AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Even the bookies are having a problem figuring out a favorite in the Super Bowl.
Odds opened at pick ’em Sunday at many Las Vegas sports books, though the Kansas City Chiefs quickly moved to 1-point favorites over the San Francisco 49ers. Early bettors favored the Chiefs in a game that will almost surely set new legal betting records.
The combination of an attractive matchup, close odds and the spread of legalized sports betting means hundreds of millions of dollars will exchange hands over the next two weeks.
Bettors at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook got an early start after they were offered the pick ’em odds at halftime of the NFC championship game. Oddsmaker Jay Kornegay said about 80 percent of the early money was on the Chiefs and the line moved to Chiefs minus-1.
The over/under total started at 51 1/2 and was at 53 after a bettor put $110,000 on the over.
Odds and point spreads can fluctuate up until the kickoff Feb. 2 in Miami, largely because of heavy bets on one side or the other.
At the new Circa sports books, the game was pick ’em with a 52 total to open. Sports book director Matthew Metcalf tweeted that bettors could bet up to $100,000 a side on Sunday with limits of $500,000 a side beginning Tuesday morning.
Most books limit bets early to see if the point spread moves while being tested by so-called sharps.
Legal betting in Nevada’s 200 sports books was down last year at $145.9 million after setting a record the year before with $158.6 million in bets. A big percentage of Super Bowl betting is in so-called prop bets, which have become increasingly popular as they multiplied in recent years.
Books will begin releasing hundreds of different prop bets during the week, from who will win the opening coin flip to how many penalties each team will have.
Kornegay said he expects a new record to be set in Nevada on the game, largely driven by a good economy. Bets are now legal in 13 other states, too, though not in the home states of either team or in Florida.
After cashing in on QB gambles, Niners, Chiefs in Super Bowl
A little more than two years ago, a pair of teams gambled on quarterbacks who had all kinds of potential but were far from a sure thing.
Both teams guessed right.
The Kansas City Chiefs will meet the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 in Miami. Oddsmakers opened the line at pick ’em in a title game featuring one franchise, the Niners, trying to win a record-tying sixth Lombardi Trophy against another, the Chiefs, making their first appearance in the big game in 50 years.
Their quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes (KC) and Jimmy Garoppolo (SF).
Mahomes, whose gaudy college stats (his 5,052 passing yards led the country in 2016) were a byproduct of playing at pass-happy Texas Tech, was generally viewed as no better than the second-best quarterback in a 2017 draft that wasn’t considered strong on quarterbacks to begin with.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid disagreed. He gave up a first-round pick in the following year’s draft to move up to select Mahomes in 2017. Now, in his third season, Mahomes is a Super Bowl quarterback. He has 11 postseason touchdown passes, not a single interception, and has even led the Chiefs in rushing the last two weeks. With its 35-24 win over Tennessee on Sunday in the AFC title game, Kansas City became the first team in NFL history to go from trailing by double digits to winning by double digits in consecutive playoff games.
“Everybody liked this guy,” Reid said, in 2017, about the reaction from the Kansas City front office and scouting department after they’d spent time with Mahomes in advance of the draft. “Everybody fell in love with the kid and how he went about his business and how he played. That’s not something that happens every year.”
Garoppolo, a second-round pick by the Patriots in 2014, was considered the quarterback-in-waiting in New England, despite a limited resume as Tom Brady’s backup. But with the Patriots not ready to part ways with their franchise cornerstone, and with Garoppolo’s contract running out, the quarterback became expendable. San Francisco acquired him in the middle of the 2017 season for a second-round pick.
Garoppolo won his first five starts in San Francisco and, before the season was out, he had a five-year contract extension that, at the time, included the highest average yearly salary in NFL history.
“When you find the right guy at that position, it’s really good for your franchise,” Niners GM John Lynch said, not long after the trade.
Though Garoppolo’s 102 passer rating this season was only 3.3 points less than Mahomes’, San Francisco doesn’t depend on its franchise QB the way Kansas City does.
Exhibit A: Garoppolo threw only eight passes and totaled only 77 yards in San Francisco’s 37-20 win over Green Bay in the NFC title game Sunday. He is helped by a bruising running game recently anchored by Raheem Mostert (220 yards and four TDs on Sunday). And the Niners have found a game-wrecking defensive end in rookie Nick Bosa. The second pick in the 2019 draft had a sack Sunday to go with the nine he recorded over the regular season to fuel a defense that gave up the fewest passing yards this season.
