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The Kansas City Chiefs Were Never Underdogs — Even When They Were

The Kansas City Chiefs Were Never Underdogs — Even When They Were article feature image
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TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP. Pictured: Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback #15 Patrick Mahomes celebrates with the trophy after the Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII against the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

No one outside of Kansas City looks at the Chiefs as an underdog story. Why would they? The Chiefs just won back-to-back Super Bowls after stunning the San Francisco 49ers in an overtime thriller and have three championships over the past five seasons.

Even Patrick Mahomes doesn't see himself as a 'dog, rightfully so after the three-time Super Bowl MVP engineered a comeback in the second half of Super Bowl LVIII.

"Just know the Kansas City Chiefs are never underdogs," Mahomes said with pride on the podium after the win. "Just know that."

The reality is sportsbooks clearly looked at the Chiefs as underdogs during their run through the playoffs and in the Super Bowl — they were favorites just once in the playoffs during the Wild Card round. Public bettors finally got tired of doubting the "underdog" Chiefs and 69% of the money and 62% of the bets wagered were on K.C. to cover the spread in the Super Bowl, according to Action Network's public betting data, which tracked more than 2 million bets across the spread, total and moneyline.

Yes, the Chiefs entered the season as the favorite to repeat, but by the end of the regular season, they were +900 to win the Super Bowl — behind the Bills, who they outlasted in Buffalo, the Ravens, who they stifled in Baltimore, and the 49ers, who just couldn't put the Chiefs away.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Blake Bell #81 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts after Mecole Hardman Jr. #12 scores a touchdown to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in overtime during Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium.

The Chiefs were underdogs in each one of those games, and each time they climbed one mountain, sportsbooks decided they weren't convinced. Since 2005, the favorite to win the Super Bowl entering the playoffs had won it all three times (Chiefs in 2023, Patriots in 2016, and the Seahawks in 2013), and the Chiefs prevented the 49ers from becoming the fourth.

Call it bad luck or a bad matchup, but the Niners had all the indicators of a superior team. They deserved to be the favorites and would have been 1.5-point favorites against the Ravens if they won the AFC Championship game.

The Niners ranked first in Offensive DVOA and fourth in Defensive DVOA, according to FTN. The 49ers were favored in all 17 regular-season games and were favorites to win the Super Bowl entering the playoffs. They're the 10th NFL team, and the fifth in 49ers franchise history, to accomplish both in the same season since 1980.

Seven of the previous nine teams in that spot made the Super Bowl — including five straight teams in the past 30 years — and four hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. The Niners again watched confetti fall in a scene reminiscent of the final seconds of their loss to the Chiefs in 2020.

This was just the third time in Super Bowl history that the reigning champion was listed as the underdog in the Super Bowl the following season. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl in the 1978 season against the Broncos but were listed as 'dogs in 1979 and lost to the Steelers. The Seahawks pummeled the Broncos in 2014 then lost to the Patriots the following season as underdogs. The Chiefs are the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls despite being 'dogs the second time around.

With their win, the Chiefs proved that, despite their middling record, all of the dropped passes, and the untimely penalties, they are better than everyone else once they get on the field.

And it all comes back to Mahomes.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Mecole Hardman Jr. #12 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with Patrick Mahomes #15 after scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 during Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium.

The Mahomes vs Tom Brady conversations appeared premature before Sunday's win. It still might be too soon — Brady has seven championships, Mahomes has three — but there's a common thread between the two greats: If you decide to bet against them, do so at your own peril.

Mahomes was listed as the favorite in his first 13 playoff games entering Super Bowl 57 last year, one game short of tying Peyton Manning for the longest streak (14) as a playoff betting favorite in the Super Bowl era. Mahomes has now closed as an underdog in four of his past five playoff games since that 13-game favorite streak.

Caesars vice president of trading Craig Mucklow summed up the dilemma of having Mahomes as an underdog perfectly with his comment to Vegas Insider's Patrick Everson after the game: "I knew we were in trouble when Mahomes got the ball last."

In the end, Mahomes was proven right: The Chiefs never were an underdog, even if they weren't the favorites.

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