After a long stretch of 17 weeks and three rounds of playoffs, the 2019 NFL season comes down to one game: Super Bowl 54.
Of the two teams favored when futures odds were first posted a year ago at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook,, Kansas City opened at 7-1 odds, second only to the 6-1 Los Angeles Rams. Kansas City’s Super Bowl opponent, San Francisco, was a modest long shot, priced at 40-1.
At midseason, the odds for both teams had changed significantly. After eight games the 49ers were 8-0 with 7-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs, after a third straight home loss that dropped them to 5-3, were up to 14-1. QB Patrick Mahomes had just missed one game due to injury and would miss another before returning in week ten.
Mahomes played very well in his return, a 35-32 loss at Tennessee that Kansas City avenged last Sunday to win the AFC title. That was the Chiefs’ last loss as they bring an eight-game winning streak into the Super Bowl.
San Francisco’s perfect start ended in its ninth game, an overtime loss to Seattle. The 49ers went 5-3 over the second half of the season, winning its final two regular season games, including holding on for that critical win in Seattle on the final Sunday night. That win gave San Francisco the top NFC seed and left Seattle as the five seed.
As the 49ers were wrapping up their 37-20 win over Green Bay this past Sunday sports books started posting Super Bowl lines. The most common opening line had the game a pick em with a total of 51.5. Within minutes the money showed up on both Kansas City and the Over and by late Monday evening the Chiefs were favored by 1 to 1.5. The total had risen to 54 and 54.5 — a very large move over such a short time frame.
This is an attractive matchup as shown by the point spread and total. The Super Bowl could well set the record for handle within Nevada by surpassing the 158.6 million dollars wagered two seasons ago when Philadelphia upset New England.
Over the next week and a half leading up to kickoff the Super Bowl will be picked apart and analyzed from every possible angle by experts, pundits and all others with more than a passing interest in the game. I’ll be doing the same and shall share my thoughts, analysis and prediction for the game in next week’s column. I’ll also have my annual thoughts on the many propositions that will be offered at the sports books. Props have become more popular each season and have become an increasingly greater percentage of the betting handle.
To whet the appetite for betting the Big Game here’s some Super Bowl history that looks at some of the generic factors that come into play.
This will be the 30th Super Bowl played under the current format of 12 playoff teams seeded 1 through 6 in each conference, that began in 1990. Though often attributed to longtime commissioner Pete Rozelle, it was actually his predecessor Bert Bell who coined the phrase “on any given Sunday any team can defeat any other team “ to promote the idea that parity exists across the NFL. And for many seasons this was true.
But when it comes to the Super Bowl, parity has not existed for much of the past decade in terms of regular season form translating into a trip to the Big Game.
This will be the seventh straight Super Bowl that matches teams seeded No. 1 or 2 in its conference. In the 23 seasons prior to 2013 more than half (12) featured a team seeded third through sixth, that team being one that played in and won a Wild Card game and won a total of three playoff games.
This has not happened since 2012 and also means that each of the last 12 Super Bowl teams played both of their playoff games at home. This season the Chiefs and 49ers were both 7-1 SU, 6-2 ATS on the road so this neutral site should not inhibit either team’s performance.
Here are some questions — and answers — to ponder as to which team you might back to win Super Bowl 54, including a couple of questions specific to the 49ers and Chiefs.
* Does the point spread matter? Although with this game hovering around pick ‘em it is worth noting that the point spread has not mattered in any of the last 10 Super Bowls including six in which the line was a field goal or higher. Since 1990 the Super Bowl winner has gone 23-4-2 ATS. Twelve underdogs have won outright with six of them coming in the last eight seasons.
* Does a team’s regular season record matter? This may come as a surprise but the team with fewer regular season wins has gone 5-9 SU since 2002. In three of the last 17 Super Bowls the teams had the same record. Even more surprising is that those 14 teams with more wins have gone 2-12 just ATS.
One of the ATS covers required overtime when New England (-3) rallied from 28-3 down against Atlanta and scored a TD. Prior to that the last team to win and cover a Super Bowl despite having fewer wins than its opponent was when Tampa Bay defeated Oakland to end the 2002 season. And even that win has an asterisk as the Buccaneers were coached by Jon Gruden who had coached Oakland for the four prior seasons.
San Francisco was 13-3 this season, Kansas City 12-4. Keep in mind, however, that Mahomes did not play in KC’s 31-24 home loss to Green Bay.
* Can San Francisco win a shootout and, more specifically, can QB Jimmy Garoppolo succeed if the offense must rely on the passing game? This question arose following his 6 of 8 performance (for 77 yards) in the NFC Title win over Green Bay. In Week 13’s wild 48-46 win at New Orleans Garoppolo was outstanding, going 26 of 35 for 349 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Two weeks later, in a 34-31 win over the Rams, Jimmy G was 16 of 27 for 248 yards but did have two passes picked off and was sacked six times, including twice on his game- winning drive that led to a 33-yard FG as time expired.
* Can Kansas City win a defensive struggle? The Chiefs won five games this season when scoring under 27 points. For the regular season Kansas City allowed an average of just 19.2 points per game and in winning eight in a row heading into the Super Bowl the Chiefs held five foes to under 17 points and allowed only one opponent more than 24 points. And that was in the Divisional round against Houston when special teams miscues contributed to an early 24-0 deficit after which they limited the Texans to just one TD over the final 40 minutes.
Conventional wisdom suggests a San Francisco win likely points to the game staying Under while a Chiefs win likely points to an Over. But these last two questions should give pause to reconsider before heading to the windows.
Last week: 1-1