The line opened pick-em at William Hill sportsbooks, where big bets immediately showed on each side. By Monday, the consensus line was Kansas City a one-point favorite, mostly due to the Mahomes factor.
“What I saw that makes Kansas City favored is Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the NFL,” said John Murray, Westgate SuperBook director. “The public is going to want to bet on Mahomes.”
In the Chiefs’ 35-24 victory over Tennessee in the AFC title game, Mahomes passed for three touchdowns and added a spectacular 27-yard scoring run. His performance had Murray leaning to Kansas City -3 as the Super Bowl opener before the NFC title game kicked off.
“We talked about going with a bigger number after the AFC championship game, unless the 49ers pummeled Green Bay, and that’s exactly what happened,” Murray said.
San Francisco rolled to a 27-0 halftime lead in a 37-20 blowout of Green Bay. The 49ers’ running attack and defense were impressive enough to close the gap in the Super Bowl point spread.
“If these teams played 100 times, it probably would be 50-50,” said Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill sportsbook director.
William Hill books took a $100,000 wager on San Francisco at even money on the moneyline and a $33,000 bet on Kansas City at pick-em. The total points opened at 51½, and the SuperBook reported a $110,000 bet Over the total of 52½, helping to push the number to 53½. That was the kickoff to what will be two weeks of major wagering before the Feb. 2 game in Miami.
“We’re about dead even on money,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s a good start to the handle, which will be out of this world.”
The Chiefs-49ers matchup is expected to break Nevada’s Super Bowl wagering handle record of $158.6 million set in 2018 when Philadelphia upset New England. Proposition betting accounts for more than 50% of the game’s handle at some sportsbooks. With Mahomes on the marquee, prop business will be brisk.
“We might have a record number of props on Mahomes,” Bogdanovich said. “It will be all Mahomes. But the San Francisco defense is stout. That’s why this matchup is so good.”
The conference championship results were ugly for a majority of sportsbooks, with both favorites covering the spread and both scores flying over the total. The betting public did very well with those scenarios.
“We got decapitated,” Bogdanovich said.
The 49ers’ beatdown of Aaron Rodgers was a credit to San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan’s game plan, yet it also was a pathetic showing by the Packers on both sides of the ball.
“It was really an embarrassment,” said Michael Lombardi, a VSiN analyst and former NFL executive. “Green Bay was the Oklahoma of the final four.”
To make the college football playoff comparison, Mahomes and the Chiefs are similar to Joe Burrow and the LSU offense, which destroyed Clemson’s No. 1-ranked scoring defense in the national championship game. The 49ers have the league’s top pass defense.
“I think [the 49ers] have the defensive front to give Mahomes some trouble,” Lombardi said.
San Francisco had 42 rushing attempts for 285 yards against Green Bay, with Raheem Mostert carrying 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns. There was little need for Shanahan to use the passing game, and Jimmy Garoppolo went six-for-eight for only 77 yards.
“I sort of lean to the Niners. I think they will be able to run the ball,” Bogdanovich said. “We’ll see what wins, the greatest player on Earth or the ground-and-pound of Shanahan.
“But Andy Reid is almost unbeatable after bye weeks, and this will be like a bye week. Reid with two weeks to prepare is pretty good.”
Reid, the Chiefs’ coach, has an 18-3 career record in the regular season after a bye and is 5-2 in the playoffs. Reid lost in his only previous Super Bowl appearance with the Eagles.
“I would give a pretty nice edge to San Francisco in terms of the coaching staff,” Murray said. “But I don’t know that Jimmy G is a quarterback who’s capable of coming from behind.”
The only Super Bowl to close pick-em was in 2015, when Russell Wilson was picked off at the goal line in the last minute of Seattle’s loss to New England.
“To me,” Murray said, “this game is just a tossup.”
Matt Youmans writes for VSiN, the sports betting network.