2024 Super Bowl Prediction: A Chiefs-Centric Betting Trend

2024 Super Bowl Prediction: A Chiefs-Centric Betting Trend article feature image

Kathryn Riley/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes (left) and Andy Reid (right).

2024 Super Bowl Prediction: A Chiefs-Centric Betting Trend

The moment the betting line opened for those looking to make their Super Bowl predictions in Las Vegas with San Francisco as a favorite over Kansas City, the discourse surrounding the Chiefs demigod quarterback as an underdog began.

Bettors who had just cashed in on the Chiefs mild upset as a 4.5-point underdog took their victory laps on the idea that Mahomes is an auto-bet as an underdog. Thus far in his career, they’ve been correct. He’s 10-1-1 against the spread when closing as an underdog in his first six years in the league.

Here’s a fun hypothetical thought: If you told those Chiefs bettors before the game that the Chiefs wouldn’t score in the second half and that Kansas City managed just 17 total points, would they still bet the Chiefs? Most would (and should) say no.

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Kansas City advanced to its fourth Super Bowl in five years by beating Baltimore in the AFC Championship game, 17-10. Most of the commentary after that win was about how star quarterback Patrick Mahomes slayed both Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson on the road and resurrected the Chiefs offense en route to another AFC championship.

Mahomes' final stat line from the AFC Championship was 30-for-39 for 241 yards and a touchdown, more than enough in a vacuum to carry the Chiefs offense to a victory. However, the Chiefs offense didn’t score a single point in the second half, a continuation of an alarming trend that has plagued this offense all season long.

The Chiefs defense, and more specifically second-half defense, has propelled them to the Super Bowl with dominant displays in the second half of both the AFC Divisional Round and AFC Championship Game.

If Mahomes and Andy Reid are going to lift the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night as the first repeat champion of the NFL since New England in 2004, the defense will need to continue dominating and making up for the serious offensive struggles. Kansas City is preparing to take on the league’s best offense and its own offensive malaise has contributed to one of the most stunning trends of the entire NFL season.

Betting the second half under in Kansas City games this season has led to an 18-2 record. The Chiefs’ offensive efficiency and scoring numbers have fallen off a cliff in the second half and it has continued into the playoffs.

Season2H PPG
2019-2012.7 (9th)
2020-2113.2 (10th)
2021-2213.3 (9th)
2022-2313.3 (3rd)
2023-247.6 (28th)

Kansas City hasn’t usually needed to be an elite scoring offense in the second half because it often plays with a lead and few are better at shortening games and grinding down games with leads than Mahomes and the Chiefs. They settled in around ninth or 10th and then maintained the same scoring level in 2022-23 despite scoring league-wide taking a step back overall.

It’s a credit to the Chiefs’ initial game-planning and scripting ability that the first-half offense isn’t worse. Kansas City is fifth in dropback success rate and EPA per play offense. The Chiefs are also sixth in EPA per play offensively and seventh in success rate overall.

The first-half offense is sixth in points per game, just two spots and 0.3 points per game worse than the 49ers. They play considerably faster with the eighth-fastest pace in the NFL. Kansas City has scored on the first possession of all three of its playoff games — field goal against Buffalo sandwiched between touchdowns against Miami and Baltimore.

The Chiefs have played three playoff games with a seemingly rejuvenated offense, and the end result of that is 24 total points across three games. And they played two of those games against depleted defenses on short rest against Miami and Buffalo.

Kansas City ran 26 plays prior to kneel-downs in the second half of the AFC Championship Game and totaled 126 total yards. And 32 of those yards came on the final play with Baltimore desperate to prevent a first down on 3rd-and-9.

Season2H Under Record

The second-half Chiefs look considerably different than the first half offensively. The dropback success rate falls to 15th overall. The pace drops from eighth to 26th. Even when playing from behind, the Chiefs don’t play fast. Their passing explosiveness is way down this season despite the fact that Kansas City ranks third in pass rate over expected and first among playoff teams.

The Chiefs offense is 19th in EPA per play, 29th in success rate, dead last in rush success rate and 30th in rush EPA. On paper, the matchup suits the Chiefs to try to run the ball more against the vulnerable run defense of the 49ers.

Kansas City leaned heavily on Isiah Pacheco in both games with leads in the second half against Miami and Baltimore. Pacheco carried the ball 24 and 25 times in those two games. Even against the Bills, when the Chiefs spent most of the first three quarters playing from behind, Pacheco had 15 rush attempts.

Kansas City is 14-6 this season despite these mediocre offensive metrics because its defense is so versatile and forces teams to be so methodical. You can absolutely run the ball on the Chiefs (27th in rush defense DVOA), but you’re not going to hit explosive pass plays. The 49ers are the most explosive pass offense in the NFL, but they’re facing a defense with elite corners that is fourth in the NFL at taking away deep passes by DVOA.

The 49ers’ offensive line had major problems protecting Brock Purdy in the NFC Championship Game, and San Francisco’s offensive line is 27th in pressure rate allowed. The Chiefs love to bring pressure on third downs out of their dime defensive looks and other sub packages. They rank top 10 in pressure rate and sack rate in the NFL and combine that with an elite coverage unit.

Season2H Points AllowedRank
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If Kansas City is ahead in this game, you can expect the Chiefs to shorten the game as much as possible and lean on Pacheco’s ground game. The 49ers are generally quite good at covering tight ends and the middle of the field. The way to hit them through the air has been explosives down the field. That’s not really what this version of Kansas City excels at.

San Francisco is extremely slow and methodical itself, despite the explosiveness. The 49ers rank dead last in the NFL in pace. Even when playing from behind, up-tempo is not in their offensive DNA.

The 49ers will probably lean on their heavier offensive packages (two backs and a tight end) and force Kansas City to stop the run out of its base defense. The Chiefs couldn’t stop the run against Buffalo, but it also seriously shortened the game. Once Kansas City grabbed leads on Baltimore and Miami, both teams abandoned the run game almost entirely.

Unlike past years when teams could move the ball through the air and get scores on Kansas City’s vulnerable defense, Steve Spagnuolo’s halftime adjustments have been consistently underappreciated by the betting market. Nate Tice wrote about the Chris Jones effort phenomenon, in which the All-Pro pass rusher doesn’t offer much run-stopping until the fourth quarter of games. Jones has recorded as many tackles against the run in the fourth quarter this year as quarters one through three combined.

It shows up in the Chiefs’ full-season numbers as well. Kansas City is a bottom-10 run defense in the first three quarters, but ranks 17th in EPA per rush in the fourth quarter.

Much like the Chiefs paced themselves to play their best all-around football in January, Jones has paced himself to play his best when the leverage is at its highest. After all, the most important play of the Chiefs’ playoff run was the pressure Jones managed to get on Josh Allen on second down on the Bills’ final offensive possession of the game.

Without that key pressure and Allen misfire, Allen probably throws a touchdown and Buffalo becomes a favorite to win that game. The defense has dragged Kansas City over the line to the Super Bowl, and it’s hard to see the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl without a low-scoring second half for the 19th time in 21 games.

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