When oddsmakers were debating the Super Bowl LIV opening line Sunday night, some favored the Chiefs, others favored the 49ers and all were in awe of Patrick Mahomes.
The line opened pick-’em at William Hill sportsbook, where big bets immediately showed on each side. By Monday, the consensus line was Kansas City -1, mostly due to the Mahomes factor.
“What I saw that makes Kansas City favored is Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the NFL,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “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 the Packers. 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,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said.
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 opened at 51½, and the SuperBook reported a $110,000 bet Over the total of 52½, helping to push the number as high as 54½ at some Las Vegas books, including the South Point.
Professional handicapper Scott Kellen said he agreed with the Over money that showed early. He noted that in games with wideouts Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, left tackle Eric Fisher and Mahomes all on the field, the Chiefs averaged 33 points per game. The 49ers averaged 33 points in games when tight end George Kittle and wideout Emmanuel Sanders were in the lineup.
“Both teams have some hidden value due to injuries and bad-weather games that may have made it look like their offenses weren’t as good as they really are,” Kellen said. “Both offenses have been very good when healthy, and this game figures to have plenty of points.”
This is just the kickoff to what will be two weeks of major wagering before the game Feb. 2 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
“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. Prop 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 made out very well at the windows.
“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 extend the College Football Playoff comparison, Mahomes and the Chiefs are similar to Joe Burrow and the LSU offense, which overwhelmed Oklahoma and Clemson’s No. 1-ranked scoring defense en route to the national championship. 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. Shanahan had little need to use his passing playbook, and Jimmy Garoppolo went 6-for-8 for only 77 yards.
“I sort of lean to the Niners,” Bogdanovich said. “I think they will be able to run the ball. 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, owns an 18-3 career record in the regular season after a bye and is 5-2 in the playoffs after a week off. 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 SuperBook posted Mahomes as an even-money favorite to be the game’s MVP. Garoppolo is the second choice at 7/2 odds.
The only Super Bowl of the previous 53 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. It was a fitting end to the definition of a pick-’em game.
“To me,” Murray said, “this game is just a toss-up.”