Chiefs-Bengals bet line shift surprises Vegas: 'It's not happening'

Chiefs-Bengals bet line shift surprises Vegas: ‘It’s not happening’

What happened in the last 72 hours is unprecedented in an AFC or NFC championship game, says Jay Kornegay — SuperBook Sports’ executive vice president of operations.

cornegy Superbook Sport Its streak opened Sunday night with the favored-by-three Kansas City Chiefs for Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Less than 24 hours later, so many Cincinnati bets came up that the Bengals became the favorite.

And as of early Tuesday afternoon, that trend hasn’t slowed, with the streak shifting to the Bengals by 2 1/2 (though it reverted to 1 1/2 later on Tuesday).

“We talk about the great performance of the Bengals (against the Buffalo Bills last week), but that’s a 5 1/2-point move. It just doesn’t happen,” Cornegay said. “And I would say 90% of it is because of (Patrick) Mahomes’ injury.” .

Chiefs quarterback Mahomes suffered a sprained ankle last week against Jacksonville, which limited his mobility in the second half. Mahomes vowed to play on Sunday against Cincinnati, though, which meant the sportsbooks were left to speculate about his situation as they tried to line up their opening lines.

Kornegay said he and a handful of other professionals met Sunday during the Bills-Bengals game to establish the SuperBook’s opening line.

They begin discussion with Mahomes. They knew from the past that high ankle sprains could be dangerous, and estimated that Mahomes would be around 60-80% of his usual output (with some in the discussion leaning toward the lower 60% mark).

However, the next talking point was about head coach Andy Reid. Could bookmakers give this much of a discount to Mahomes if the Chiefs coaching staff could plan some games around Mahomes’ lack of mobility?

“We think there will be some plays that will be designed to keep Mahomes in that pocket or a much more passive plan to limit his restrictions,” Cornegay said. “So we think about it.”

The group also tried to keep the big picture in mind. For example, one of the biggest upsets of the Bengals-Bills game on Sunday was the Cincinnati running game. Joe Mixon ran 20 carries for 105 yards, and the Bengals averaged 5.1 yards per rush.

However, whether this could be repeated against the bosses, was a different discussion.

“The Bengals were just running into the Bills, and the Bills couldn’t do anything about it. It was shocking to us,” Cornegay said. “So we thought that was kind of an anomaly of what we were seeing, simply because the Bengals weren’t really capable. To do that all season.”

The handicap also had a recent history to take into account. The Bills were favored by six at home over the Bengals in that game on Sunday, with more stakes on the Bills side. This number, if nothing else, could be the start of a baseline for how you look at Cincinnati when traveling to KC.

The group eventually came to a consensus, Kornegay said: SuperBook Sports, which prides itself on posting some of the fastest opening lines in the NFL while operating in seven states and at Westgate in Las Vegas, started with the Chiefs’ favorite three.

“You take all these variables and you throw them in the hat. And we spat out three,” Kornegay said, laughing, “although I will admit… I will admit it wasn’t our best work.”

According to Cornegay, Cincinnati had a “rush of money” in the first few hours to carry that streak to the Chiefs by one hour late Sunday night. By Monday morning, the Bengals were favored. However, Cornegay noted that some “respectable fillies” began betting on Kansas City when it was the game of their choice or Cincinnati which one preferred.

That still didn’t stop Cincinnati’s support as the streak turned to two and a half points. As of Tuesday afternoon, Cornegay had seen only a brief example of a sportsbook holding the Bengals to a three-point favorite before falling back to 2 1/2; This three-point figure is a big one in betting circles, as NFL games often end with a three-point margin due to field goals.

“What’s surprising to us at this point is that (the stakes) continue to get high on the Cincinnati side,” Cornegay said.

Cornegay said some of this can be attributed to modernist bias. The Bengals looked dominant in their 27-10 win over the Bills, while the Chiefs failed to cover their 8 1/2 point difference in a 27-20 home win against the Jaguars.

Kornegay talked through a few assumptions to give context about where the crowd landed with the Bengals-Chiefs line. He said that with a completely healthy Mahomes, he put Chiefs up as a 4-to-4 1/2-point favorite against the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. If Mahomes were left out, he would have tied the Bengals’ streak with five.

There have been cases in the NFL in the past, Kornegay said, when a team missed a starting quarterback and switching to his backup moved a line between seven and 10 points. These are usually extreme examples.

However, this circumstance is unique, as it attempts to estimate a healthy Mahomes versus an injured one.

“I think everyone’s eyes—whether you’re a bettor, an educated player, a smart guy, a smart punter, a bookmaker, oddsmaker—everyone will be watching that ankle all week,” Cornegay said.

With this information, Kornegay said, the line could change either way.

“It’s really going to be based on those practice reports,” Cornegay said. “I think people are going to look at it and see — including us — and read between the lines of what’s been reported to get a real sense of how true it is.”

Nothing happening in the future changes the madness of what has already happened with the Cincinnati-Kansas City spread.

Kornegay says the streak has been a “hot topic” in Vegas this week, with other followers he’s spoken to agreeing they’ve never seen anything like it.

“This is the biggest move I’ve ever seen in a championship game,” Cornegay said.

This story was originally published Jan 25, 2023 6:30 a.m.

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Jesse Newell—won an EPPY Award for Best Sports Blog and previously named Best Writer in Distribution by the AP Sports Editors—covers the Chiefs at The Star. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out referees to Trick-or-Treaters every year.

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