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Sports betting winners and losers: Buccaneers, not Chiefs, have been the better bet this season

Frank Schwab
·6-min read

Against the spread records aren’t predictive. Yet, they mean a little something.

The once-a-year bettors who make their way to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl or are figuring out how to download an app in their home state might think that the Kansas City Chiefs were the best bet in the NFL all season. They went 16-1 straight up in games Patrick Mahomes started, counting playoffs. Their offense has been stunningly good in the postseason.

Bettors know better.

The Chiefs covered the spread last week, and that broke a long and odd drought. The Chiefs had been winning every week but their opponent was covering the spread. Kansas City had not covered the spread or won by more than six points since Nov. 1. They didn’t cover in the divisional round against the Cleveland Browns, though Mahomes’ concussion played a role in that.

Kansas City was just 7-9 against the spread in the regular season, the same record as teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions. Only six teams in the NFL were worse against the spread, and because the Chiefs are such a popular team to bet on, sportsbooks were quite happy every time the Chiefs failed to cover the spread.

That leads us to Super Bowl LV. The point spread has bounced around a bit. It opened at Chiefs -3.5, moved to Chiefs -3 on Monday and was back at -3.5 on Tuesday morning at BetMGM. Both favorites got most of the bets in the championship round, and it’s likely the Chiefs will get most of the bets in the Super Bowl.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, were pretty good to bettors this season and were a good value despite a lot of offseason hype. They were 9-7 against the spread, and 2-1 in the playoffs with two straight-up wins as an underdog. Only five teams were better than the Buccaneers against the spread this season.

In the first meeting between the teams on Nov. 29, the Chiefs went out to a big lead and looked safe as 3.5-point favorites. The Buccaneers rallied with 14 points in the fourth quarter and lost 27-24, getting the backdoor cover by a half-point.

Maybe the teams’ ATS history matters, maybe not, but it’s something to consider before betting on Super Bowl LV. The Chiefs could cover, like they did against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC championship game, but that’s one of the few things they weren’t very good at the past couple months.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) exchanges words with Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (95). (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) exchanges words with Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (95). (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

Here are the winners and losers from the past week in the sports betting world:

WINNERS

Kevin Durant and LeBron James: Basketball is a young man’s game, but the NBA MVP odds at BetMGM indicate otherwise.

Among the six players whose odds are under +1000 for NBA MVP, two are recognizable legends. Kevin Durant is +600 and LeBron James is +900. Luka Doncic is still the favorite at +350, but don’t underestimate the narratives of the two former MVPs.

Durant, 32, is writing an amazing story. He missed all last season with an Achilles injury but has been great so far for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s second in the NBA in scoring at 30.4 points per game, trailing only Bradley Beal. Durant is one of the all-time greats and looks as good as ever.

James is 36 but showing no signs of slowing down. He scored 46 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. The Los Angeles Lakers will be a championship contender again, and James’ 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists will stand out to voters. Karl Malone won his second MVP at age 35, and James has a chance to beat that record.

Even if the MVP doesn’t go to Durant or James, it has been fun watching them continue to dominate against players 10 or more years younger.

Dustin Poirier: Anyone who didn’t buy into the Conor McGregor hype had a nice betting weekend.

Poirier scored an upset as a +270 underdog over McGregor at UFC 257. The line moved from McGregor -190 to -310 as money poured in on him. Poirier’s brutal second-round knockout generated only a few fewer memes than Bernie’s mittens, and was an especially nice win for one bettor.

The focus after the fight was still on McGregor and his future, but some bettors might have a new favorite fighter.

LOSERS

Green Bay Packers: BetMGM said the biggest win it has had on a single event the past 12 months was on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beating the Packers in the NFC championship game.

Of course, that means the biggest loss for bettors as a whole over the past year was the Packers on Sunday.

The Packers ended up getting 79% of the money bet on the NFC championship game. They came out flat, gave up a huge touchdown near the end of the first half and had their rally fall short. Aaron Rodgers not running for it on third-and-goal and the Packers kicking a field goal on fourth-and-goal will be talked about for a long time.

The good news for the Packers, assuming Rodgers returns, is they’re the second favorite in the Super Bowl LVI market (yes, those odds are up already at BetMGM). The Packers are +900, not far behind the Chiefs at +600. But bettors might need some time to forget what happened in the NFC title game.

BetMGM in the Super Bowl futures market: When there were eight teams left in the NFL playoffs, only two were a liability to BetMGM when it came to the Super Bowl futures bets it had collected.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Kudos to Super Bowl futures bettors. The Chiefs took in the most bets in the Super Bowl futures market, but at lower odds than the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers were the team BetMGM is rooting hardest against, after they took in the second-most bets but most of them at +1100 or higher.

No matter how Super Bowl LV turns out, bettors got the best of the sportsbook when it came to those futures bets.

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