Updated 2021 Super Bowl Odds, Spread, Picks: How to Play Bucs vs. Chiefs
Getty Images. Pictured: Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady.
Editor’s note: Trailing 21-6 at the start of the second half, the Chiefs are currently like 3.5-point favorites at DraftKings.
2021 Super Bowl Odds
The wait is almost over!
The most accomplished quarterback in NFL history will square off against the league’s hottest young signal-caller as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers attempt to dethrone Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs as Super Bowl champions.
As the biggest sports betting event of the year, we’re here to guide you through betting the most important angles, starting with the spread and over/under. A panel of our NFL betting analysts and verified experts in the Action app break down how they’re betting both markets below.
Super Bowl Spread Bets
Koerner: The Chiefs suffered another loss along their offensive line when left tackle Eric Fisher tore his Achilles in the AFC Championship. It was a crushing blow to a line that’s already missing the following starters: Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (opt-out), left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (back).
The timing of Fisher’s injury could not be worse considering the Chiefs face a defense that ranked third in pressure rate on the season and just welcomed back Vita Vea, who ranked fifth out of 70 qualified defensive tackles with an 11.3% pressure rate.
But if there’s a quarterback who can overcome offensive line woes, it’s Patrick Mahomes: When given a clean pocket this season, Mahomes ranked first out of 37 qualified quarterbacks in success rate. But even when facing pressure, he was fifth.
Where the Bucs could pose real issues for Mahomes is their ability to generate pressure by rushing only four or fewer and having seven players drop back in coverage.
The Bucs were able to sack Aaron Rodgers five times in the NFC Championship while rushing four or fewer. That was against a Packers offensive line ranked first in ESPN’s pass-block and run-block win rate metrics. If they can have a similar performance against a decimated Chiefs’ O, line, I believe the Bucs could win this game outright.
The betting public tends to overlook offensive line injuries, and with 63% of the money pouring in on the Chiefs as of Friday, that is likely the case here (find real-time public betting data here).
Steve Spagnuolo has done an incredible job as the Chiefs defensive coordinator. His scheme is designed to be a run funnel defense, as seen by their ranks in Football Outsiders’ DVOA over his first two seasons:
- 2019: 7th vs. pass; 26th vs. run
- 2020: 16th vs. pass; 31st vs. run
It’s a smart strategy.
“You think you can keep up with Mahomes and our offense by running the ball on us? Good luck with that.”
The problem is that they meet their match against a potent Tampa Bay offense. The Bucs have now scored 30 or more points in six straight games. It’ wasn’t unreasonable to think their offense would get better as the season went on. After all, Tom Brady joined a new team and system with a limited offseason.
It appears the offense is hitting its stride at just the right time.
My power ratings project the Chiefs as 1.5-point favorites. And I’m not awarding the Bucs any home-field advantage despite this being the first time a team plays the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Therefore, if the Bucs do end up benefiting from any variables that come with playing at home this week, it will be the icing on the cake.
Brady has gone 27-12-2 against the spread as an underdog over his career according to our Action Labs database. I’ll gladly take the GOAT at +3, though I would consider paying up to get the extra half-point at +3.5 if you can get it for -130 or less.
Wilson: A simple viewing of the Chiefs’ offense in the AFC Championship is enough to make any gambler excited about throwing money down on the favorite at the Super Bowl. The star power of Mahomes and a handful of healthy skill position weapons led to a win over the Bucs earlier this year, which also helps.
The Chiefs are third in explosive play rate, supported by 77 explosive passes in 730 attempts. The Bucs may have learned their lesson leaving Tyreek Hill in single coverage, allowing touchdown passes of 44 and 75 yards in that Week 12 meeting — no other Chiefs player exceeded 20 yards on a single play during the game.
The Bucs’ defense has been the unsung hero of the playoffs thus far with five sacks and eight quarterback hits against a Packers offense that was the NFL’s top team in success rate. And while the Buccaneers middle in success rate, they really stand out against the big play: They’re fourth in opponent explosive pass rates (per Sharp Football Stats). More importantly, tackling in open space could be the difference in this Super Bowl. Their defense ranks fifth in Open Field Yards and first in Second Level Yards (per Football Outsiders), which when combined with their rank of first in line yards, means that the Bucs aren’t giving up a ton of extra yards to any opposing weapon.
