NFL Conference Championships Leveraging Tails: Bet on Patrick Mahomes to quell any injury concerns

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half in the AFC divisional round game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

• Patrick Mahomes OVER 275 passing yards: Many are concerned about Mahomes' injured ankle in this matchup, but we can position ourselves to bet on the tails outcome here — that Mahomes is mostly healthy.

• Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5): Bet on the Chiefs' defense, which could sneakily slow down a Bengals offense trying to hide its offensive line issues.

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Bet: QB Patrick Mahomes OVER 275 passing yards and Kansas Chiefs (-5.5, +400 — BetMGM)

This week’s circumstances function as a good reminder of what this column is truly about: leveraging tails, not mean or median outcomes. Now, nobody is certain about Mahomes’ health, but we can position ourselves to bet on the tails outcome — that Mahomes is mostly healthy — rather than just betting the spread, which is a bet on a mean or median outcome. 

Fundamentals:

When looking at how well these teams have moved and prevented teams from moving the ball, we see that the Chiefs are in a tier of their own on offense but are just about average on defense. But defense is generally unstable week to week, and the Chiefs have been a top-10 defense over the second half of the season, which shouldn’t be terribly surprising considering how many rookies are playing critical roles for them on that unit.

But it should be noted on the above graph just how much more efficient on offense the Chiefs have been than the Bengals. The difference between them is the same as the difference between the Bengals and Giants. This is all to suggest that we shouldn’t forget how much better the Chiefs are than any other offense in the NFL. And if Mahomes is healthy, defenses and matchups don’t really matter; he will produce no matter what.

Accounting for all situations, Mahomes has been the best. And again, the difference in his expected points added figure to Burrow’s is the same difference as Burrow to Andy Dalton. And no matter what situation you throw at Mahomes — blitz, pressure, man, zone — he still dominates.

While one can make the case that betting on an underpriced Mahomes is always a sharp bet, what elevates this one is how well the Chiefs have defended quick passes. With an injury-hampered offensive line, the Bengals are throwing the ball in less than 2.5 seconds about 60% of the time.  But the Chiefs have excelled defending such plays, allowing a negative average EPA on them.

This should not be terribly shocking considering how well their cornerbacks have prevented separation. Yes, the Bengals' wide receivers can beat anyone, but if the Chiefs' cornerbacks can slow them up on a few more plays, it might just be enough to stall a few drives and get crucial stops. And if Cincinnati has to allow for longer designing plays, Kansas City and its 37% pressure rate (seventh in NFL) could pose a major problem for the Bengals' offense. 

Bottom line: Bet on Mahomes at +400 rather than at even money, and bet on the Chiefs' defense, which could sneakily slow down a Bengals offense trying to hide its offensive line issues.


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