Betting News & Analysis

NFL Betting 2020: Player Props and Challenges for Super Bowl 55

Paradise, Nevada, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates his touchdown pass scored against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We are less than 48 hours away from a historic Super Bowl 55.

Some people tune in to watch the actual game while others focus on the commercials and halftime show, but the real ones are locked into the player props and betting action.

PFF has those gamblers covered, with the tools in place to help bettors find the best value bets available. And while some props have seen drastic changes from the open, others remain prime candidates to cash on Sunday. So, using our expected game script, let’s build a prop portfolio that will hit if our projected outcome is accurate. This portfolio will be applicable for any sports bettor, as will the numerous prop challenges and pools surrounding the event. 

After the pregame options are settled, the first direction can be taken from one of the biggest prop adjustments this week — if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the coin toss, do they receive or defer?

The implied receive probability of 41.7% is enough to see them start with the ball in most cases.

This opens up the first offensive play from scrimmage to be a run, at +100. There is no better way to start Super Bowl 55 than with Leonard Fournette and an inside run, and if Bruce Arians' recent playcalling tendencies are to be trusted, we should see a healthy dose of Playoff Lenny on the opening drive.

Arians has favored running the ball to start games this season, but his tendency isn't as drastic as that of Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, who have run 13 times to start games this season.

First offensive play from scrimmage: Run, +100

Even if Fournette isn’t effective on the game’s first play, there are plenty of other ways for the Buccaneers to move the ball downfield.

One often overlooked part is the addition of “no plays,” and the Super Bowl provides the unique opportunity to wager on these plays. The Buccaneers have run 90 offensive plays that resulted in a penalty, and 59 were on the defense. In contrast, the Chiefs have a slightly higher percentage of offensive penalties and are even worse defensively. 

If we assume the Buccaneers are starting with the ball, the implied probability of the Chiefs being the first team to commit a penalty at 57.3% isn’t high enough. 

First team to commit a penalty: Chiefs, -134

Whether the Buccaneers can come away with a quality first drive will mainly be based on Tom Brady‘s passing performance. As Timo Riske elegantly put in his look at both passing schemes, Brady has been distributing the ball downfield to an assortment of receivers like no other quarterback in the league. 

This provides longer prices than expected on certain Buccaneers touchdown props, as it’s tough to project consistent volume given all the options. Chris Godwin was my early-week favorite and has only adjusted slightly from the open, but the Buccaneers' receiving unit is even more crowded with Antonio Brown‘s return. Safer options exist if a dart-throw on one specific player feels like too much of a gamble. 

It’s also possible the Buccaneers stall out but still pick up a few points. One of the better opportunities for how this first drive ends is on the first scoring play, with the Buccaneers kicking a field goal at +425. 

First scoring play: Buccaneers field goal, +425

The Chiefs’ receive down by three points, and the narratives discussed over the past two weeks are finally on full display. The Super Bowl will be defined by this matchup, as the Buccaneers need early defensive success to win outright. This really comes down to at least slowing Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but the Week 12 narrative tears this apart.

Hill went for seven receptions, 203 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter of that Week 12 game. And after Hill racked up 85 yards after the catch, the Buccaneers desperately tried every type of coverage to contain him. Hill proceeded to decimate the Bucs' Cover 1 and Cover 3 schemes, with Todd Bowles & Co. only finding success once they switched to Cover 2 or Quarters.

Jamel Dean’s availability has been the counter reason provided for the Buccaneers' chances of slowing Hill. However, Todd Bowles is still expected to provide help at the expense of opening up Kelce in the horizontal passing game.

If the Buccaneers' defense overemphasizes the Hill matchup, Kelce should soak up all the targets on the first drive, giving him the best shot at finding the end zone. He is priced accordingly on his anytime TD (-175) and first to score TD (+650), but the props tool still finds enough value to make this a worthwhile bet. 

First scoring touchdown: Travis Kelce, +650; Anytime touchdown: Travis Kelce, -175

This is the point where things may get choppy, depending on which side of the total you fall on. The total has dropped from the opening number, with a majority of cash on the under. PFF Greenline doesn’t fully agree with this assessment, however, as the expectation is that points continue to be scored into the second quarter.

The Chiefs have been at their best during this quarter, as 36.5% of their total touchdowns have come from this stretch. Derivative markets tend to agree, as both teams are at nine points on the second-quarter total. This feels like a high price to pay, but a more appropriate path could be on the highest-scoring quarter, where the second is favored but at a plus price.

Highest scoring quarter: Quarter 2, +160

Halftime offers a welcome reprieve. Betting markets exist, but PFF hasn’t graded every single halftime performance or commercial yet.

This is the game stretch where player prop markets will start to go over. Identifying the right ones is easiest by first understanding the most likely game script and how that will impact projected volume.

The Chiefs should receive the second-half kickoff while nursing a four-point lead in a game on pace to go over. If this is our expectation, then a number of intriguing options in the player prop market exist.

At this point, the Buccaneers offense has found some success distributing the ball to different pass-catching options but settled for a field goal and have been trying to keep pace ever since. Because of this offense's nature, it’s difficult to feel confident playing into any pass-catching overs.

Leonard Fournette to not score a touchdown is an intriguing first choice, but Brady’s passing touchdowns offers a better price. The Super Bowl menu offers plenty of options, but our tool has Brady over 2.5 passing touchdowns at +125 as the best value.

Tom Brady: Over 2.5 passing touchdowns, +125

Playing with the lead, the Chiefs and their crowded backfield could turn slightly more run-heavy. Bettors pounded Darrel Williams unders, which have dropped from first release. It’s easy to see why, though, as both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell are healthy.

Projecting a running back rotation isn’t far-fetched as we wait for books to post props on Bell. Edwards-Helaire is the most difficult to gauge, as he seems to be the only back capable of success against the Buccaneers rush defense. His rushing yardage over is in play, as he could easily eclipse this number on a handful of touches. The under to sweat appears to be Williams’, as he is still mispriced at 8.5 rush attempts in all but the very best of game scripts.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire: over 30.5 rush yards; Darrel Williams: under 8.5 rush attempts

How much the Chiefs can extend their lead in the third quarter will directly impact the last two props. Our predictive models don’t point to the Buccaneers defense slowing down the Chiefs, which could result in a wide spread into the fourth. 

The Buccaneers should have the ball late, up 31-20, with the spread and total hanging in the balance. A quick score and 2-point conversion could lead to a deep kick, or an onside recovery becomes necessary. 

Brady delivers too little too late, but millions of dollars shift on the results. Godwin finds a way into the end zone, and the Buccaneers cap the drive with a 2-point play. With two minutes to go down three, they elect to kick deep and never see the ball again. 

Last Scoring Touchdown: Chris Godwin +1200; Gatorade Color: Red +200; Super Bowl MVP: Travis Kelce +1300; First Mention: Kansas City +650

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