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Youmans: Against the odds, Brady becomes easy money

Even before Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa Bay, money started to show on the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl. A long shot 10 months ago turned into a sure thing by the start of the fourth quarter Sunday night.

There was no dramatic finish and no doubt about it. Brady’s seventh championship was a blowout and a big loser for bookmakers on the futures board.

“We got hit pretty good at 20-1 odds, and people kept betting on the Bucs all season,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said. “It seemed like everyone had some money on Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl when Brady went there. There are a lot of people out there holding a futures bet on the Buccaneers.”

In March, before Brady announced his move from New England, Tampa Bay was attracting action at odds as high as 50-1 to 60-1 at several sportsbooks. In a Super Bowl full of major wagers, the biggest bet was on the Buccaneers — and the biggest surprise was how easy it was for Brady, who passed for three first-half touchdowns in a 31-9 victory over Kansas City.

“Are you really shocked the Buccaneers won the game? No,” said Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and veteran Las Vegas bookmaker. “I think it’s a shock it was such a one-sided game.”

It was not the classic shootout most expected. Instead of watching two of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks trade shots, we watched Patrick Mahomes take punches. Super Bowl LV turned into a stage to celebrate Brady’s greatness. The fact he switched teams during the coronavirus pandemic, had a limited offseason and no preseason and yet was able to run the table in the playoffs is simply hard to believe.

He beat Drew Brees in New Orleans and whipped this season’s MVP, Aaron Rodgers, in Green Bay. At 43, he was better than the Chiefs’ young gun, Mahomes. It’s basically a script to a Disney movie, more fantasy than something that happens in the real world.

Several sharp handicappers and grizzled veteran bookmakers were laughing last summer when the betting public was jumping on the Tampa Bay pirate ship.

I bet against Brady in the game and started to regret it when he hit tight end Rob Gronkowski for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds left in the first quarter. At BetMGM, Gronkowski was posted at 18-1 odds to score the game’s first touchdown. At that point, there was already a sense that one team showed up ready to fight, and that team was not the Chiefs.

“I’m terribly disappointed it was not a better back-and-forth football game,” VSiN’s Brent Musburger said. “The Chiefs could not overcome the disruption to their offensive line. I thought the MVP was a coach — defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.”

Brady gets the headlines, yet Bowles was equally important in this game because of the way his defensive plan of attack neutralized Mahomes’ talents. Kansas City’s offensive futility led to other long-shot props — Mahomes throwing zero touchdown passes was posted at 15-1, and the Chiefs scoring exactly nine points was a 100-1 shot.

Most sportsbooks reported a win on the game, with the Buccaneers and Chiefs each drawing wagers of more than $1 million. DraftKings took the largest wager for $3.46 million on Tampa Bay + 3.5. BetMGM took a $2.5 million bet on Kansas City -165. The books took the biggest hit on futures payouts.

“Just call it a loser. We paid out a lot of money,” Avello said. “I probably have booked 35 or more Super Bowls in my career and probably have won (75%) of those, but you are going to lose once in a while. But it was great because we had monster volume.”

Magliulo said the wagering handle was “phenomenal,” yet it was not a record-breaking game in Nevada, where the Super Bowl pulled in $136.1 million. That figure fell well short of the record $158.6 million in 2018.

The books won $12.5 million for a 9.2 hold percentage, due in large part to contributions from Kansas City bettors. About an hour before kickoff, Magliulio said, the South Point took a $300,000 wager on the Chiefs -150.

“We needed Tampa Bay, and the book did very well, all things considered,” Magliulo said. “My philosophy is there’s never a bad Super Bowl for a hotel-casino.”

Still, it was a dumpster fire for the Chiefs and coach Andy Reid, whose team was sloppy and undisciplined while piling up 11 penalties for 120 yards. Mahomes was sacked three times behind a weak offensive line missing both starting tackles.

“Andy Reid just got completely outcoached,” Magliulo said “There were no adjustments by the Chiefs. There was no response, and I was very surprised by that. I think Mahomes was running for his life more in the second half than the first.”

Mahomes was the MVP favorite in the even-money range, but Brady cashed at + 250 by winning the award for the fifth time in his career. Brady finished 21-for-29 for 201 yards with no interceptions. His play was nearly flawless. Musburger noted Brady played like he was 33 and appeared rejuvenated this season with Bruce Arians as his coach.

“We had more money on Mahomes to win MVP,” Avello said. “The Mahomes money was overwhelming. Was Brady spectacular? No. But he made some good short throws, and that’s his game now. He was well prepared, which you expect from Brady in a Super Bowl.”

Chalk one up for the underdog and the bettors who could see into the future. But long-shot prices on Brady are in the past. The South Point opened Super Bowl odds for next year and posted the Chiefs as 5-1 favorites, with the Buccaneers at 10-1 along with the Bills and Packers.

If Tampa Bay can keep most of its team intact, who’s betting against Brady next season?

The talk of a Kansas City dynasty is on hold. Mahomes figures to make many returns to the Super Bowl, but the Packers have not made it back since Rodgers won his only title in 2011. 

“The Chiefs could have been beaten several times this season,” Avello said. “Mahomes is probably not getting back to the Super Bowl next year. It’s tough to do."

Only Brady can make it look easy.

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