“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
This quote, commonly credited to Albert Einstein (although there’s lots of evidence that he never said this) serves as a reminder that change is necessary to achieve any progress or success.
Yet somehow, Patrick Mahomes is an underdog again in the playoffs. Should we expect a different result? Or are the Chiefs going to repeat as champs and pull off a third straight betting upset?
The Chiefs closed as +190 moneyline underdogs and 4.5-point underdogs against the Baltimore Ravens at ESPN BET; it was the largest underdog role of Patrick Mahomes’ career. This came one week after being +130 dogs against the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round.
The past two weeks echo what we’ve seen from Mahomes over and over again; he thrives as an underdog, going 4-1 outright and 5-0 ATS in his toughest matchups.
No quarterback in the Super Bowl era has been better as an underdog than Mahomes. His 10-1-1 ATS record in those games is the best mark of any qualified passer in that span. Eleven of those games came on the road, with his near-perfect 10-0-1 away cover rate also ranking as the best in the Super Bowl era.
And did I mention that he has won 75% of those games outright?
Speaking of winning, Mahomes has won each of his past six postseason starts, one shy of tying four Hall of Famers (John Elway, Troy Aikman, Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw) for the second-longest streak in the Super Bowl era. Only Tom Brady’s 10-game streak from 2001-05 surpassed that mark.
However, most of those teams were favored to advance in their respective playoffs. This year’s Chiefs reached the title game as underdogs and they’re the ninth team in the past 20 seasons to pull off upset wins in the divisional round and conference championship. Those teams won the Super Bowl in six of the previous eight instances.
Underdogs as a whole have performed well in the Super Bowl as well, covering in three straight games (winning two outright) and posting a 9-7 W-L and 11-5 ATS record since 2007.
And then there’s the piece de resistance: Andy Reid is elite coming off a bye. He’s 23-15 ATS in his career with at least 12 days to prepare for a game and 31-7 outright in those games. The Reid-Mahomes duo is 11-2 straight up with an extra week off (and yes, they do have an above average record overall, but this is a better win pct than they have on regular rest).
So, if you scrolled to the bottom to read my picks, here’s what you missed:
Patrick Mahomes is the best QB against the spread as an underdog in the Super Bowl era.
He’s also the best on the road in that split.
He’s chasing Tom Brady’s record for consecutive playoff wins.
Underdogs have performed well in recent Super Bowls.
Teams that pull off upsets to reach the Super Bowl have won more titles historically.
Andy Reid is elite with an extra week to prepare for a game.
The Chiefs have looked objectively better in the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs ML (+108)
I don’t often like going against analytics models and FPI has the San Francisco 49ers as a 3-point favorite. At face value, that would have me tailing the 49ers and being happy with the field goal. But at a certain point, it’s important to understand what the model is projecting and how it works.
Recent performance is factored in and a lot more effort is put into projecting success rates as opposed to simple win/loss results. On average, that works well for predicting future outcomes. But Kansas City has adapted its offensive game plan — giving the ball only to its three best players — and its sticking with it. The Chiefs have played three of FPI’s six toughest teams in the playoffs and dispatched all of them.
Meanwhile, the 49ers’ defense has looked beatable in the playoffs, surrendering 24 first-half points and 442 yards to the Lions (182 on the ground) and letting the Packers reach the red zone on each of their first five offensive drives.
The Chiefs losses this season also look less ugly under a microscope. In reverse chronological order:
20-14 to the Raiders: didn’t allow a single offensive touchdown, outgained LV by 100+ yards.
20-17 to the Bills: Toney’s offsides penalty cost K.C. the go-ahead touchdown with 1:12 left (but didn’t really affect the play).
27-19 to the Packers: scored on first four drives, and the defense lost its signal-caller Drue Tranquill on opening drive.
21-17 to the Eagles: Led or tied for 53 minutes, turned it over twice in the red zone.
24-9 to the Broncos: Committed five turnovers, still outgained Denver overall and per play.
21-20 to the Lions: Played without Travis Kelce, allowed a pick-six.
So yeah, K.C. isn’t infallible. But it’s likely going to require injuries or a lopsided turnover differential, maybe a San Francisco defensive touchdown to prevent this game from coming down to the wire, and I’ll ride with the great quarterback of this generation when all the chips are down.
Under 47.5 Points (-115)
Going back to the well here, with what I believe is my most common pick of the season, a Chiefs under.
I’ve used this countless times, but it still rings true — the Chiefs didn’t have a single game top 51 points this season. Only two games even went above 48 total points, and five of the past eight stayed under 40. Kansas City hasn’t allowed 30 points all season and hasn’t scored 30 points in over two months.
Unders are also 4-1 in the past five Super Bowls and 11-8 in the Super Bowl since 2004. Teams tend to play slower and tentative at the start of title games.
If you’re a little worried about a 27-21 or 27-24 final score, bump it up a few points and take an alternate under like 52.5 for -200 and add a safe leg like Mahomes 1+ Pass TD to make a parlay closer to even odds.
Lots of credit to my Stats & Info teammates for unearthing some of the great storylines and charts you see here.