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Craven's Corner: Five bets to place on the Super Bowl

Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes is congratulated by Tampa Bay's Tom Brady after the Chiefs' victory in November at Tampa, Fla. The two will meet again on the same field Sunday in the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl is a national holiday for most fans of sports and/or commercials. It’s Christmas Day for handicappers. The Super Bowl provides a unique opportunity to place bets on the most outrageous parts of football from the length of the national anthem performance to the outcome of the coin flip. Craven’s Corner will avoid those bets in favor of football-centric wagers. 

The Corner enters its final installment of football season with a record of 76-54-2 after a 2-2 finish betting on the conference championship games' outcomes and over/under totals. We’re 41-33-4 on the NFL in the 2020-21 season with a 6-7-1 record in the current playoffs.

The game

Tampa Bay +3½ vs. Kansas City: The Chiefs are the favorites because of our collective belief in quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Everything else points to the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has the better defense. Kansas City’s offensive line is limping to the finish. Tom Brady is attempting to win his seventh Super Bowl and cement his legacy as the best football player in the history of the sport. The game is at Tampa, Fla. Still, Mahomes and his Chiefs enter as favorites. 

This game provides a conundrum for Craven’s Corner. Loyal readers know that we follow rules here on the Corner. Two of those rules collide: Never bet against Brady after December and never bet against Mahomes in general. The Brady rule has been around for longer, so we’re backing the old man to do what he does best: Ride a strong defensive performance to a Super Bowl victory. 

This game comes down to which team wins the line of scrimmage when the Chiefs are on offense. Can Kansas City create ways for a patchwork offensive line to provide time for Mahomes and his bevvy of weapons? Or can the Tampa Bay front seven put enough pressure on Mahomes to prevent him from taking advantage of a shaky secondary? My money is on the Tampa Bay defense. 

The Buccaneers need to beat Kansas City in a fashion similar to how the New York Giants bested Brady’s New England teams in two Super Bowls. 

Under 56½: Brady is the greatest of all time. I need to write that before I type this: He isn’t all that great in Super Bowls. His early years in New England were defined by strong defenses and a clutch kicker. His high-powered offenses failed against the Giants in two Super Bowls. He lost the best game of his Super Bowl career, at least statistically, to Philadelphia. He played poorly in the first half in the win over Atlanta. Brady has played in nine Super Bowls and has managed three total first-quarter points. THREE. 

Brady and the offense receive the press clippings, but credit the defense for Tampa Bay’s appearance in the Super Bowl. Despite an inconsistent secondary, the Buccaneers marched past Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers to reach the title game. Jason Pierre-Paul is playing at an All-Pro level at defensive end. Inside linebacker Devin White is a budding superstar. And defensive tackle Vita Vea is back from injury. 

All of this coincides with Kansas City’s offensive line falling apart at the worst time. Tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher are out, as is guard Kelechi Osemele. The only Week 1 starter playing his original position is center Austin Reiter. Kansas City head coach Andy Reid knows he’ll need to call plays that can help buy Mahomes some time, and Mahomes is plenty good at escaping pressure, but there are indications that this game will be a low-scoring affair. 

The props 

Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes each record 2+ passing touchdowns (-155): This one seems easy. Neither team forces the run game near the end zone. The best bet is to keep the ball in the hands of Brady or Mahomes. And with the Chiefs' line in a shambles, expect the offense to rely on the quick passing game near the goal line. Brady and the Buccaneers will take enough deep shots for him to reach two touchdown passes. It’s hard to imagine that Mahomes won't, as well.  

Each team to score 3+ points in the first quarter (-145): This bet is only on the board because of Brady’s struggles in the first quarter of his previous nine Super Bowl appearances. He’s never scored more than a field goal in the first quarter in any of them. Still, these defenses do allow a decent amount of yardage, and both quarterbacks will come out with a game plan two weeks in the making. I expect at least a field goal by both teams by the end of the first quarter. 

Chiefs to score 3+ points in each quarter (+130): The Chiefs are the most efficient offense in the league, and my money is on Mahomes to score at least three points in each quarter. No team averages more possessions than Tampa Bay, so that will give the Kansas City offense plenty of opportunities, whether the Buccaneers score or go three-and-out. 

How to bet

A quick refresher: Betting looks difficult, but it’s easy to grasp. A negative number denotes the favorite. The number after the negative represents how much money you’d need to bet to win $100. So, a -265 favorite would require a $265 bet to win you $100. Conversely, a positive number is the underdog. The number following the positive represents how much money you’d make on a $100 bet. So, a +265 bet means $100 earns you $265.

As for point spreads, the team with the negative number is the favorite. For example, Oklahoma was a -2½ point favorite over Texas in October. The Sooners needed to win by at least three points to cash. Texas needed to lose by 2½ points or fewer.

We’re using BetMGM.com as our general sports book. Remember that lines fluctuate based on bets and are subject to change before kickoff.