It all helped the 49ers return to the Super Bowl for the first time since Colin Kaepernick took them in 2013. The departure of coach Jim Harbaugh and Kaepernick’s kneeling saga ushered in a period of instability. It included a carousel of four head coaches in four years that finally settled when Kyle Shanahan — the son of two-time Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan — got the job in 2017 and soon was joined by Garoppolo.
But when it comes to Super Bowl droughts — outside of the Jets and a handful of teams who have never been, nobody has waited longer to get to the title game than the Chiefs.
The team that lost to Green Bay in the very first Super Bowl, returned three years after that, in 1970, to win its first NFL championship. The Chiefs had their ups and downs in the decades since. The stat that stuck out the most was their 3-8 home playoff record since that victory over the Vikings in 1970 that marked the last game before the NFL and its old rival, the AFL, officially merged and began playing as a single league the next season.
Now, in a season filled with celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the NFL, the Chiefs are back, coached by Reid, whose 14 postseason wins compiled over 20 seasons do not include a ‘W’ in the biggest game of all.
Could the quarterback he took a chance on — a nimble-footed, strong-armed, next-generation talent — be the one to finally put him over the top?
Garoppolo, to say nothing of San Francisco’s running game and its top-ranked pass defense, will have plenty to say about that two weeks from now.
Mahomes’ feet, arm lift Chiefs to Super Bowl over Titans
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — With his best imitation of a tightrope walker, Patrick Mahomes high-wired the Kansas City Chiefs into their first Super Bowl since 1970.
Oh sure, Mahomes did his usual superb job passing, but it was his 27-yard tap dance down the left sideline late in the first half that gave the Chiefs their first lead. From there, they outran the run-oriented Tennessee Titans and star back Derrick Henry for a 35-24 victory Sunday in the AFC championship.
At last, for the third time overall, the Chiefs (14-4) are Super Bowl bound.
In two weeks in Miami, they will play San Francisco, which rolled to a 37-20 win over Green Bay in the NFC title game.
“I mean, it’s amazing. It really is,” said Mahomes, who had 294 yards passing and three touchdowns. “To be here, to be a part of Chiefs Kingdom and to be able to do it here at Arrowhead, these people deserve it. And we’re not done yet.”
Adding to the joy of the achievement, coach Andy Reid and owner Clark Hunt accepted the Lamar Hunt Trophy — named after his father — emblematic of the AFC title. It was handed over to them by Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell, with Mahomes and safety Tyrann Mathieu jumping for joy on the makeshift stage.
Next up: chasing the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“Very excited and very emotional to win the trophy that has my dad’s name on it,” Hunt said. “Yeah, 50 years were too long, but we’re going to another Super Bowl.
“Chiefs Kingdom, we are going to the Super Bowl.”
The Chiefs lost in 1967 in the first AFL-NFL Championship Game — nope, it wasn’t called the Super Bowl yet — to the Lombardi Packers 35-10. Three years later, one year after the New York Jets shocked Baltimore to lay claim to the AFL being equal to the long-established NFL, Kansas City was back. This time, it was known as the Super Bowl — indeed, Lamar Hunt is credited with coming up with the name — and his Chiefs hammered Minnesota 23-7 with the typical Wild West offensive flair and a staunch defense. Those are characteristics that helped carry KC this season.
Mostert lifts 49ers to Super Bowl with 37-20 win vs Packers
SANTA CLARA (AP) — Coach Kyle Shanahan received the NFC championship trophy from his Super Bowl-winning father Mike and raised it to the sky.
The San Francisco 49ers have gone on a surprising journey from No. 2 pick in the draft to one of the last two teams standing. They have one of the most unlikely playoff heroes to thank for it.
Journeyman Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns to make quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo mostly a spectator, Nick Bosa harassed Aaron Rodgers from the start and the 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 37-20 for the NFC championship on Sunday.
“I did have a lot of doubters and naysayers,” said Mostert, who has been cut seven times in his career. “Now I get to actually tell them, ‘Look where I’m at now.’
“I never gave up on my dreams.”
The Niners (15-3) also had their skeptics after winning just 10 games in the first two seasons under Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
But they put pieces and systems in place during those rough two seasons and now have advanced to the franchise’s first Super Bowl in seven years. The Niners will play the Kansas City Chiefs in two weeks in Miami when Shanahan tries to join his father as coaching champions.
“It was pretty special,” Shanahan said of getting handed the trophy from his father at the postgame ceremony. “To get a trophy handed to you by anyone is really cool. … It was pretty cool it happened there at the end.”
After giving a second thorough beating of the season to Rodgers and the Packers (14-4), the 49ers are the third team to make it to the Super Bowl a year after winning four or fewer games.