Well boys and girls, we did it.
We survived an entire season up and running, we have locked in at least a small profit for the year (and possibly a big one if this game breaks right), we have secured an over .500 Best Bets season and we are right there for a .600 WORMS season.
But even though all of that is locked in and admirable, the truth is, we want to end this season with a bang. We want to go out flush and leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth as well as a bunch of cash in their pockets.
With that in mind, this final picks article isn’t just about picking the game, it’s about winning bets.
If you want me to speak honestly, this is not a good game to bet. WORMS has a strong leaning, but if you have watched even a second of the playoffs for both of these teams, you know they are each capable of reaching great heights.
So while I will make a pick for the game and will break it down for y’all, I’m also going to spend a considerable amount of time on all of the props that offer some more clear and decisive action for us to make money on.
You can thank OEF and KC superfan Kyle for pushing me to do this. While it was certainly on my radar, he reminded me how much fun it can be to have games within the game and also how great of an opportunity it can be to find advantages.
Although you may not have access to the exact line, rest assured that my logic is universal.
With that being said, if you can get something close to what I suggest, I would take it with my endorsement. If, however, the line you are being offered is significantly different, then you really need to see if your belief in that side of the line is strong enough to warrant a bet that might be offering less value.
But no matter what, I encourage everyone to get some money down on this game in some way. It’s a fun and exciting way to make the big game even bigger.
To help you track the value I think each bet represents, I am going to hypothetically bankroll $500 for all of these bets, and then bet proportionally (in real life it’s hypothetically smaller if my fiance asks). I will allocate $100 of this hypothetical bankroll to the actual spread bet, but then break the rest up amongst side action.
At this point, though, you’ve read enough words of mine and you just want to win some money.
So, without further ado, here is the Owl Eats Football Super Bowl Picks, Props, and Paydays Extravaganza:
KC -2 (-105) vs SF: $100 to win $95.24
And here we go.
As I said up top, this is not necessarily a game I am tripping over myself to bet. My human brain pegs this as a classic 55-45 matchup where either team can win on any given day, and where the margins are so razor thin that many factors outside of our control could swing the game.
But the show must go on, and if I am giving either team an edge here, I have to give it to Kansas City.
If you read my manifesto on passing versus rushing, you know that I think this game will come down to who can be the most efficient through the air. Whichever team that is will be able to control the game from either in front or behind and dictate what the other team will need to do.
Although that seems like a slam dunk for KC, the truth is that Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan have been successful all season long in making the most of throwing the ball. As I noted in the manifesto, these are the two most efficient passers from the regular season (minimum 14 games).
So what this game really comes down to is the ability of each team to be able to take advantage of matchups and prevail in a variety of circumstances.
To me that is the Kansas City Chiefs.
Let’s start on their matchup against the San Francisco offense.
If you are someone who believes that the Niners are going to run all over the Chiefs, let me note this: The Chiefs have already beaten the other two top rushing offenses in the league (Baltimore and Tennessee). To say this Chiefs team is susceptible to the run is to ignore the fact that anytime they play a team with a strong running game, they beat them.
How do they do this? By playing defense with their offense.
In each of these games Kansas City has been able to use their offense to dictate the flow of the game and manipulate the game scripts other teams have available to them.
They did not stop Derrick Henry rather than rendering him less useful to the Titans. Against the Ravens, they allowed four rushing touchdowns but made Lamar Jackson throw 44 times by building a huge halftime lead.
As discussed in the manifesto, running the ball is not correlated with winning, winning is correlated with running the ball. This means that the success of a team’s rushing attack is not the root of their success, but if they can establish control of the game, then their attack will be more successful.
So, in this case, if Kansas City’s offense can create any type of lead, then their defense doesn’t have to worry about being gouged by the run.
Which then, of course, means that the key to both sides of the ball for the Chiefs is whether they can score against a tough Niners defense.
I say yes, and here’s why.
It is very fair to say that the Niners are a great defense. What is not fair to say is that they have played an offense like the Chiefs.
So far in the playoffs they have dismantled two teams, the Vikings and the Packers - both incredibly run heavy teams with limited passing games (Minnesota was 5th in run play percentage and Green Bay 17th, but they were playing with one legitimate receiving weapon).
In fact, the Niners lost to the most pass heavy team in the league (Atlanta) and consistently struggled against the pass heavy offenses in the league.
Their other weakness in this time, as consistently noted by OEF/SF superfan Alex, is that scrambling QBs give the Niners trouble (a la Russell Wilson). Although I can not find the specific number, Warren Sharp recently noted that Mahomes has 100% third down conversion rate when scrambling.
So with passing games exploiting weaknesses in the secondary, running quarterbacks can also limit the success of the Niners d-line. But this isn’t their only weapon against the best line in the league.
