- Joined ESPN in 2014
- Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008
Only twice in the Super Bowl era have the two conference championship games featured point spreads smaller than a field goal. We’re set up for a third this weekend, but the lines have been on the move.
On Sunday afternoon, with the Cincinnati Bengals in command over the Buffalo Bills in the fourth quarter, oddsmakers for the SuperBook put up an early line on the AFC Championship Game. The SuperBook installed the Kansas City Chiefs as 3-point favorites over the Bengals. According to the SuperBook’s executive director John Murray, it was a “bad opener,” and within 30 minutes, the Bengals went from 3-point ‘dogs to 1-point favorites.
“We’ve taken only one bet on Kansas City so far,” Murray said approximately two hours after posting the opening line. “It’s been all Bengals money.”
The point spread eventually ticked back toward the Chiefs slightly at the SuperBook, which had the line listed at pick ’em Sunday night. On Monday morning, the consensus line was Chiefs -1.
Caesars Sportsbook, which opened with Kansas City -2.5, also took early money on the Bengals, including an influential bettor on Cincinnati that contributed to the line dropping.
“That two and a half was taken right away,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of Caesars Sportsbook, said of the early action on the Bengals. “You’re not going to be taking necessarily huge bets right off the bat, but it was a respected player that took [Cincinnati] +2.5 pretty early.”
Murray said the early action on the Bengals at the SuperBook was not necessarily from professional bettors, but more from customers who were paying attention when the line went up and had been following the reports of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ injured ankle. Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain in Kansas City’s win over Jacksonville on Saturday. Bookmakers said the early point spread reflected Mahomes playing but not being 100%.
Kevin Lawler, head of trading for PointsBet, said he believed the line would be around Chiefs -5.5, if Mahomes were at full strength. “But such is the impact of the soon-to-be MVP,” Lawler told ESPN on Sunday.
In the NFC Championship Game, the Philadelphia Eagles opened as 2-point favorites over the San Francisco 49ers at Caesars Sportsbook. The line had ticked up to a consensus Eagles -2.5 by Monday morning, with the majority of bets at Caesars being on favored Philadelphia.
“Both games are just mouth-watering clashes,” Pullen said. “The lines tell you these games should be close.”
Betting on another Maher miss
Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher trotted out in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the 49ers for what likely was one of the most heavily-bet extra points ever.
After Maher missed all four of his extra-point attempts last week, sportsbooks, in jurisdictions where allowed, offered odds on whether he’d miss another on Sunday.
The SuperBook opened the “yes” on the prop at 5-1 and attracted enough money to drive the price down to 3-1. The largest bet at 5-1 was $1,000, according to Murray, who said “all we took is ‘yes’ money.”
Sure enough, Maher’s first extra point against the 49ers was blocked, and bettors who took the “yes” cashed.
Someone who didn’t cash was Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, the Houston furniture store owner known to tie big sports bets to promotional giveaways. McIngvale had $2 million riding on the Cowboys to beat the 49ers straight-up Sunday. He placed the big bets with Caesars Sportsbook in Louisiana and offered customers who spent $3,000 or more at his store Gallery Furniture their money back if Dallas won. The Cowboys lost 19-12.
Someone who did cash was a bettor with FanDuel in Indiana, who nailed each of the players to score the first touchdown in the divisional-round playoff games this weekend in a $5 four-leg parlay that paid $72,795. The bettor captured the moment Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz scored the first touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers to culminate his bet on Twitter.
– Cameron Craig (@CameronJayCrai1) January 23, 2023
Odds to win the Super Bowl (via Caesars Sportsbook)
According to sports betting archive SportsOddsHistory.com, this is the first time in the last 45 seasons that the Super Bowl favorite has had odds longer than +200.
If the Chiefs close as the favorites against the Bengals, it will be the 15th consecutive playoff game that Kansas City has been favored, which is the longest such streak in the Super Bowl era.
The Bengals have covered the spread in nine straight games as an underdog.
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