As soon as the NFL conference championship games wrapped up Sunday night, bookmakers around the world announced their Super Bowl lines. Most installed the Kansas City Chiefs as the favorites over the Philadelphia Eagles, by about a point.
The gamblers disagreed. They thought the sports books had it wrong and pounced. Almost immediately, money started flowing into Philadelphia and soon the line was moving. Within the hour, the Eagles were the favorites to go to the Super Bowl. They were 2 to 2.5 point favorites on Monday.
What happened? And why did so many early punters like Philadelphia?
The opening line shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. Most computer rankings have Kansas City a point or two better than Philadelphia. Oddsmakers who offered so-called prediction lines last week suggested that Kansas City — if advanced — would be the Super Bowl favorite, by up to 2.5 points.
But “the market completely disagreed,” said Brandon DuBreuil, head of content at Covers, a sports betting information site.
Gamblers who wager early tend to be highly respected and are known as “sharp money”. When everyone seems to like a team, bookmakers are quick to switch lines.
And why did these keen bettors like Philadelphia? One of the main reasons was injuries. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was dealing with a sprained ankle and one of his favorite targets, tight end Travis Kelce, had been listed as questionable for the conference championship with back spasms. And even though the Chiefs won the game, 23-20, over the Cincinnati Bengals, they lost several wide receivers.
All those injuries will mean some uncertainty surrounding Kansas City’s offense before the Super Bowl, which takes place Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. Another factor, perhaps more important, is Philadelphia’s appearance.
While the Eagles’ 31-7 win needs to be qualified because the San Francisco 49ers were effectively left without a quarterback for most of the game, and while 2.5 points doesn’t seem like a huge spread in a title game, the Revised lineup results in a perceived advantage for the Eagles.
To bet on the money line – a simple bet on who will win the game – Philadelphia supporters need to bet $130 to win $100, while Kansas City supporters bet $100 to win $110. This results in Philadelphia having 54% chance of winning the game versus Kansas City’s 46%.
Any opinion on the point spread? There are many other ways to bet.
Depending on where you look, the game’s over-under is around 49.5, so bookmakers are looking for more points than in AFC (43 points) or NFC (38 points) championship games, or even more than in any division round matches (which yielded totals of 31, 37, 45 and 47 points).
If you’re impatient, you can bet over-under for the first half (24) or even the first quarter (10).
What’s next for line betting? While there may be a little more movement, the main action is probably over. “I doubt the line will capsize again, but it could slide down,” DuBreuil said, perhaps settling on something closer to Philadelphia’s 1 or 1.5 points. The biggest moves in any line, he said, happen early.
Unless there’s dire news, that is. If, say, it were announced that Mahomes would miss the game, a 7-point swing wouldn’t be a surprise, DuBreuil said. If so, the Eagles could get into the game as much as a 10-point favorite.