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Super Bowl Pick Against the Spread, Preview: Bet on the Chiefs vs 49ers

Super Bowl Pick Against the Spread, Preview: Bet on the Chiefs vs 49ers article feature image
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Action Network/Getty Images. Pictured: Travis Kelce (left), Patrick Mahomes (center), Andy Reid (right).

Our 2024 Super Bowl pick against the spread comes from one of our very best NFL betting experts, Chris Raybon, who is hitting at 68% this season and is 12-5 in the playoffs. His Chiefs49ers Super Bowl pick is on the Chiefs to cover the spread. Read more below for his full Super Bowl preview breaking down the offense and defense for both the Chiefs and 49ers.

Super Bowl Pick Against the Spread, Preview

I have this game projected as a coin flip, although most of the raw full-season numbers do favor the 49ers. Here's how I've adjusted accordingly to make my 2024 Super Bowl pick against the spread.

Super Bowl Pick: Chiefs +2 (Bet to Chiefs +0.5)


Sunday, Feb 11
6:30 p.m. ET
CBS
Chiefs +2 (Bet to Chiefs +0.5)

Chiefs Offense

Most of the adjustments for this game that have to be made to reflect current circumstances, though, favor the Chiefs. The biggest of those adjustments comes with the Chiefs offense, which projects to be significantly stronger than the underwhelming unit that ranked eighth in DVOA, ninth in yards per play (5.5), and 15th in points per game (21.8) during the regular season. This is due to a multitude of recent developments that are not reflected in their full-season numbers (and in some cases are not reflected in even their more recent numbers).

• No more WR black hole: One of the most positive developments for the offense In the AFC Championship Game was that Richie James took over as the clear No. 4 wide receiver, playing 17 snaps and running eight routes. Meanwhile, Mecole Hardman played only one snap and ran one route, Justyn Ross was in only for kneel-downs, and Kadarius Toney was a (healthy?) scratch. Hardman, Ross, and Toney have been quite the terrible triumvirate this season, combining for eight drops, four interceptions when targeted (including two pick-sixes), four fumbles, and one (game-losing) penalty by Toney.

The 80 plays on which Hardman/Ross/Toney got a target, carry, or pass attempt produced only 3.7 yards per play and one touchdown. Remove Mahomes’ targets to those three, and his yards per attempt increases from 7.00 to 7.25, his touchdown rate increases from 4.43% to 4.68, and his interception rate drops from 2.00% to 1.56%.

• Rashee Rice’s increased role: Rice logged a season-high 93% route participation rate in the AFC Title game and is averaging an 89% rate this postseason. That is up drastically from his 57% rate during the regular season, which includes just a 35% rate in Weeks 1-6 and a 63% rate from Weeks 7-13. Rice has been targeted on 24.9% of his routes and caught 80.5% of his targets, and his 2.35 yards per route rank 12th of 165 qualified pass catchers.

• Rested, healthy Travis Kelce: Kelce is averaging an 89% route participation rate in the playoffs, clearing 90% in two of the three games. During the regular season, he recorded an 80% route participation rate, failing to even crack 90% in a game until Week 11.

• Isaiah Pacheco’s workhorse role: Pacheco played a season-high 64 snaps against the Ravens and handled 39-of-42 (93%) of backfield carries over the last two playoff games, but Kansas City’s season-long numbers include 123 carries (31%) by running backs not named Isiah Pacheco. Those carries produced just 3.36 yards per carry and 3 rushes of 15-plus yards, a 2.4% rate, while Pacheco’s 268 carries produced 4.44 yards per carry with double the rate (4.8%) of 15-plus-yarders.

It’s not all positive for the Chiefs offense, though, as they will likely be without starting left guard Joe Thuney (questionable, pectoral). In pass protection, backup Nick Allegretti (81.5 Pro Football Focus grade) has earned similarly high marks to Thuney (84.5), but Thuney differentiated himself as a run blocker, edging Allegretti in PFF's run-blocking grade, 65.8-56.8. However, running behind left guard is something Pacheco has done only 29 times (10.8% of his total carries), with those carries having gone for 77 yards (2.65 yards per carry) with no touchdowns and a long carry of 8 yards.

Super Bowl Pick: Chiefs +2 (Bet to Chiefs +0.5)


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49ers Defense

The 49ers defense has fallen off since losing safety Talanoa Hufanga in Week 11, particularly in third-down passing situations. In Weeks 1-11 with Hufanga, the 49ers allowed a 38.2% success rate (eighth) and -0.270 Expected Points Added per play (fourth) on third-down passes, per RBSDM.com. From Week 12-on (excluding Week 18) without Hufanga, San Francisco allowed a 44.1% success rate (20th) and 0.125 EPA/play (22nd).

