LAS VEGAS — A hot debate could be decided in this Super Bowl. Or the wait for the right answer, if there is one, could be several years down the road. Who’s the greatest quarterback of all time — Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes?
The stakes get no higher than in Super Bowl 2021 on Sunday, when Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off with Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. If Brady wins his seventh championship, the debate is history. If Mahomes takes the head-to-head duel and wins his second title, the phenom could one day ascend to GOAT status.
Time will tell, and the debate might never be settled, but it would seem fitting for this game to be decided in overtime. You can bet on that. The Chiefs are 3.5-point favorites over the Buccaneers at BetMGM — the line is 3 at most other sportsbooks — yet there are hundreds of other ways to bet the Super Bowl.
It should be a close, entertaining game. Proposition bets guarantee it’s not going to be boring. Even if it’s a blowout, every play will matter due to the props.
At BetMGM, the prop on the game going to overtime pays 9/1 odds (compared to 6/1 at some other books). Some will say that’s a sucker bet, considering only one of the previous 54 Super Bowls went to overtime, but it’s also a fun long-shot bet.
Since Super Bowl props were introduced at Las Vegas books in the mid-1980s, a one-page menu with 20 to 30 options has exploded into a betting buffet with more than 500 types of wagers. Props have become a big part of the Super Bowl betting circus, offering pure amusement for Average Joes and serious money-making opportunities for sharp pros.
Prop betting accounts for around 50 percent of the game’s wagering handle at many books, and it starts with the coin toss. Believe it or not, betting on heads or tails is among the most popular props. The hundreds of remaining wagers require handicapping skill.
In Nevada, props are restricted to what is determined on the field of play, using the official box score, so the color of Gatorade dumped on the winning coach or which songs are performed at halftime are not offered. The Gatorade prop is offered in New Jersey (orange is the +140 favorite at Bet MGM). In any state, always shop for the best prop prices (the following are from the Circa, South Point, Westgate SuperBook and William Hill books in Las Vegas.)
First score of the game: Field goal/safety (+190)
A touchdown is the favorite to be the first score, but the South Point offers the top plus-price on the other side (most other books price this around +160). In the Chiefs’ 27-24 win at Tampa Bay in the regular season, Kansas City scored first on Harrison Butker’s 19-yard field goal.
More points scored in second half/OT -1.5 (-110)
In nine Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots, Brady’s offenses produced a total of three points in the first quarter. Brady is a slow starter in title games, for some odd reason, and the Chiefs have had a habit of falling behind in playoff games the past two seasons. If those trends continue, expect more scoring after halftime and lay 1.5 points at William Hill.
Second-half touchdowns 3.5: Over (+110)
The total of 56.5 projects six or seven touchdowns to be scored. Envision how the game script could play out, and it’s easy to see Brady and Mahomes warming up before getting involved in a second-half shootout.
Roughing the passer penalty: Yes (+100)
NFL rules protect all quarterbacks to an absurd degree; a defensive player’s hand brushing a helmet is a penalty. These QBs demand superstar treatment from the officials, so a penalty should be better than a coin-flip proposition.
Brady touchdown pass in third quarter: Yes (+140)
This is a two-part bet in connection with a Brady TD pass in the fourth quarter at +110. The Westgate offers plus-prices on each quarter, so it only takes one Brady TD in the second half to turn at least a small profit. Brady had two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in the teams’ first meeting.
Antonio Brown receptions 4: Under (-110)
Brady targeted Brown often late in the regular season, but Brown had a total of only three receptions in the Buccaneers’ first two playoff games. He missed the NFC title game with a knee injury and seems unlikely to be a major part of the game plan this week.
Tyreek Hill receiving yards 92.5: Over (-110)
Hill torched Tampa Bay the first time around by totaling 13 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns. In the playoffs, Hill had 172 yards against Buffalo and 110 against Cleveland, so anything under 100 is a low number.
Will the game be tied after 0-0? Yes (-110)
Bet against a blowout. The most likely script is a tight contest that features Brady and Mahomes trading shots until a dramatic ending.