The Chiefs also have the unique ability to wear down a line with play volume. If Kansas City commits to the pass like I think they will and employs any sort of tempo, then this line could be gassed early.
An underrated factor, too, is that the Chiefs run a high percentage of play action. Something I have been touting all season is that running the ball doesn’t set up play action, but vice versa. In this case, though, play action forces a defensive line to hesitate for a second, limiting their effectiveness.
So, in summation, if Kansas City can use their passing game to exploit a huge speed difference in the secondary, if Mahomes can keep plays/drives alive with his legs, if the Chiefs pass often and quickly, and if they can use play action to control the Niners line then they have a good chance of dictating the game.
That is certainly a lot that they need to do, but whoever wins this game will have to do a lot of things right.
I think there is a case for the Niners being able to shape the flow of this game, but I think that will be harder for them to do with a ground first game.
I don’t want to pick either team, quite honestly, but when you’re in the business of picking you don’t have time to be sentimental.
Chiefs win close but decisively, passing prevails, and we end the year with a win.
So, before we make any picks in the props, a quick note on the nature of props:
These are created for the casual fan. This conflates creates a fairly significant opportunity to bet on the under and against things happening.
The basic logic behind this is that when a casual fan bets, they typically bet on high scoring, “yes” type bets. It is not fun to sit there rooting against fun and exciting plays.
For example, probably the best value prop bet of all prop bets is betting against a safety. Although there have been safeties in nine total Super Bowls, putting the rate at 16.6% and making these bad odds, safeties occurred in only 12 games this season, putting the rate at 5%.
Considering that currently I am finding most odds to be around Yes Safety (+550) and No Safety (-900), getting 1-9 odds on something that is about 1-20 is incredible value. It seems silly, but betting No Safety here will offer you some of the safest money in the long run.
But to go big picture on betting props, let me put it this way: A gambling podcast I listen to had one of the line makers for a sportsbook on and he explained how, often times, the books end up rooting for the most boring game possible. The less things that happen the more Yes bets that lose (and Yes bets are the most popular). Betting No and under is sharp because these books inflate these lines to create value for themselves, knowing people have a tendency to bet on action.
So know that when you go to bet yourself, the fiscally prudent move is to bet boring.
But here, we are going to try to tease out the best values while also including some of the more exciting prospects. We’ll walk the line between entertainment and winning. You feel free to choose money over entertainment.
Patrick Mahomes to throw 2 or more TD in any quarter (+375): $100 to win $375
I am in awe that this is a real life bet and that I can win money on it.
There is a strong chance that this bet doesn’t deliver, but given that the game experience I am predicting involves a lot of scoring and a lot of Kansas City passing, I think it offers value. If, in any game environment, you think the Chiefs throw a lot and score even a modest amount, this has a great chance of hitting.
To put the bet into context, Mahomes has thrown 2 or more TDs in a quarter 15 times in 31 career games. At almost a 50% hit rate, these odds should be closer to +200. Add in the fact that this game may be a more conducive game environment for it to happen (higher total, low spread, more scripted passing) and this seems to be a value jumping off the page.
Again, all it would take to hit is the Chiefs scoring 28+ through passing with one quarter being scoreless or touchdownless. Their implied total is 28.5 and the game environment skews passing.
This isn’t a lock to happen, but it seems at worst 50-50, giving us plenty of room to lock in a big win right off the bat.
Jimmy Garoppolo over 239.5 yards passing (-115): $100 to win $86.96
Speaking of easy wins due to game environment, Jimmy G has undergone quite a bit of scrutiny over the past two weeks due to his non-existent performance.
In that span he’s gone 16/27 for 204 yards 1 TD and 1 INT.
Looking at those numbers it makes sense why you might be down on him, but that would be a statistical fallacy. He passed so little in those games because they didn’t need him to pass, not because he was unable to.
If this game goes in any way other than a Niners blow out from the first whistle, then he will not be able to sit back and hand the ball off.
The good news for those of use betting this is that he has proven time and time again that he can do this. In 16 regular season games, he topped this number 10 times. In the seven games he played in that were decided by less than a touchdown, he topped the number in six. In the 10 games where his team scored more than 26.5 (their implied total) he did it in seven of those games.
So all this is to say that anyone betting this prop based off of the last two games is not doing it right. Unless you foresee this as a wire to wire Niners win (like his last two games) then you are much better served by playing the numbers and betting on the 60-70% proven track record that he will top this number in a game environment like this.
Tied to this is a litany of overs for Jimmy G (completions, attempts, touchdowns), but of all of them this offers the most value.
Deebo Samuel over 17.5 yards rushing (-115): $50 to win $43.48 (found +135 on this too)
Full disclosure, I love this bet way more than $50.
