(For more prop fun, check out our printable Super Bowl prop bet contest. See also our guide to the best bets to score the first touchdown of the game. And don’t miss our breakdown of the best and worst numbers for Super Bowl squares.)
Philadelphia Eagles (-1½) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. Eastern | Fox
Pick: Under 50½ points (By Friday morning, this number was 51 at some books.)
Matt’s take: This number rose quickly after opening as low as 48½ at some Las Vegas sportsbooks — and it may do so again Sunday, when the last of the bets come in from the points-loving public — but for now it seems to have stalled at 50½ or 51. I think that’s too high.
Injuries abound on Kansas City’s offense, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffering a high ankle sprain during the playoffs and wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kadarius Toney suffering injuries in the AFC championship game against the Bengals. I also get the sense that both teams would rather grind out a victory than get into a shootout.
While the Chiefs often waited until they had amassed a lead to run the ball — only the Bengals ran less in the first half of games this season — they still were pretty successful on the ground, ranking 10th in rushing expected points added and ninth in rushing DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every play with a league average based on situation and opponent). The Eagles’ defense is weaker against the run than the pass (23rd in rush-defense EPA, 21st in DVOA), and Kansas City might be wise to take pressure off Mahomes with some handoffs if his ankle still is bothering him.
The same mismatch holds true when the Eagles have the ball. Philadelphia ranks first in rushing EPA and DVOA on offense, while the Chiefs’ defense ranks 16th and 15th, respectively.
And then there’s this: Carl Cheffers will be the game’s referee. He has led the officiating crew in 12 playoff games since 2010, and 11 have stayed under the total. The only one that didn’t — Super Bowl LI between the Patriots and Falcons — needed New England’s comeback from 25 points down and then overtime to go over. Cheffers’s crew has led the NFL in flags per game in each of the past two seasons, and he threw 11 of them on Kansas City two years ago when the Chiefs lost to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl — and scored just nine points. Penalties erase scoring plays and can throw an offense off script, potentially leading to lower scoring. I think that will help keep the score low here.
Neil’s take: I agree on the under. Philadelphia has the third-best overall defense in the regular season and playoffs when you adjust for strength of schedule, per Football Outsiders, and the best pass defense in the league. The Eagles were especially adept at minimizing contributions from their opponents’ top two wide receivers, holding them to 60.5 and 40.2 receiving yards per game, respectively, according to Football Outsiders. Tight ends managed 47.1 receiving yards per game against the Eagles, with just three touchdown catches, including the playoffs. That could mean lower-than-usual production from Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Smith-Schuster, who is dealing with a knee injury.
Kansas City’s defense leaves a lot to be desired — it has been middle of the pack according to most advanced metrics — and if Philadelphia jumps to an early lead, you can expect the Eagles to start running the ball. They rush 56 percent of the time when they lead by seven or more points, which leads to fewer drives and lower scores.
Just how low of a total could we see? My projections, after adjusting each team’s scoring rates for opposition faced in the regular season and playoffs, give this game a 50-50 chance to finish below 46 points, so it might be worth seeking an alternate total at more favorable odds.
Will either team score in the final 3½ minutes? (Westgate SuperBook)
Yes -170 (No is listed at +150)
Matt’s take: This prop has hit in 24 of the past 29 Super Bowls; the game has almost always been decently competitive in recent years. The past eight Super Bowls have been decided by an average of 9.8 points, and of the four games over that span that were decided by double digits, three featured one-score leads in the fourth quarter. If this year’s point spread is to be believed, another close Super Bowl could be in the cards, which increases the chances of a late score.
Patrick Mahomes passing yards
Under 290.5 yards (This number varies at different sportsbooks.)
Matt’s take: Since 2000, there have been 15 Super Bowl starting quarterbacks who averaged at least 287 passing yards in the regular season. Only two of them — Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI and Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI — threw for more than 300 yards in the Super Bowl. Likewise, 11 Super Bowl quarterbacks entered the game averaging at least 36 attempts, but only four exceeded their passing yards average in the Super Bowl. Mahomes is averaging 38 attempts and 303.7 passing yards this season, but he’s still dealing with that injured ankle, and the Eagles, as Neil noted, led the NFL in pass-defense DVOA. They also allowed only one 300-yard passer this season — the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott. Mahomes didn’t exceed his passing yards number for Sunday’s game in either of the two Super Bowls he has played; he threw for 286 and 270 yards.
Kenneth Gainwell rushing yards (DraftKings)
Over 19.5 yards
Matt’s take: The Eagles running back has gone over this number in three straight games — he has rushed for 160 yards in Philadelphia’s two playoff contests — and in eight games overall this season. In the NFC title game against the 49ers, Gainwell was on the field for 42 percent of the Eagles’ offensive plays, including a fourth-quarter drive on which he got the ball on all eight snaps, and his participation percentage has increased in three consecutive games. Even though Philadelphia used him to kill the clock against San Francisco, Gainwell still went over this number in the first half alone, gaining 21 yards on three carries. The Chiefs’ rushing defense is middling at best, and you would think the Eagles will try to work the clock to keep the ball out of Mahomes’s hands.
Length of shortest field goal (Westgate SuperBook)
Over 27.5 yards
Matt’s take: Neither Chiefs Coach Andy Reid nor Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni seems like the type to settle for three points when inside an opponent’s 10-yard line (barring some sort of last-minute situation), and the stats bear this out: Kansas City had just seven field goals of 27 yards or less in the regular season (out of 24; three of them came in one game against the Rams), and the Eagles only had five (out of 22). The Super Bowl is as high-stakes as it gets, and three points probably won’t get the job done if either team is close to the end zone.
First-quarter points (DraftKings)
Over 9.5 points
Neil’s take: Earlier, we explained why we expect a lower-scoring game, but in five of the past seven Super Bowls — including three straight — the teams have combined to score at least 10 points in the first quarter. This trend is based on a small sample size, of course, but the Eagles and Chiefs are tied for the highest first-quarter scoring rate in the NFL this season (playoffs included), producing 2.3 points per drive. With each team getting two or maybe three drives in the first quarter, the over of 9.5 points, even at -125 odds, is tempting.