The spread rarely matters in the Super Bowl
Last season, the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl but fell a 4.5-point favorite in a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Looking back at recent NFL and Super Bowl history, this result was quite the outlier.
Earlier this NFL season, I wrote about how the spread rarely comes into play when betting on the NFL. In other words, the underdog usually wins outright or the favorite covers the number. Not often does a favorite win the game without covering the spread. In these playoffs, we’ve seen six favorites win and cover, three underdogs win straight, and three favorites win without covering the spread.
Looking at recent Super Bowl history, these results are even clearer. If you want Kansas City to win the Super Bowl I would consider passing the 1.5 points the odds makers give you.
Distribution rarely matters
Last season, Cooper Kupp scored a touchdown with 1:25 left to give the Los Angeles Rams a 23-20 lead over the Cincinnati Bengals. On the Bengals’ subsequent drive, a fourth stop by Aaron Donald and the Rams defense ensured 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, who secured a 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals but didn’t take cover as a 7-point favorite. This game featured Santonio Holmes’ incredible late catch in the end zone. LaMarr Woodley’s stripsack against Kurt Warner in the dying seconds secured Pittsburgh the win.
Here’s a list of every Super Bowl between those two encounters:
Super Bowl LV: Buccaneers win 31-9 vs. Chiefs, win straight as a 3-point underdog
Super Bowl LIV: Chiefs win 31-20 over 49ers, tie as 1.5-point favorite
Super Bowl LIII: Patriots win 13-3 over Rams, tie as 2.5-point favorite
Super Bowl LII: Eagles win 41-33 over Patriots, win straight as a 4-point underdog
Super Bowl LI: Patriots win 34-28 over Falcons, tie as 3-point favorite
Super Bowl L: Broncos win 24-10 over Panthers, win straight as a 5-point underdog
Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots win 28-24 against Seahawks, game was a pick ’em
Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks win 43-8 over Broncos, win straight as a 2.5-point underdog
Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens win 34-31 over 49ers, win as a 4.5-point underdog right off the bat
Super Bowl XLVI: Giants win 21-17 over Patriots, win straight as a 2.5 point underdog
Super Bowl XLV: Packers win 31-25 vs. Steelers, tie as 3-point favorite
Super Bowl XLIV: Saints win 31-17 vs. Colts, win as 5-point underdogs right off the bat
The story goes on
If you like Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, set the points instead of taking the moneyline based on NFL history. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) The trend goes back even further
Recent history shows that the spread has only played a role in one of the last 13 Super Bowls. If you go back to the beginning of the Super Bowl era, the results aren’t much different.
The favorite has won 56 Super Bowls and played in 29 of them. Eighteen more times the underdog has won directly. Twice the final score landed right on the range, resulting in a push. In all, the favorite has won the game just seven times in 56 years but has failed to cover the span. In other words, the spread only played a role 12.5% of the time. That’s not much different than what we’ve seen in the NFL over the past few regular seasons.
Last year the spread came into play. That could lead to some actuality 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 rather than taking the 1.5 points and putting -110. If you like the Eagles, put the 1.5 at -110 and don’t pay the extra juice on the money line at -125.