After two weeks of analysis, it’s time to place your final Super Bowl bets. Let’s take one last look at the key stats we’ve been using to preview NFL playoff games.
— Kansas City (-1) vs. San Francisco (6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX)
Kansas City: No. 6 offense, No. 17 defense, No. 15 schedule, + 8 turnover margin
San Francisco: No. 4 offense, No. 2 defense, No. 17 schedule, + 4 turnover margin
You’ll recall that we use strength-of-schedule rankings from Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. With 32 teams in the NFL, the Chiefs and Niners are virtually league average. That’s important because it means we’re getting a clean read.
Both offenses are elite. Kansas City would rank even higher if Patrick Mahomes hadn’t missed time with an injury. The Chiefs are more about speed, the 49ers power. But both know how to move the ball. Both finished drives well in the playoffs too. Kansas City was 9 of 11 scoring touchdowns on red-zone opportunities. San Francisco was 5 of 8.
Kansas City’s defense played better than its ranking down the stretch. That’s a big part of why the Chiefs are 7-0-1 ATS in their last eight games, mimicking LSU’s bookie-busting championship run in college football. But you’d still have to give San Francisco the defensive edge — more physical and better able to impose its will. If you’re an old-school analyst who believes defense wins championships, the Niners are your play.
K.C.’s turnover edge from the regular season disappears when you count the playoffs. The Chiefs were dead even vs. Houston and Tennessee (1-1), while the Niners were 5-2 vs. Minnesota and Green Bay. Probably a wash, though the Niners could become much more turnover-prone if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has to throw deep while playing from behind.
Split betting is likely to keep the point spread within arm’s reach of Kansas City -1 or -1.5 until kickoff. Passionate cases for either side can be made easily, depending on what individual bettors prioritize.
— The Chiefs have the most dynamic playmaker on the field in Mahomes and have been underpriced by the market for two months.
— The 49ers have the superior defense and possibly the better big-game chess player as coach.
Sharps have already established with their action that razor-thin percentages favor Kansas City at pick-’em but San Francisco at + 1.5 or higher. Some sharps using math models still like the Chiefs at -1. Informed Over/Under money was on the Over at any total below 54 but came in strong on the Under whenever 55 was tested.
If one-sided public action develops on game day, sharps would fade any line moves out of the zones that have already been so well defined.