Betting Guide for Super Bowl LVII: Will the Chiefs Become the NFL's Latest Dynasty?
The pinnacle of the sports calendar arrives once more.
After 543 regular-season games, 12 postseason games, and approximately 20 cases of diet soda consumed on Sundays by yours truly, we have arrived at Super Bowl LVII to cap the 2022-23 NFL season.
The one seeds from both conferences prevailed through the preferred path to get a Super Bowl matchup many predicted. The Kansas City Chiefs overcame an injury to quarterback Patrick Mahomes to slide past Jacksonville and avenge their loss to Cincinnati last year. The Philadelphia Eagles demolished the Giants and 49ers to get here, but with the wins coming over Daniel Jones and Josh Johnson, some have questioned their legitimacy as a true NFL powerhouse.
Using NFL odds and totals from FanDuel Sportsbook, how should we bet the big game?
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds
Handicapping the Chiefs
I'll be the first one to openly admit I was wrong about the 2022 Chiefs.
Losing Tyreek Hill, who proved his independent ability by finishing second in the league in receiving yards this year, was a blow I thought would be too much for Mahomes to continue at a top-of-the-league level. Yet, he's officially won the MVP while leading all qualifying quarterbacks (including playoffs) in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.31).
There's just magic in Kansas City between Mahomes and Andy Reid that will always keep them in the fold. Without a star running back, K.C. is eighth in Rushing NEP. With just one star pass-catcher in Travis Kelce and a bunch of random, inconsistent, and oft-injured parts, the Chiefs led the league in overall Passing NEP thanks to Mahomes.
It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, though. They're an underdog here for a reason.
The Chiefs had numberFire's 12th-worst defense this year. It's a vulnerable unit subject to giving up points, but they were fortunate Chris Jones -- going against three backup offensive linemen -- was able to protect their young secondary in the AFC Championship. If he's not getting home, it's a lot of points and yards allowed from that side of the ball.
Fading Kansas City was also a profitable endeavor. I did all season on my hypothesis the offense was overrated, impotent, and due for regression without Tyreek. Though that wasn't true, they did go 7-12 against the spread (ATS) overall, and that mark was 6-11 in the regular season.
Only three other teams have made the Super Bowl with a regular season ATS win rate below 40.0%. They all lost and failed to cover during the 'chip.
Handicapping the Eagles
Though we didn't get the Dallas or San Francisco matchup envisioned, it's no surprise to see the Birds in the Bowl.
As numberFire's second-ranked offense and sixth-ranked defense, the Eagles were a well-rounded juggernaut that was only truly rivaled by a healthy Niners and Bills squad for that title of dual-sided dominance. Kansas City doesn't have that type of balance.
Jalen Hurts took a momentous step forward in 2022, posting 0.16 Passing NEP per drop back. That was ninth among those with at least 150 attempts, and it undersells his overall contribution as he added another 80.00 Rushing NEP with his legs, which led all quarterbacks.
He's got a loaded cast of weapons headed by A.J. Brown, and the backfield's three-headed monster has played below its potential to limit the wear and tear on Miles Sanders. I expect we see a ton of him in this one with the prize on the line.
On paper, the Eagles have just one weakness, and it's the best one to have as a dominant squad. They own numberFire's eighth-worst rush defense, and their answer to it has been building a lead so the other team can't run the ball.
We haven't seen a combination of high-level quarterback play, deep weaponry, and an elite, top-eight defense with a great pass rush for a couple of years, but it's a bit reminiscent of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad from two years ago. Though that team's secondary was a bit leaky instead of Philadelphia's run defense, they had above-average units at all levels just as the Eagles do.
Betting the Total
I'm a bit surprised the total betting is as split as it is. Just 54% of bets and 57% of the handle is on the over, but that slight direction is to be expected. The psychology behind betting totals will slant toward overs in a public game like this.
Last year, the under was my largest individual wager in the Super Bowl. I don't have the same conviction this year, but my general lean is toward Over 50.5 (-115). With our model assigning it a three-star rating, the over actually the most recommended standard wager of this game by our numbers.
At the end of the day, if I'm worried about Mahomes scoring enough points to surpass a total, it's probably a solid time to bet the over. An underrated storyline entering this game is Kansas City's offense facing a fairly weak schedule of defenses, but it might not matter. Mahomes faced just three top-10 pass defenses, per our nERD rankings, and in those games, he still posted 0.39 Passing NEP per drop back. He's largely matchup-proof.
After Philly scored at least 31 points on the Giants and 49ers, it'd be a bit surprising to see the Eagles not reach that mark against a weaker K.C. defense. The key matchup to watch here is the Chiefs' defensive pass rush (28% pressure rate), which has been their strongest asset on that side of the ball, but Philadelphia's 20% pressure rate allowed was the best in the NFL, per PFF.
Without a reliable pass rush from Kansas City, the Birds could name their number in this one. If Mahomes is forced to keep up, the 50.5-point total could be buried in short order.
Betting the Outcome
I'm not exactly unbiased or unsuspecting on this one given my opinion of these two teams all year. It's got to be Eagles -1.5 (-110).
When I'm fading Kansas City a bulk of the year and it's been tremendously profitable, I'm not inclined to stop now. Even last week, I got an opening-number ticket of Bengals +3.0 that pushed. Kansas City has had a difficult time covering spreads against even the worst foes on their schedule, which is typically a sign a team is overvalued.
This line opened with the Eagles as a 2.0-point dog, and it's flipped 3.5 points to Philly as a 1.5-point favorite. You want to follow the big-money wagers on this game.
Per Evan Abrams of The Action Network, this is the 19th time in the Super Bowl era that the line has moved at least 1.5 points in a Super Bowl. In the previous 18 instances, the team it moved toward (Philadelphia here) is 16-2 straight up (SU) and 14-4 ATS. That's an unbelievable correlation to winning.
There's also another trend we can't ignore. Since 2000, MVPs in Super Bowls are 0-9. They usually are MVPs for a reason, backpacking their flawed squads to the promised land. I don't believe Mahomes to be any different.
In a K.C. offense with the league's highest pass rate over expectation, only Kelce exceeded 1,000 receiving yards in the regular season. The team also didn't have a back surpass 850 yards rushing. That is a lot on one man's shoulders entering a date with a team that needs just five sacks to break the NFL's full-season record.
For me, Kansas City's run game -- which surprised me to sit eighth in overall in Rushing NEP -- is the true path to an upset. Isiah Pacheco averaged 7.9 rushing yards per carry against the Jags, who had a stronger rush defense in terms of Rushing NEP allowed. Pacheco's impact can be only so large, though; he hasn't eclipsed 15 carries since November 12th.
However, I'm just not sure it's in Reid's DNA to take the ball out of Mahomes' hands in the biggest spot despite the fact Patrick's ankle isn't going to be perfect. Hurts' shoulder likely won't be, either. With an extra week for each to heal, I'm basically projecting the two as equally capable relative to their normal standard.
There's just no conceivable way, to me, that the Eagles' offense doesn't put up at least a modest effort when they just touched up the Niners' elite defense for 0.22 Offensive NEP per play. The Chiefs, for the record, tallied just 0.12 Offensive NEP against a less-credential Bengals D.
I'd be a bit stunned if the Chiefs won this game convincingly. It would be just their fourth win of 10-plus points against a team with a winning record this season. Despite being knocked for the "weaker schedule," the Birds have five such wins already, and I wouldn't be totally surprised if Sunday's game -- with every arrow slanted in Philly's direction outside of quarterback and tight end -- becomes the sixth.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Eagles 31-24