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Shifting Chiefs-Bengals betting line catches Las Vegas by surprise: ‘This doesn’t happen’


Jay Kornegay, executive vice president of operations for SuperBook Sports, says what happened in the past 72 hours is unprecedented in an AFC or NFC league.

by Kornegay SuperBook Sports opened his line Sunday night with the Kansas City Chiefs three-favorite for Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Less than 24 hours later, so many bets poured in on Cincinnati that the Bengals became the favorite team.

And as of early Tuesday afternoon, that trend hadn’t slowed, with the line moving toward the Bengals by 2 1/2 (although it fell back to 1 1/2 later Tuesday).

“We talk about the Bengals’ great performance (against the Buffalo Bills last week), but this is a 5 1/2 point move. That just doesn’t happen,” Kornegay said. “And I’d say 90% of that is due to (Patrick) Mahomes’ injury.”

Chiefs quarterback Mahomes suffered a sprained ankle last week against Jacksonville, which limited his mobility in the second half. Mahomes has vowed to play against Cincinnati on Sunday, however, meaning sportsbooks have been left to speculate on the status of him as they attempt to set their opening lines.

Kornegay said he and a handful of other handicappers met Sunday during the Bills-Bengals game to set the SuperBook opening line.

They started the discussion with Mahomes. They knew from the past that high ankle sprains could be serious, estimating Mahomes would be around 60-80% of his usual output (with some in the discussion approaching that 60% lower limit).

The next talking point, however, concerned Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Could bookmakers give Mahomes that much deduction if the Chiefs’ coaching staff could plan a little for Mahomes’ lack of mobility?

“We think there are going to be some games that will be designed to keep Mahomes in that pocket or a more dink-and-dunk kind of pass plan to limit his limitations,” Kornegay said. “And so we think about it.”

The group also tried to keep the big picture in mind. For example, one of the biggest surprises in Sunday’s Bengals-Bills game was Cincinnati’s rushing game; running back Joe Mixon had 20 carries for 105 yards, and the Bengals averaged 5.1 yards per rush.

Whether that would be repeatable against the Chiefs, however, was a different discussion.

“The Bengals were just racing right against the Bills, and the Bills couldn’t help it. It was just shocking to us,” Kornegay said. “So we thought it was kind of an anomaly of what we were seeing, simply because the Bengals haven’t really been able to do that all season.”

The handicappers also had some recent history to consider. The Bills were a six-home favorite over the Bengals in that Sunday game, with more bets coming on the Bills side. That number, if nothing else, could be the beginning of a baseline for how Cincinnati should be viewed when traveling to KC.

Kornegay said the group eventually reached a consensus: SuperBook Sports, which prides itself on posting some of the fastest opening lines in the NFL while operating in seven states and at Westgate in Las Vegas, started with the three-favorite Chiefs. .

“You take all these variables and put them in the hat. And we spat out three of them, although I have to admit… I have to admit it wasn’t our best work,” Kornegay said with a laugh.

According to Kornegay, Cincinnati had “a rush of cash” in the early hours to move that line to the Chiefs by late Sunday night. On Monday morning, the Bengals were the favourites. However, Kornegay noted that some “highly respected handicappers” began betting on Kansas City when the game was a pick ’em or Cincinnati favorite by one.

That didn’t stop Cincinnati’s support however as the line moved to 2 1/2 points. As of Tuesday afternoon, Kornegay had seen only a brief example of a bookie making the Bengals a three-point favorite before falling back to 2 1/2; that number of three-pointers is important in betting circles, as NFL games often end with a three-point margin due to field goals.

“What surprises us at this point,” Kornegay said, “is that (the bets) continue to snowball on the Cincinnati side.”

Some of that could be attributed to recency bias, Kornegay said. The Bengals looked dominant in their 27-10 win over the Bills, while the Chiefs failed to cover their 8 1/2-point spread in a 27-20 home win against the Jaguars.

Kornegay spoke through some hypotheticals to give context on where the public was landing with the Bengals-Chiefs line. He said that with a completely healthy Mahomes, he would put the Chiefs as a 4 to 4 1/2 point favorite against the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. Had Mahomes been shut out, he would have set the line on the Bengals by five.

There have been NFL cases in the past, Kornegay said, when a team has lost its starting quarterback and turned to his backup moved a line between seven and 10 points. These are typically extreme examples.

However, this circumstance is unique, because we are trying to estimate a healthy Mahomes against an injured one.

“I think everyone’s eyes — whether you’re a punter, an educated player, a sharp guy, a sharp handicapper, a bookmaker, an oddsmaker — everyone will be watching that ankle all week,” Kornegay said.

With this information, Kornegay said, the line could still move in either direction.

“It’s really going to be based on those practice reports,” Kornegay said. “I think people are going to look at it and see it — including us — and read between the lines of what’s being reported to really get a sense of how wholesome it is.”

Nothing that happens in the future changes the craziness of what has already happened with the Cincinnati-Kansas City spread.

Kornegay says the line has been a “hot topic” in Vegas this week, with other handicappers he’s spoken to agreeing they’ve never seen anything like it.

“This is the biggest move,” Kornegay said, “I’ve ever seen in a championship game.”

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