Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024 | 2 a.m.
This pick’em, for one, is enjoying the Kansas City Chiefs’ current reign atop the NFL.
I’ve gone 3-0 against the spread in the column in Kansas City’s three recent Super Bowls, taking the points with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021 while backing the Chiefs both in 2020 and 2023.
Handicapping Kansas City has perplexed me far less than the dynastical run directly before them, the one belonging to the New England Patriots. The first four Super Bowl appearances of New England’s Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era predated Talking Points, but in the final five, I went 1-4 against the spread.
And the only victory came via overtime in the 2018 game against the Falcons when the Patriots rallied from down 28-3 in the second half.
I’m hoping there’s some signal to the read I’ve had on Kansas City in recent years, and it’s not all just noise. It sure would be nice to cash in on the first Super Bowl ever held here at home.
Read below for my handicap of Chiefs vs. 49ers Sunday at Allegiant Stadium and final game pick of the year. I’ve gone 143-136-5 (49-36-3 on plays, 45-45-1 on leans and 49-55-1 on guesses) against the spread picking every NFL game this season. I’ll also include a few final prop bets that correlate to my breakdown. Check out 10 more Super Bowl 58 props I like here.
Super Bowl 58: San Francisco 49ers -2 vs. Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 47.5
It can, and has already begun to, change as kickoff draws closer, but for most of Super Bowl week in Las Vegas, the Chiefs’ lighter shade of red has outnumbered the 49ers’ scarlet hue.
Kansas City drew the louder, and deeper, crowd at Super Bowl Opening Night. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce jerseys looked like far and away the most popular clothing items as the Super Bowl Experience opened.
And the Chiefs’ rotation number — 102 for those still interested in classic sports-betting ways — was uttered a lot more than the 49ers’ 101 at sports book windows. Most sports books are reporting somewhere around a two-thirds ticket split in support of the Chiefs on the point spread.
It’s not all that dissimilar from last year when the Chiefs carried the same +2 spread into Super Bowl 57 against the Eagles, but I agreed with the majority of the action then.
I just can’t get behind it this year.
This is the lowest a point spread in a game between these two teams would have been at any point of the season. Typically, that’s a sign to buy a dip on the favorite.
Many are passing on the opportunity this time around for some version of they, “don’t want to bet against Patrick Mahomes.” That’s understandable because the Chiefs quarterback is the best player in the world, but his team feels pretty unlike the team that preceded them as NFL overlords.
New England more or less broke the betting market during its extended run, perennially covering point spreads at an unprecedented clip and performing well above any analytically expected level. Kansas City’s results have been just as terrific, but the market has quantified it pretty well.
The Chiefs are just 22-18 against the spread over the last two seasons, only climbing over .500 after a late-season surge following a loss to the Raiders. The 49ers have actually been more of an outlier since Brock Purdy took over as quarterback last season — going 16-11 against the spread under him with a larger covering margin.
But the 49ers’ offense has been suspect in two non-cover playoff wins this season, and the fear of many is that the downward trend will stick. The Chiefs’ defense looks up to the task considering it’s been one of the league’s top units behind sudden cult-hero coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Speaking of Kansas City merchandise sightings, several fans have been spotted wearing the “In Spags We Trust,” T-shirt that the team’s defenders sported at the conclusion of the AFC Championship Game. Not bad for an assistant that some fans wanted fired as recently as three seasons ago.
Spagnuolo has since cemented his legend on the field with a mixture of blitzes (the Chiefs send extra pass-rushers at the seventh-highest rate in the league) and forcing opposing offenses into pass-happy game scripts.
It’s allowed the Chiefs to overcome a meager rush defense that rates 27th in the league by the DVOA ratings. That standing is a concern going up against the 49ers, as is the Chiefs’ overall style of play.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan may not have a Super Bowl ring yet, but he’s just as definitive to the modern NFL as Kansas City counterpart Andy Reid because of his innovative offensive ways. Most teams in the league are trying to mimic Shanahan’s offense at this point by throwing multiple, quick-strike looks that attack the opponent’s weaknesses.
As well as the Chiefs’ defense has played, it has discernible weaknesses. And Shanahan seems to have the personnel to exploit them between Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey at running back and Purdy’s ranking as the top quarterback in the league this year against blitzes by multiple metrics.
Reid will have his wrinkles too, and the 49ers are vulnerable in their own right with an injury-thinned secondary and defensive line. But the alarm bells sounding for their defense after back-to-back near-escapes against the Lions and Packers might be overblown.
This is still a unit that rates fourth in the NFL by DVOA for the regular season, and slides in the top 10 by virtually any other all-encompassing metric.
Led by superstar linebacker Fred Warner, they’re terrific against tight ends and over the middle of the field. It’s been months since Travis Kelce, either Mahomes’ most or only reliable weapon in the passing game, has faced a matchup this difficult.
The over 47.5 points is drawing as large of a share of tickets as Chiefs +2, and yet it hasn’t budged much at all. At least one large global sportsbook has actually decreased to 47, which should be telling.
This has a better chance of being a low-scoring game than a shootout. It certainly shouldn’t be the head-spinning 38-35 affair last year that lifted the Chiefs over the Eagles.
Both Shanahan and Reid are a lot more conservative than their NFL peers and could settle for field goals to keep the total compressed. The Chiefs would benefit from that setup, as they’ve been more equipped and successful playing grinder-type games.
That certainly came across in their 17-10 upset victory over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game where they notably didn’t score a touchdown in the final 40 minutes or a single point in the second half. But the recent games might be holding too much weight in the final point spread of the year.
Jumble up the 49ers’ and Chiefs’ results and put them at different places in the season, and this number is a lot different. It’s a lot higher.
Some adjustment is needed for the way the Chiefs have come on to rediscover their championship-caliber form but that still should land the spread at 49ers -3. Tweak it a little for the schematic intricacies in their favor, and maybe the 49ers could be laying an even larger number.
The Chiefs aren’t done winning Super Bowls with Mahomes, but they’re probably not getting one in the home of their rival Raiders this time around.
Play: 49ers -2
Bonus Props: Over 3.5 field goals at +140 (Wynn), Under 4.5 sacks (Caesars/William Hill), Brock Purdy NOT to throw an interception at +115 (South Point), Christian McCaffrey over 129.5 combined rushing and receiving yards (BetMGM)