The 49ers defense's biggest edge is that it can get pressure with a four-man rush while dropping seven into coverage. Quarterbacks with scrambling ability tend to alter the calculus because it adds a player the defense has to account for. Mahomes is averaging 8.6 yards per scramble this season, and he is a more willing scrambler in this postseason, taking off on 7.3% of his career postseason dropbacks compared to 6.1% during the regular season, resulting in an average playoff rushing line of 4.8/26.9/5.9/0.29 compared to 3.9/20.2 /5.2/0.13 in the regular season.

Some of the best games by quarterbacks this season against the 49ers were by mobile quarterbacks, with the five quarterbacks to run at least five times against San Francisco – Josh Dobbs, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray – combining to complete 68.2% of their passes for 6.82 yards per attempt with a 9-to-2 touchdown/interception ratio and 5.4 yards per carry while San Francisco held all other quarterbacks to a 64.2% completion rate, 6.13 yards per attempt, and a 12-to-21 TD/INT ratio with 2.5 yards per carry.

The 49ers also could struggle against Kelce more than meets the eye. While they finished No. 4 in DVOA against tight ends during the regular season, they allowed 17 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown to tight ends in the playoffs and have struggled against the few high-quality tight ends they’ve faced, allowing T.J. Hockenson to catch 11-of-12 targets for 86 yards in Week 7, Trey McBride to catch 10-of-11 targets for 102 in Week 15, and Sam LaPorta to catch 9-of-13 targets for 97 in the Conference Championship.

On 18 targets against the aforementioned tight ends, highly regarded coverage linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw combined to allow an 88.9% catch rate and 10.5 yards per target compared to a 68.4% completion rate and 5.8 yards per throw on all other targets.

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All in all, Mahomes has two elite, high-percentage options in the short-to-intermediate area that catch 80% of their targets in Kelce and Rice, plus the option to take off and scramble at 8.6 yards a clip. He also has two receivers on the outside in Justin Watson and Marquez Valdez-Scantling that can stretch the field and win one-on-one (Watson and Valdez-Scantling average 2.28 and 1.56 yards per route against man, respectively, compared to 0.65 and 0.56 vs. zone).

All four of San Francisco’s losses and lowest point totals came against some of the most well-respected defensive coordinators in the game: Jim Schwartz (Browns), Brian Flores (Vikings), Lou Anarumo (Bengals), Mike McDonald (Ravens). While it’s fair to write off the first three because Deebo Samuel was hurt after nine snaps against the Browns and missed the Vikings and Bengals games while Trent Williams also missed the Vikings and Bengals games, the Ravens game should give us at least some pause for two reasons: 1) the 49ers were fully healthy on offense, and 2) it’s fairly recent, with the 49ers-Ravens game having taken place in Week 16.

The 49ers’ biggest edge is running the ball against the Chiefs’ 27th-ranked run defense in DVOA. While the run defense is unquestionably the Chiefs’ biggest weakness, some of that is by design: In the four games they gave up 130 or more rushing yards, they allowed an average of only 135.0 net passing yards. And in last year’s Super Bowl, they held Philadelphia’s No. 1 rushing offense to 117 yards on 32 carries. That came at the expense of pass defense, but Spagnuolo is working with a far superior pass defense this time (fifth in DVOA) than last year (14th).

It’s also worth noting that the 49ers’ most used concept is outside zone from 21 personnel, and per Sharp Football Analysis, the Chiefs allowed 3.6 yards per carry (ninth), -0.10 EPA/attempt (14th), and a 33% success rate (13th) versus outside zone from two-back sets.

Super Bowl Pick: Chiefs +2 (Bet to Chiefs +0.5)


Super Bowl Pick

Intangibles should favor the Chiefs.

Mahomes has nearly as many Super Bowl pass attempts (118) as Purdy has postseason pass attempts (133). Spagnuolo is one of the few defensive coordinators that can match wits with Shanahan. Spagnuolo’s second-half adjustments are second-to-none, helping the Chiefs allow an NFL-low 6.8 points per game in the second half this season. Reid has won two Super Bowls and been to four, while Shanahan is 0-2, with the elephant in the room being his team blew big leads in both.

Also , after facing a rest disadvantage each week from Week 12-17 and playing their final two playoff games on the road, the Chiefs are more battle-tested than a 49ers squad that has not played a game away from home since Dec. 31, 2023.

And finally, not only does Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker also have the edge in big-game experience over 49ers rookie Jake Moody, but Butker has made 40-of-42 field goals (95.2%) this season while Moody has connected on 24-of-30 (80.0%).

According to our Action Labs data, Mahomes is 10-1-1 against the spread (ATS) in his career as an underdog, covering by 7.5 points per game.

In the postseason, Mahomes is 14-3 straight-up (SU) and 12-5 ATS, covering by 2.9 points per game. His only SU losses in the postseason have come against Tom Brady (twice) and Joe Burrow.

Super Bowl Pick: Chiefs +2 (Bet to Chiefs +0.5)

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