Super Bowl LIV props: Betting on Mahomes, Garoppolo’s performances

Friday, 24 January 2020 17:25 EST

NFLbets has been waiting on a few player props for Super Bowl LIV for quite some time, particularly those on two gunslinging quarterbacks who’ve never been to the Big Game but seem as cool as chilly cucumbers a week out. NFLbets is not buying the “fearless” line foe Kansas City Chiefs-San Francisco 49ers juuuuuuuuuuuuust yet, however. Among our more decisively made bets on Super Bowl LIV are on the following proposition bets:

Over/under 240½ total yards for Jimmy Garoppolo;
Over/under 0.5 interceptions thrown by Garoppolo; and
Over/under 0.5 interceptions thrown by Patrick Mahomes.

For the middle of the above-listed troika, NFLbets believes a device strong enough to hold us back from playing this bet does not yet exist. ’Member those Geico tv spots of two or three years ago? Well, for those game, we’re paraphrasing: If you’re Jimmy Garoppolo, you throw interceptions. It’s what you do. Jimmy G. may have been steadily evolving as a QB leader type since collecting splinters on the New England bench behind Tom Brady but can still be counted on to pull the trigger on a bad decision or two per game. Take the over on an O/U of 0.5 Garoppolo interceptions.

On the other side, perhaps by dint of having to play the pass against offenses desperately trying to keep up with Mahomes & Co., the Kansas City defense has evolved to rank no. 6 against the pass in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. To be fair, some stats speak well of Garoppolo's recent turnover control. In the past eight games, he and the Niners have faced top-10 defenses five times, in games against the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers twice. In those five games, Jimmy G tossed just three picks combined and two were against the Rams.

But here’s the thing: This line must also be based in part on only line, “Over/under 20½ pass attempts for Garoppolo”. Jimmy’s control this season disappears over the magic number 21. In 15 games in which Garoppolo threw 21 times or more, he threw picks in 10, and only three times in 2019-20 did he manage to throw more than 22 times and avoid an interception. Further, in six games in which the opposition scored more than 21 points, Jimmy threw a pick – think the Chiefs are good for at least 22 points? Yeah, us too.

(Incidentally, note that Garoppolo throwing picks doesn’t necessarily mean a 49ers loss in the Super Bowl; in the six games of over 21 points allowed, San Francisco nevertheless went 4-2 SU/3-3 ATS.)

So how about the studly 49ers QB going for 240 yards or more? Like Ryan Tannehill, Jimmy has been wowing NFL bettors and fans alike by leading his offense to a pair of wins while throwing the ball a very un-2019 27 times combined. The last time a team won two consecutive playoff games with 19 or fewer attempts in each was when Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens did it thrice in a row back in the 2000-01 – and in the Super Bowl blowout of the New York Giants, Flacco still went for 244 yards on 26 attempts.

On top of this, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens simply didn’t face anything like the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs on their Super Bowl run; in fact, those Ravens played form behind just once in four games that postseason, when down 7-0 after the first quarter in the divisional round. Think the Chiefs are good to force the 49ers to play from behind at least once in this ’Bowl? Yeah, us too.

The crazy thing is that unleashing Garoppolo has worked outstandingly for the 49ers in 2019: San Francisco is a whopping 10-1 SU (8-2-1 ATS) when throwing for more than 240½ yards. NFLbets has little mathematics – aside from Flacco’s precedent – to back up the following contention, but we believe that Kyle Shanahan has had Garoppolo playing possum for the past two weeks. And does anyone really believe that Raheem Mostert geos for four TDs on 29 attempts against a KC D that shut down the superhuman Derrick Henry in the AFC Championship? Take the over on an O/U of 240½ yards passing for Jimmy Garoppolo.

So let’s talk Patrick Mahomes facing off against the San Francisco defense, no. 2 by DVOA but realistically tops. (The Patriots D, who faded badly at season’s close, rank no. 1 overall for 2019.)

Mahomes is, unquestionably, a machine. Since returning in week 10 after an injury in week 7, Mahomes has thrown for 34.8 attempts and 266.66 yards per game plus 17 TDs against a measly four interceptions. Mahomes and his ultra-quick weapons in Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have the Chiefs on a ridiculous 8-0 SU (7-0-1 ATS) run in which the average margin of victory is over 16 points. The KC QB has demonstrated amply that he can lead the Chiefs to a W either passing a lot or not, so NFLbets will have no part of the “Over/under 304½ total yards for Patrick Mahomes” Super Bowl prop.

But here’s what makes us interested in the 49ers exposing some vulnerability: The Chiefs haven’t faced a defense like the 49ers’ in a long time. Aside from the aforementioned Patriots, the top-ranked passing defenses Kanasas City has faced since that momentous week 10 game at Tennessee have been the no. 8-ranked Chicago Bears and the no. 13 Denver Broncos – and those opponents were held to 3 points apiece. In fact, the Chiefs offense ultimately ended up facing the league’s 21st most difficult schedule.

Note: None of this is to say that the Chiefs are overrated or overblown. We just need one interception to pay out at better than even odds.

This San Francisco defense, probably the best we’ve seen in the Super Bowl since Von Miller and the Broncos were making Cam Newton’s life hell for 60 minutes, could well be the unit to do it. The 49ers are no. 2 in overall and passing DVOA; no. 2 in yards allowed; tops overall in passing yards allowed and yards per attempt; no. 4 in points allowed; and an impressive 6th in turnover percentage. They haven’t faced too many QBs comparable to Mahomes in 2019-20 – so few are, after all – though notably held Lamar Jackson to 206 total yards and got a fumble out of him.

And by the plain ol’ football, NFLbets would guess that this is the one defense Kansas City didn’t want to see this season. Chiefs-49ers means a potentially instant-classic meetup of the league’s fastest offense vs the league’s fastest defense. San Francisco doesn’t bring a heavy pass rush often, but loves to drop back in coverage and seal the edges. Think the 49ers know they’ll need to ballhawk to stay in this game? Yeah, us too. Take the over on an O/U of 0.5 Garoppolo interceptions – should be good for a payout of at least +110.

–written by Os Davis

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