Conversely, these are areas in which Kansas City can be exposed.
The Chiefs’ defense ranks 25th in adjusted line yards and dead last in power success rate. Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette should have no issues granting Tom Brady decent yards to go on third down. Even then, the Bucs could elect to run on third down considering the Chiefs are dead last in third-down defensive efficiency against the run.
Count me in on Tampa with the points.
Freedman: When the Chiefs and Buccaneers played in Week 12 at Raymond James Stadium, the Chiefs won by only three points, but they very much controlled the game.
In the first quarter, the Chiefs sprinted to a 17-0 lead. At the start of the fourth quarter, they were ahead 27-10. Mahomes was a delicious 462-3-0 passing while Brady was a good-but-not-great 345-3-2 passing.
In a vacuum, I believe the Chiefs are more than three points better the Bucs, and I’m not dissuaded by the fact that the Bucs are playing this game in Tampa Bay. Home-field advantage doesn’t mean as much this year as it usually does, and the fans at the Super Bowl tend not to be the diehards.
Plus, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been dominant on the road, where he is an A-graded 40-22-1 ATS (26.8% ROI) according to our Action Labs data.
Similarly, Mahomes is 15-8-1 ATS (28% ROI) on the road.
Finally, as good as Brady has been throughout his career, bettors who have gone against him in the conference championships and Super Bowls since 2003 (as far back as our database goes) are 12-9 ATS (10.9% ROI).
Super Bowl Over/Under Picks
Click on a pick below to skip ahead to that analysis.
Palmer: Super Bowls tend to be more about defense, so it makes sense why many people are expecting a lower-scoring game, but we could see a higher-scoring showdown than the market indicates.
In their Week 12 meeting, these teams combined for 960 yards of offense with the Chiefs putting up 7.5 yards per play and the Buccaneers putting up 7.6 yards per play. Looking back, these teams performed well under expectation despite the Buccaneers not getting anything going offensively until that game was all but over, with the Chiefs holding a 27-10 lead before the Buccaneers scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to cover the spread.
Bruce Arians knows that the Bucs will have to be much more aggressive in order to beat this Chiefs team, so you can expect a faster start from an offense that’s really found its footing after the Week 13 bye. The Bucs have averaged 34 points in the seven games since, scoring fewer than 30 points only once: Against Vikings, who controlled the time of possession 39:03 to 20:57, and the Bucs still managed to score 26 points.
As for the Chiefs, we just aren’t expecting them to run the ball very often against a Buccaneers defense that’s first against stopping the run and has Vita Vea back in the lineup. If the Chiefs are passing the ball more, that should lead to more points.
Freedman: I’ve taken a small position on the under, although I feel incredibly nervous about it because I’m basically betting against Mahomes and Brady.
It’s not hard to see how this could go against me.
But my “models” (a.k.a. numbers thrown together in a spreadsheet) put this game at 55.5, and I feel the need to #TrustTheProcess.
In Week 12, the Chiefs and Buccaneers combined for 51 points in Tampa Bay, so we know the under is very possible despite the offensive prowess of both teams.
What gives me the most faith in the under is the matchup between the Bucs offense and Chiefs defense.
The strength of the Bucs offense is their wide receivers, but the Chiefs allowed a league-low 169 receptions to opposing wide receivers in the regular season. The Chiefs’ defense is schemed specifically to limit production on the perimeter and downfield. And that means the Bucs will likely need to grind their way down the field in order to score points, and that will slow the game down, which should drive the total to the under … in theory.
Again, I’m betting against Mahomes and Brady. I’m fully aware I could look like a moron (or more of a moron) by Monday morning.
But if the Chiefs are able to limit the opportunities and production for wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown and force Brady to funnel the offense through running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate, then I’ll like my chances of cashing this ticket.
BetMGM is offering the best number at 56.5 as of Saturday afternoon.