Soon after the Super Bowl line was opened for business Sunday night, money started showing on the underdog Buccaneers. As the bets continued to flow mostly one way, it became obvious that oddsmakers had again underestimated Tom Brady’s power and influence with the betting public.
“The money was coming in on Tampa Bay, and it’s the same thing we have seen three weeks in a row,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said.
It took only a few hours for the line to move from Chiefs -3.5 to -3. A significant amount of the early action was from arbitrage players grabbing the best number, but it’s also true that a lot of bettors have become hooked on Brady and the Buccaneers, who won three straight road playoff games to become the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
In reality, the money started going Tampa Bay’s way last summer, when Murray and many other bookmakers scoffed at all the wagering love Brady was attracting. Remember when so many professional bettors were saying the Buccaneers would be a team to fade because they were overrated in the betting market?
“I never would have believed the Buccaneers would be in the Super Bowl,” Murray said. “I know a lot of people who were betting Super Bowl futures on the Buccaneers. In August, I mocked the whole thing. I was wrong. For them to get to the Super Bowl is mind-boggling.”
At least one bettor envisioned this scenario with remarkable foresight.
Brady ditched the Patriots to sign with the Buccaneers in mid-March. Two weeks earlier, a bettor showed up at the South Point sportsbook to wager $10,000 on Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl at 60-1 odds. He’s not at the cashout window yet, but he’s in position to win.
The Buccaneers still must deal with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on Feb. 7. Kansas City is attempting to become the first repeat Super Bowl winner since Brady led New England to back-to-back titles in 2004-05.
“When you look back in 30 years, Brady-Mahomes might be the greatest quarterback matchup in Super Bowl history,” Murray said.
The star power of the quarterbacks should help make this a record-breaking Super Bowl wagering handle in Nevada. This is the 10th Super Bowl for Brady, who has won six. It’s the second appearance for Mahomes, who at 25 is 18 years younger than Brady, a guaranteed box-office hit whether you like him or not.
“Mahomes is just a different type of player that we really have not seen in the NFL,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said. “Not only can he run around and make crazy plays, but he can throw the ball and do it all.
“It is Tom Brady, so you have to respect him, but he just doesn’t have the same skills anymore. Throwing the ball downfield is a problem for him. The Bills couldn’t stop Mahomes and couldn’t keep up with the Chiefs. Are the Bucs that much better than the Bills?”
Brady passed for three touchdowns but also threw three interceptions Sunday as the Buccaneers upset the Packers 31-26 in Green Bay. The Packers basically coughed up the game, just as the Saints did in losing to Tampa Bay the previous week. Avello and Murray said they were far more impressed with Mahomes’ performance in the Chiefs’ 38-24 victory over Buffalo. Mahomes passed for 325 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions to overwhelm the Bills.
“Our feeling is Kansas City is firing on all cylinders offensively, which is why we opened the line 3.5,” Murray said. “Brady wasn’t sharp at all against New Orleans, and I certainly don’t feel Brady played a great game against Green Bay. He threw three picks in the second half, and Brady’s receivers bailed him out a lot of times.”
Avello said Tampa Bay’s home-field advantage is worth one point to the Super Bowl line.
“If the Chiefs didn’t look so good Sunday, the line would have been 2 or 2.5,” Avello said. “If the line was 2.5, it’s probably a no-brainer for most people to lay the points with Kansas City. At 3.5 you have to start thinking about it. Everybody is going to be taking some big bets on this game.”
The Super Bowl total opened at 57.5 and dropped to 56.5, the same total posted for the teams’ regular-season meeting in Week 12.
The Buccaneers have won seven in a row since a 27-24 loss to the Chiefs on Nov. 29, when Mahomes passed for 462 yards and three touchdowns. Kansas City, a 3.5-point road favorite, took a 27-10 lead into the fourth quarter. The game was on the brink of a blowout before Brady rallied for the back-door cover.
“I feel like the Bucs’ offense really started clicking better toward the end of the season,” Las Vegas professional bettor Chuck Edel said. “This is a tough one, but I would probably lean that way with Tampa Bay at + 3.5.”
One important injury must be factored into the handicapping. The Chiefs will be without left tackle Eric Fisher, who tore his Achilles’ tendon Sunday. The Buccaneers, who sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers five times, must take advantage of the holes on Kansas City’s offensive line to put pressure on Mahomes.
The Packers’ debacle was a setback, but I’ll probably bet against Brady again if the moneyline price on the Chiefs drops from -170 to -150 sometime next week.
“I think you will get a good price on the Chiefs moneyline if you wait until the end,” Murray said.
Brady has found a way to prove him and many others wrong this season, yet Murray said his money will be on Mahomes.
“Everyone is going to think I’m hating on Brady, but he’s 43,” Murray said. “He’s up against a young gun this time, and he’s got his hands full in this one.”