NFL betting: The spread rarely matters in the Super Bowl

Last season, the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl, but failed to cover as 4.5-point favorites in a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. When looking back at recent NFL and Super Bowl history, that result was quite the outlier.

Earlier this NFL season, I wrote about how the spread rarely comes in to play when betting the NFL. In other words, the underdog usually wins outright or the favorite covers the number. Not often does a favorite win the game but fail to cover the spread. In these playoffs, we've seen six favorites win and cover, three underdogs win outright and three favorites win but fail to cover the spread.

When looking at the recent history of the Super Bowl, these results are even more pronounced. If you like Kansas City to win the Super Bowl, I'd consider passing on the 1.5 points the oddsmakers are giving you.

Spread rarely matters

Last season, Cooper Kupp scored a touchdown with 1:25 left on the clock to put the Los Angeles Rams up 23-20 over the Cincinnati Bengals. On the Bengals' ensuing drive, a fourth down stop by Aaron Donald and the Rams' defense ensured that was the final score.

That was the first time since 2009 that the betting favorite won the game but failed to cover the spread. The most recent example before last season was the Pittsburgh Steelers securing a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, but failing to cover as 7-point favorites. That game featured the incredible late-game catch from Santonio Holmes in the end zone. LaMarr Woodley's strip-sack of Kurt Warner in the final seconds secured the victory for Pittsburgh.

Here's a list of every Super Bowl in between those two matchups:

  • Super Bowl LV: Buccaneers win 31-9 over Chiefs, win outright as 3-point underdogs

  • Super Bowl LIV: Chiefs win 31-20 over 49ers, cover as 1.5-point favorites

  • Super Bowl LIII: Patriots win 13-3 over Rams, cover as 2.5-point favorites

  • Super Bowl LII: Eagles win 41-33 over Patriots, win outright as 4-point underdogs

  • Super Bowl LI: Patriots win 34-28 over Falcons, cover as 3-point favorites

  • Super Bowl L: Broncos win 24-10 over Panthers, win outright as 5-point underdogs

  • Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots win 28-24 over Seahawks, game was a pick 'em

  • Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks win 43-8 over Broncos, win outright as 2.5-point underdogs

  • Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens win 34-31 over 49ers, win outright as 4.5-point underdogs

  • Super Bowl XLVI: Giants win 21-17 over Patriots, win outright as 2.5-point underdogs

  • Super Bowl XLV: Packers win 31-25 over Steelers, cover as 3-point favorites

  • Super Bowl XLIV: Saints win 31-17 over Colts, win outright as 5-point underdogs

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 29: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 29, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
If you like Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, lay the points rather than taking the moneyline based on NFL history. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Trend goes back even further

Recent history shows that the spread has mattered in just one of the last 13 Super Bowls. If you go all the way back to the start of the Super Bowl era, the results aren't much different.

Through 56 Super Bowls, the favorite has won and covered in 29 of them. Eighteen other times the underdog has won outright. Twice, the final result landed exactly on the spread, leading to a push. Overall, just seven times in 56 years has the favorite won the game but failed to cover the spread. In other words, the spread has only mattered 12.5% of the time. That's not much different from what we've observed over the last few regular seasons in the NFL.

Last year, the spread came into play. That might lead to some recency bias or fear. However, the long term results speak for themselves. If you like the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, you're probably better off taking them on the moneyline at +105 instead of taking the 1.5 points and laying -110. If you like the Eagles, lay the 1.5 at -110 and don't pay the extra juice on the moneyline at -125.