But given the hypothetical budget I have imposed on myself, this is all i could hypothetically afford while still making other bets of value.
Why do I love this bet so much, you ask?
Well, quite simply it’s because Deebo is now an every game rusher and he has been smashing this total week in and week out.
He has a carry in each of the last seven games, with up to three in a game and multiple carries in four of them. Over that span he has topped this number five of those times. In total in those seven games, he has 12 carries for 171 yards, an average of 14.25 yards per carry.
The end result, then is that if Deebo gets two carries, this bet hits. If Deebo gets one carry it has a 50/50 shot. I think he gets two carries.
Again, relying on the narrative that this is a high scoring, high play volume game, it makes sense that all the opportunities see an uptick.
Given his consistent usage, the need for the Niners to generate points, and the questionable Chiefs run defense (especially to the edge), this bet seems like a winner.
Kyle Juszczyk over 9.5 yards receiving (-115): $50 to win $43.48
This bet is far less reasoned, but one I am equally as confident about.
The thesis behind this play is twofold: There will be more passing in this game, meaning all Niners receivers are more likely to be involved AND Kyle Shanahan knows he needs to score and will unleash his best (and most revered) weapon to do so.
Let’s not spend any more time on explaining why I think the Niners will pass more than average in this game. Instead, let’s point out that in the 10 regular season games where Jimmy G hit the 240 yard mark, Juszczyk played in eight of those games. In those appearance he hit the 10 yard receiving mark five times. In all those games he hit 20 yard.
The conclusion: when Jimmy G throws a lot, Juszczyk is involved.
But this bet is even stronger, because there is strong evidence that Kyle Shanahan values his fullback. First of all, Juszczyk make more than double the guaranteed money of any other fullback in the league. Shanahan built this offense through players like him and in the biggest game of his head coaching career it stands to reason that he will use him.
On top of that, when these two teams played in 2018, Juszczyk was the Niners second leading receiver and totaled 38 yards and a touchdown. Different teams, but not a totally different game environment (38-27 Chiefs win in KC).
So given the data and the way the coach glows about this player, we can expect that he will have an opportunity to blow this number out of the water. Whether he does or not, it’s still a great bet.
Travis Kelce under 75.5 yards receiving (-115): $50 to win $43.48
And now time for our first wet blanket bet.
I love Travis Kelce as a player and I love the Chiefs passing offense as a whole, but I hate picking a tight end going against Kwon Alexander.
The Niner’s linebacker was otherworldly against tight ends this year, and the Niners mediocre numbers against the position are more a result of him missing time than them being inconsistent.
I don’t hate Kelce as a touchdown scoring bet, but I do think 75.5 is an inflated number due to his playoff performances, specifically against the Texans.
Plus, in his last six games, he has only topped this number twice despite seeing 52 targets (an average of 8.7) per game. Since Week 4, he has topped it in just four games.
He is a great player, but he has shown the ability to go under this in any matchup, and this specific one is not a favorable one.
Mecole Hardman over 23.5 yards receiving (-115): $25 to win $21.74
This is a gut play.
I just think the chances that Hardman catches a bomb from Mahomes or gets a screen pass in space is close enough to 50-50 that this is worth it.
Granted 23.5 is a high number, but I honestly feel like if the Chiefs load up on passing and if you believe me that Kelce will be limited, then someone else besides Tyreke Hill has to do something.
If you want to choose Watkins or Robinson, I don’t blame you. I’m going with Hardman because he’s been playing as the third wideout and I think the volume in this game will give him the chance to capitalize with just one or two catches.
In the 18 games he has a target he’s beat this number eight times. A little below 50%, but given the game script I think that number gets a bump.
Missed extra point (+290): $25 to win $72.50
And let’s end with a fun one, huh?
Right now, there are reports of potential rain and wind. Although it is not necessarily guaranteed, it could happen which adds some value to this bet.
But truthfully, this is a bet that there will be seven or eight touchdowns in this game (which is in line with the team totals).
For the season, teams were 93.6% on extra points. San Francisco was above that and Kansas City was below that.
So taking that number and skewing it a little for potential bad weather and high pressure situations, it would not be crazy to see these teams go a combines 6/7 (85.7%) or 7/8 (87.5%).
To be that close to the league average tells me that these are real potential outcomes. To throw in that the more extra points taken raises our chances makes me feel good. To think about past Super Bowls and bad weather situations, it makes me feel great.
(If you do like this bet, you should also consider finding a two-point conversion attempt/make bet as well. If there is a missed extra point, it stands to reason that there will be an increased chance that one team has to make up for that point later.)
At +290, we have a chance to get almost three to one odds on something that we can mathematically justify is closer to two to one.
So in the end, this bet offers us value. And if there is one thing we have done all season, it is hunt for value.
What better way to end our betting season?