the #Steelers’ Hines Ward, the game’s MVP
Super Bowl XL
February 5, 2006 pic.twitter.com/xWiVdeCktA
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) February 5, 2024
I also think you go easy early and save some ammo for one (1) in-game bet. Do you have any tips or strategies on when to pull the trigger or what to look for in-game? And to close it out, give me your top three food must-haves for the Super Bowl, whether or not you’re having a party.
I’m a simple man with simple tastes, so I’ll go with wings (I make my own because it’s a hassle to order them on Super Bowl Sunday, but I buy Evanston’s Buffalo Joe’s sauce to toss with it), my wife’s artichoke dip and chocolate-covered pretzel sticks for dessert. I also saved some Jackie O’s beers from my last trip to Ohio. Mystic Mama, give me the powers of prognostication.
JACKSON: In his postseason career, Mahomes is 12-4-1 ATS against the second-half spread, and his Chiefs teams have trailed at halftime in the postseason four times. They’ve come back to win three of those. So I wouldn’t be afraid of an early 49ers lead, but because I like the Chiefs to win, I’m not saving anything just to bet on that.
I’ll eat my weight in buffalo chicken dip, but I’ve been more known to need comfort food the day after the Super Bowl than to zero in on anything just before kickoff. Last year I was sitting on a 25-1 preseason Eagles ticket, so forgive me for any extra consumption in the second half.
This year, I have no Super Bowl futures. I’m just hoping our column can win enough to make it to next year.
(Top photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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