Tony Avelar / Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 | 10 a.m.
A lot of football bettors employ a “fade the public” tactic, in which they gamble against the most popular sides all season, and for the most part, it’s a nonsensical, long-term losing strategy.
In a single game, with few exceptions, public money isn’t enough to offset larger wagers by professionals and influence the betting market. The Super Bowl is different.
Somewhere around $150 million will be wagered statewide on the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, and the vast majority will come from recreational bettors. Public betting volume on the Super Bowl is too high for sports books to ignore, which forces bookmakers limit their liability accordingly by implementing an upcharge on the most popular bets—largely “over” and “yes” wagers on thousands of propositions. That provides an opportunity to extract value on props largely by betting “no” and “under.”
Here are seven bets—taken from the initial William Hill and Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook betting menus—where it appears best to go against the grain in Super Bowl 54.
Will there be a defensive or special teams touchdown? No at minus-220 (risking $2.20 to win $1) (William Hill)
It’s generally a profitable position to bet “no” on all props of the “will there be …” variety, but bettors stray from the large risk inherent in wagering against such things as a safety (minus-800) or overtime (minus-900). That’s understandable; just stick with the lower costs. This line implies there’s a 35 percent chance there will be a defensive or special teams score, when it actually happens in closer to 30 percent of NFL games. And these teams, if anything, appear less likely to do so. They were both above average defending kickoffs and minimizing offensive miscues all year.
Under 122.5 total field goal yardage (SuperBook)
This is a show of faith in the two coaches. EdjSports’ coach rankings, which grade every decision made throughout the season from a win probability standpoint, placed Kansas City’s Andy Reid No. 2 and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan No. 4. They’re both smart enough to realize long field goal attempts are hardly ever worthwhile. Shanahan has called for short field goals too frequently, but he must know even those are an admission of defeat against an offense as explosive as Kansas City’s.
Travis Kelce under 81.5 receiving yards (William Hill)
The veteran tight end leads Kansas City in targets, receptions and receiving yards, so most bettors will be looking to back him in any way possible. That’s a mistake and a slight against San Francisco’s terrific defense against tight ends. The 49ers were second in the league in defending tight ends, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, and will scheme heavily against Kelce.
Raheem Mostert under 80.5 rushing yards (William Hill)
Don’t pay a premium for a player coming off of a career day. The 49ers’ running back rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries in the AFC Championship Game, but there’s no guarantee Mostert will get any more opportunities than teammates Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman in the Super Bowl. And the much-maligned Chiefs’ rush defense has improved significantly; it won’t be helpless against whoever’s running the ball.
Nick Bosa under 3.5 tackles (William Hill)
Bosa, the second overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft, has been a terror all year and probably deserved more consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year award, but tackles are far tougher to register than most realize. The difficulty will only ramp up for a defensive lineman against the Chiefs’ pass happy offense led by the slippery Patrick Mahomes. Bosa will make his presence felt with pressure, but the rookie averaged only 3.35 tackles per game during the regular season.
Under 54.5 points (almost everywhere)
The point total opened as low as over/under 51.5 points, but immediate action didn’t allow it to stay there for long. South Point bookmaker Chris Andrews tweeted that it took more than 24 hours to get a single bet on the under. SuperBook counterpart Jeff Sherman similarly reported that the ticket count was skewed 33-to-1 on the over. Most analytics indicate this total sits a couple points inflated, but no one wants to bet against the Chiefs’ offense. So, don’t; back both the Chiefs and a lower-scoring game. Final score: Chiefs 28, 49ers 21.
Will there be a two-point conversion attempt? No at minus-160 (risking $1.60 to win $1) (SuperBook)
Kansas City and San Francisco tied for last in the NFL in going for two—only twice each all season—and neither team has gone for two thus far in the playoffs. Game situations could change that in the Super Bowl, but it seems unlikely. This is the type of novelty play bettors love to count on, but in reality, it happens more rarely than the odds imply.