How to Bet Super Bowl LIV, According to the Experts

Paul Bovi of and VSiN reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their analysis

How to Bet Super Bowl LIV
The Vince Lombardi Trophy and 49ers and a Chiefs helmet. (Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers and gambling analysts lend us their insights about the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season. 

For this season’s final edition of Best Bets, Paul Bovi, a sports-betting expert from who’s been handicapping games for three decades, and VSiN reporter Josh Appelbaum share their thoughts on Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers in Miami.

You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some prop bets to make, so let’s get to it.

No. 1 49ers (Even, -1, O/U 54.5) vs. No. 2 Chiefs

In a game that, on paper at least, seems like a fairly even matchup, the Chiefs (14-4) are slim favorites despite having a slightly worse record than the 49ers (15-3) on the season. There are a number of compelling matchups on Sunday, including KC wide receiver Tyreek Hill potentially facing off against San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman, the 49ers running back corps battling a Chiefs front seven that has struggled against the run for much of the season and up-and-coming coach Kyle Shannahan matching wits with veteran play-caller Andy Reid. Seeing how quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Patrick Mahomes perform on the biggest stage in sports should also be must-see TV.

Related: The Expert’s Guide to Super Bowl LIV Prop Bets

Bovi’s take: “It’s a bad matchup for the Chiefs as they take on a better all-around team in the 49ers. KC’s shortcoming on defense is stopping the run and they will likely compensate here by stacking the box as they did in their AFC Championship game win over the Titans. That was successful, as the Chiefs were able to limit star running back Derrick Henry to 69 yards on 19 carries. The Titans were successful throwing the football early but saw a 17-14 advantage turn into a 28-17 deficit as the Chiefs scored on consecutive possessions to end the half followed by the start of the third quarter. In the Chiefs’ 51-31 rout of the Texans in the Divisional round, Houston was successful moving the ball early as they jumped out to a 24-0  lead. Then, KC scored 28 unanswered points going into halftime. In the game, Texans’ wideouts DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller combined for 207 yards receiving. The Chiefs ended the regular season with six straight wins.”

“The Niners are a run-first offense and come in with two very capable backs in Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida along with Tevin Coleman, whose dislocated shoulder will most likely limit his touches. The Chiefs will undoubtedly focus on pressuring Jimmy Garoppolo into a mistake, as he will enjoy single-coverage opportunities as he targets his receivers, including all-world tight end George Kittle. Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers completed 31-of-39 passes for 326 yards in the 37-20 Niners win in the NFC Championship Game, but was a mere 9-of-12 for 65 yards in the first half. Rodgers padded his stats when the Niners held a commanding 27-0 lead. In the previous round, the Niners shut down the Vikings. They have the superior defense and should be able to force quarterback Patrick Mahomes out of the pocket. KC’s running game is average at best, a stark contrast to that of the Niners. Chiefs running back Damien Williams’s numbers appear solid with 111 carries for 498 yards during the regular season, but upon further examination, his average was exaggerated by runs of 84 and 91 yards. Removing those two carries, his average drops from 4.5 yards per rush to 2.9. Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill will have to carry the load here and, while Jimmy G has a tendency to turn it over at times, we’ll bank on him limiting his turnovers to one. Look for the Niners to score a 31-26 win.”

Appelbaum’s take: “Super Bowl LVI is shaping up to be one of the most heavily bet and highly anticipated championship games in recent memory. Both teams are a combined 29-7, both are riding prolonged win streaks and both dominated their respective conferences during the regular season before rolling through the playoffs. You can’t ask for a better matchup than that. The 49ers are 11-6-1 against the spread (ATS) overall this season, including 6-6-1 ATS as a favorite but a perfect 5-0 ATS as an underdog. San Francisco has won four straight and covered in both of their playoff games. The Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs are 12-5-1 ATS overall, including 10-4-1 ATS as a favorite. The Chiefs enter the big game as the hottest team in football, having finished the regular season with six straight victories and then posting two more wins (and covers) in the playoffs.”

“The line opened at a pick-’em, signaling a true coin-flip game in the eyes of the sportsbooks. Roughly two-thirds of bets have come down on the Chiefs, which pushed the line up to Kansas City -1.5. That’s when some 49ers buyback hit the market, keeping the line at 1.5 or dropping it back down to 1 depending on the sportsbook. Both teams enjoy profitable trends in their favor. Super Bowl teams receiving at least a half-point of line movement in their favor (like KC) have gone 9-5 ATS (64.3 percent) since 2003 according to Bet Labs Sports. However, dogs (like SF) have performed well in the Super Bowl historically, going 10-6 ATS (62 percent) since 2003 and 7-9 on the moneyline (only 44 percent but +5 units due to the plus-money payouts). San Francisco also has unique value as a contrarian dog with an inflated line in what will be one of the most heavily bet games in Super Bowl history. In his career, Jimmy Garoppolo is 17-10-1 ATS (63 percent), including 8-8-1 ATS (50 percent) as a favorite but 9-2 ATS (82 percent) as a dog. Patrick Mahomes is 22-11-2 ATS (67 percent) in his career, including 17-11-1 (61 percent) as a favorite and 5-0-1 ATS (100 percent) as a dog.” 

“The over/under opened at 51.5. The public sees two high-scoring teams and is absolutely pounding the over. With more than eight-out-of-10 bets taking the over, this is one of the most lopsided Super Bowl total bets in recent memory. This heavy, one-sided action forced bookmakers to adjust the total all the way up to 55. That’s when we’ve seen some sharp buyback hit the under, settling the line back down to 54.5. It looks as though pros sat back and let the public drive the line as high as it would go and then pounded on the under at the magic number of 55. Historically, when the total is 50 or more the under has gone 4-1 in Super Bowls since 2003. This game will be played outdoors at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, not inside a dome or closed roof stadium. The forecast calls for comfortable temperatures in the mid-60s but also 8-10 MPH winds. Outdoor playoff unders are 77-60 (56.2 percent) since 2003. Bill Vinovich, the lead ref, has historically favored the under (58 percent). Both teams have been slightly profitable to the over this season, with San Francisco 9-8-1 and Kansas City 10-8.” 

“One last thing to keep in mind: with this line hovering around 1 or 1.5, it may be a better idea to place a bet on the moneyline instead of the spread. You would hate to bet the Chiefs -1 or -1.5 and have them win by one, in which case you either push or lose. You would also hate to bet the 49ers +1 or +1.5 and have them win outright when you could have bet them on the moneyline at +105.”

Our Pick: It’s admittedly a square play, but we like the Chiefs laying the point.

Last Week’s Picks: 2-0, Season: 41-49

Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.

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