Super Bowl LVII: Picking a Side
Case Keefer is the sports gambling writer for the Las Vegas Sun. He's also appeared on videos here at Pointspreads.ca. Keefer been reliably accurate for many years when it comes to NFL picks and Super Bowl betting. Readers may find his column, and picks, worth noting:
Super Bowl breakdown and pick against the spread for Chiefs-Eagles
All season long, bookmakers and the betting market in general power-rated the Kansas City Chiefs a tad higher than the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Super Bowl 57 point spread reflected that accordingly, at least for a minute or two. Circa Sports became the first shop in Nevada, if not the world, to post a line on the game in the closing seconds of the Chiefs’ 23-20 victory over the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago.
Kansas City -2.5 over Philadelphia was Circa’s opening number, which is hard to fathom now. The odds quickly flipped all the way to Philadelphia -2.5 before settling everywhere a point or a half-point lower within the first hour of wagering.
Some initially predicted a gradual move back toward Kansas City but it hasn’t happened yet. All the big money through the first week and a half, and the majority of the action overall, is on Philadelphia.
The key to handicapping this year’s Super Bowl is understanding why there’s been a sudden shift in perception towards Philadelphia, and whether it’s justified. Or just skip the point spread, and moneyline, all together.
It’s not like there aren’t thousands of other ways to wager with prop betting. But I’ve already handicapped a handful of props, and the pick’em is dedicated to breaking down the spread on every game throughout the season.
It’s been another successful year with a 149-128-8 record picking every game (41-36-7 on plays, 54-49-1 on leans and 54-43 on guesses) after splitting on the conference championships. Call me old-fashioned but there can’t be a Super Bowl without a play on the moneyline, so I’ll try to dissect the aforementioned questions below and come to a pick.
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Kansas City Chiefs +2 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, over/under: 51. From Opening Night at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix to media appearances at the team hotel in nearby Scottsdale, Ariz., Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been beaming all week.
That may sound like no big surprise — he’s in the Super Bowl, after all — but it wasn’t always this way. This year marks Reid’s fourth career Super Bowl, and he didn’t necessarily make it a point to soak in the moment in the first three. He was too stressed about the preparations to leave much time to enjoy the achievement.
“The older you get, the more you appreciate it,” Reid said after Wednesday’s practice at Arizona State University via the pool report.
Perhaps another reason for Reid’s permanent smile in the Arizona sun is the health of his team. Everyone on the active roster was a full participant in Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices, which feels like a minor miracle considering the state the Chiefs were in at the end of their victory over the Bengals.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was slowed by his high ankle sprain, and the majority of his receiving weapons were also hobbled or out of the game. Tight end Travis Kelce ended up being a gametime decision with a back injury. Wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney all exited during the game.
On the other side of the ball, top cornerback L’Jarius Sneed suffered a concussion.
Given that injury list, it made sense that the line first moved towards the much-healthier Eagles. For the Chiefs to be favored, there needed to be some concrete evidence that their injury situation would improve in the two weeks before the Super Bowl.
Now there seems to be some. Hardman is out, but he’s arguably the least important of all the aforementioned injured players and the rest of them will play.
Mahomes’ catch phrase all week is that he’s “pushing it” in regards to his ankle. He believes it can be close to full-strength in time for kickoff. Meanwhile, reports out of practice are raving about Toney’s mobility coming off his knee injury.
There are fewer details on the condition of Kelce and Smith-Schuster, but there’s no doubt the team’s leading pair of receivers should be in better shape than they were for the AFC Championship Game.
Kansas City’s receiving corps isn’t as strong as it was in two recent Super Bowl appearances but still more than competent enough to find holes in Philadelphia’s usual zone defense. Philadelphia is certainly stronger up front with the league’s best pass rush.
If Mahomes’ movement is as limited as it was two weeks ago, the likes of Hasson Reddick and Josh Sweat could pose a major problem. But Kansas City’s offensive line isn’t the liability it once was.
The Chiefs are fifth in the NFL in adjusted sack rate and should be able to protect Mahomes better than conventional wisdom dictates. The Eagles’ offensive line might actually have the tougher time blocking the likes of the Chiefs' Chris Jones and George Karlaftis when they're rushing.
Philadelphia’s offensive line is around average at pass protection. Run blocking is where it really shines, and perhaps where the Eagles can exploit the Chiefs the most.
Philadelphia could easily prove it was worthy of staying the favorite if quarterback Jalen Hurts and some combination of its three running backs — Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell — get into a rhythm on the ground. The Eagles have gotten the running game going in both playoff games so far to blow out the Giants and 49ers.
But Hurts hasn’t needed to do much, and it’s likely the Eagles will need more out of him in the Super Bowl. He has an injury concern of his own — a shoulder that kept him out of three games at the end of the regular season — and though it’s probably healed by now, it shouldn’t be totally glossed over.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, in contrast to Reed, has been more business-like and looked less comfortable in the spotlight leading up to the game. It’s almost surely just his personality and nothing to over-analyze, but it could also reflect the experience discrepancy.
Kansas City has been in these games and should have a level of calm in big moments. Philadelphia might too, but it’s less certain.
It’s another small advantage for the Chiefs. Add it all up and there seem to be a lot of small advantages for the Chiefs that aren’t accurately reflected in the betting line.
Circa is considered the sharpest sports book in Las Vegas for a reason. Yes, a lot of that is because it takes the biggest bets and moves lines accordingly. But their team of bookmakers is far from outmatched.
The opening price of Chiefs -2.5 that they came up with wasn’t too far off of reality. Kansas City should be a slight favorite, not a slight underdog in Super Bowl 57.
Chiefs 27, Eagles 24.
Play: Chiefs +2.
Note: The line at Spreads.ca is +1.5 (Keefer's column is based on odds at a local Las Vegas sportsbook)
Case Keefer can be reached at email@example.com