Entering Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals had a 13-5 record against the spread. That was the second best mark in the NFL, behind only the New York Giants. Bettors who have backed Cincinnati all season long amassed a nice profit.
The line movement surrounding the matchup between Kansas City and Cincinnati was all over the place all week. Kansas City originally opened as a 3-point favorite. Quickly, the market moved in favor of Cincinnati. The Bengals became a 2.5-point road favorite by mid-week. As practice reports surrounding Patrick Mahomes came out, the market moved back in favor of Kansas City, which closed as a 1.5-point favorite.
At BetMGM, 69% of bets and 73% of the money was backing the Bengals to cover the number. They were a popular underdog. They were coming off a dominant win against the Buffalo Bills, meanwhile the Chiefs were operating with a compromised Mahomes. The Bengals have been good to bettors all season, but that wasn't the case on Sunday.
Both favorites cover
It was a tale of two different games on Sunday as both conferences played out their championship game. However, there was one fact that was true about both games: the home favorite won and covered the spread.
In the early game, any hope of a competitive game was dashed pretty quickly. The Eagles scored on their opening drive, but it wasn't without some controversy. On a 4th-and-3 from the 35-yard line, Jalen Hurts found DeVonta Smith downfield for a 29 yard gain. It was ruled a catch on the field, and the Eagles rushed to the line to snap the ball quickly to take a challenge out of the equation. Replays clearly showed the ball hitting the ground. However, the play stood and two plays later, the Eagles were in the end zone on a Miles Sanders run.
On the 49ers' first offensive drive, Brock Purdy fumbled, but the biggest takeaway from the play was that the 49ers' quarterback was injured. He hurt his elbow and was replaced by Josh Johnson. The 49ers defense stood tall for a while and eventually, San Francisco tied the game with a Christian McCaffrey touchdown.
However, right before halftime, the Eagles took a 14-7 lead on another Sanders touchdown. The 49ers got the ball back with under two minutes left. With their fourth-string quarterback now in the game, they had to decide whether they'd run out the clock or take some risks. Well, they took the risk and it backfired. Johnson mishandled a snap and Philadelphia recovered the ball. Four plays later, Boston Scott was in the end zone for a 21-7 lead.
In the third quarter, Johnson was hit in the pocket and banged his head on the ground. He was ruled out a few minutes later. Purdy reentered the game at quarterback, but it was obvious from the get-go that he wasn't physically capable of throwing the ball down field. Philadelphia sold out for the run on defense and added 10 points in the second half to claim a 31-7 blowout victory.
The Eagles were a popular bet. At BetMGM, 74% of bets and 82% of money was on the Eagles to cover as a 2.5-point favorite. It was a no-sweat winner. Football fans were robbed of a compelling game due to quarterback injuries, but Eagles' bettors probably weren't complaining too much.
In the AFC championship game, there was drama throughout. It was a field-goal kicking competition early as Kansas City took a 6-3 lead. On 4th-and-1 from the Bengals' 14-yard line, the Chiefs bypassed another field goal. The risk paid off immediately as Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce to extend the Chiefs' lead to 13-3. Cincinnati added a field goal before half time.
The third quarter saw the teams exchange touchdowns. Joe Burrow hit Tee Higgins for a 27-yard score to tie the game, but Kansas City answered immediately with a 19-yard connection between Mahomes and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Cincinnati tied the game early in the fourth quarter with a Samaje Perine touchdown.
The Chiefs punted the ball back to Cincinnati on their ensuing drive, but the Chiefs' defense intercepted Burrow. With 2:36 left, Andy Reid and the Chiefs had a decision to make. On 4th-and-8 from the 38-yard line, the Chiefs decided to punt and bypassed a potential 56-yard field goal. The Bengals picked up two first downs but were eventually forced to punt with 41 seconds left.
Skyy Moore returned the punt 29 yards and set the Chiefs' offense up at their own 47-yard line with 30 seconds left. With 17 seconds left, Mahomes scrambled for a 5-yard gain to get a first down. The Chiefs' offense would have needed a few more yards to get in legitimate field goal range, but they were bailed out because Mahomes was hit out of bounds by Joseph Assai. The 15-yard penalty set up a 45-yard game winning field goal by Harrison Butker.
The Chiefs won and covered as a 1.5-point favorite. Unlike the Eagles, the Chiefs weren't a popular home favorite. Most of the money was on the road underdog. The Chiefs win was a good result for the sportsbooks.
Two more unders
During the NFL regular season, unders went 149-119-3, which was good for a 55.6% win rate. It was a low-scoring season as plenty of big name quarterbacks struggled. Overall, scoring was down across the league.
The trend buckled in the first weekend of the playoffs. In the wild-card round, five of six games went over the total. Some wondered if that meant scoring would rise as the playoffs went on and the more prolific offenses in the league advanced. That hasn't been the case.
In the divisional round, unders went 4-0. This past weekend, both games went under the total.
The San Francisco-Philadelphia total closed at 44.5-points. With a 21-7 score at halftime, over bettors probably felt like they were in good shape. However, San Francisco played the majority of the second half with a quarterback that wasn't capable of throwing the ball down field. Philadelphia was more than content running the ball and killing the clock. The teams combined for just 38 points.
In the AFC championship game, the offenses were moving the ball pretty well. However, a lot of drives fizzled out in the red zone. Harrison Butker and Evan McPherson combined for five field goals. Joe Burrow threw two interceptions that killed drives as well. The game closed with a total of 48.5-points, but the two teams combined for just 43 points.
Looking forward, the under has hit in four consecutive Super Bowls. The total for the Chiefs-Eagles Super Bowl is currently set at 49.5-points.
Bettors struggle with props
Props are a popular way for bettors to get involved with betting games if they can't pick a side or bet the total. However, a bunch of the most popular prop bets this weekend at BetMGM failed to hit.
In the NFC championship game, bettors were expecting a big game from Philadephia's stars. Bettors liked both A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith to go over their receiving props. Brown's prop was set at 73.5 yards while Smith's prop was 66.5 yards. However, the Eagles didn't do much through the air. Smith was held to 36 yards while Brown had just 28 yards. Both went comfortably under their totals.
Jalen Hurts' rushing prop was also a popular bet. Bettors liked him to go over 46.5 rushing yards. Hurts came close, but he finished with just 39 yards on 11 carries. Maybe if the game was closer, he would have scrambled more, but he didn't need to.
In the AFC championship game, bettors made the bold move to try and fade Mahomes. A majority of the bets were on Mahomes to go under 285.5 passing yards. However, the Chiefs' quarterback racked up 326 yards and cashed the over for bettors who believe he wouldn't be slowed down by his ankle.
Bettors liked Chiefs' running back Isiah Pacheco to have a big game on the ground, but he had just 26 rushing yards, well under his prop line of 49.5 yards.