Around every big game, dozens of articles are written about amazing and bizarrely-coincidental trends meant to sway a reader to or from betting a certain way. Everything from weather and location to uniform color and first names can be spun a certain way to make an outcome seem all but certain. Trends are fun to read about and provide some really interesting coincidences throughout Super Bowl history.
They should also mostly be thrown out when considering a bet.
When flipping a coin, the outcome of each flip is an isolated incident– not affected by past flips. The coin does not take into account that seven heads were just landed; it doesn’t think, “about time for a tails now.” The slope of a surface, the ability of the coin flipper, and the evenness of the coin may affect the outcome, but never the previous flip.
So, let’s shoot down some Super Bowl LIV trends before getting into some real analysis for the Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers.
Trends that don’t matter
Teams wearing white are 13-2 in the last 15 games
The Super Bowl alternates whether the AFC or NFC is the home team every year (not indicative of good or bad teams; nor the outcome of the All-Star game like in baseball). On even years, the AFC representative is the home team and on odd years, the NFC representative is the home team. Since the Super Bowl is a neutral-site game, it is an incident isolated from jersey color.
Of those 13 winners wearing white, nine were quarterbacked by someone named Brady, Brees, Manning, or Roethlisberger. Great QB play historically leads to Super Bowl victories.
Favorites are 11-4 in Florida & 8-2 in Miami
Of all teams that won a Super Bowl in Florida, 13 of them were quarterbacked by current Hall-of-Famers or locks for a future Hall of Fame bid (Brady, Peyton Manning, Brees). To echo the last point, great quarterbacks win Super Bowls. Period.
The AFC representative is 10-5 in Florida
Underdogs are 3-1 straight up in spreads under 3 points in the last 4 games
A spread under three points indicates the teams are nearly even (the home team is typically even handicapped three points in football). This is one game off 0.500, which you’d expect when teams are even. Take the larger sample size and then re-consider.
In each of the four previous instances, the given trends have nothing to do with the actual game and therefore have no effect on the isolated outcome.
Things that do matter
Want to know why these teams are here? Kansas City (3rd) and San Francisco (7th) both rank in the top seven in offensive efficiency. What might come as a surprise after the recent ground performance by Raheem Moestert, is that both teams are relatively inefficient at running the football. The Chiefs (14th) sit just behind the 49ers (13th), and are beat out by remedial rushing attacks like the Saints, Eagles, and Colts. This game is undoubtedly going to be decided by the passing game.
Through the air, Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garappolo are incredibly efficient; throwing for touchdowns on about 5.5% of all attempts (league median: 4%). Mahomes outshines Garappolo in the turnover department, throwing just 5 interceptions (accounting for 1% of all attempts) in 2019. The playmaking nod undeniably goes to Mahomes.
3rd Down Conversion: Kansas City and San Francisco sit 2nd and 4th, respectively, in offensive 3rd down conversion rate. On the other side of the ball, they both rank in the top 10 in opposing 3rd down conversion rate. The bottom line– defenses that get off the field on 3rd down conserve energy and offenses that consistently convert on 3rd down wear down opposing defenses. The 49ers slightly edge the Chiefs in combined 3rd down play, but this one might as well be called even.
George Kittle vs the KC defense: In 2019, the Chiefs have shown serious weakness to opposing tight ends, giving up the 2nd most targets, 3rd most receptions, and 5th most yards to tight ends. The lone bright spot in their efforts: they’ve given up the 4th least touchdowns to tight ends. Also surprising, Kansas City has been effective against tight ends that present themselves as a first or second target (allowing 100 yards just once to tight ends considered the top target). George Kittle has an opportunity to have a huge game, but all of the focus will be on him.
Richard Sherman vs Tyreek Hill: In their only matchup to date (September, 2018), Hill was held to just two catches on five targets. However, Hill recorded 51 yards, ripping off a 25.5 yard-per-catch average. While still very much elite, Sherman has faced 3 good receivers this postseason: Packers’ Davante Adams, and the Vikings’ Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Those receivers average over a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. Tyreek Hill posts a sub-4.3. Sherman is very technically sound, but has shown to be susceptible to over-the-top burners like Hill.
Patrick Mahomes vs 49ers edge rushers: The 49ers have been pretty good against opposing QBs all season long, ranking in the better half of teams against the QB position. They ranked 5th in the NFL in sacks, but did have one weakness — mobile QBs. Only the Bengals and Browns have up more yards rushing to opposing QBs in 2019. Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray posted over 100 quarterback rating against San Francisco in two matchups this season, consistently breaking contain and extending plays.
Kyle Shanahan is one of the most revered young minds in the NFL today, similar to the Rams’ Sean McVay last season. As history will tell you, experience matters in coaching. As recent as last season, Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick schemed circles around the young offensive staff in Los Angeles and stifled the team completely– holding them to the lowest score in Super Bowl history (note: tied with the 1972 Miami Dolphins).
Andy Reid, while vastly more experienced, has had question marks around his late-game scheming and clock management for his career. Reid has consistently turned out star quarterbacks and maximizing the capabilities of each (see: Donovan McNabb, Alex Smith). He is looking to finally get over the hump and win his first Super Bowl. Both coaches will be playing all their cards and will turn this game into a spectacle.
How to maximize the odds
When placing your bet for this Sunday, shop around; check multiple sites and grab the line that most stands out. A bet is like a car, it takes time and consideration to finalize your selection. If you are feeling especially confident, boost the payout by betting on alternate lines. With the line sitting at Chiefs -1.5 (-115), it would be easy to take a Chiefs -6 at, say, +280.
The Super Bowl also provides betting more opportunities than almost any other sporting event in the world– have fun with it. Sites provide lines on anything, from the length of the national anthem to the color of the Gatorade shower. Pick your props and best lines, and enjoy the Big Game.