It’s rare to find a team as good at winning football games and as bad at covering spreads as the Kansas City Chiefs have been since winning the Super Bowl in February 2020. This wasn’t the case before COVID rolled into town, but starting with that uncomfortably quiet 2020 season, here’s the breakdown for the Chiefs, counting playoffs:
2020-21 season: 16-3 W-L, 8-11 ATS
2021-22 season: 14-6 W-L, 10-10 ATS
2022-23 season: 8-2 W-L, 4-6 ATS
(I may as well slip in the caveat that ATS records are always unofficial because spreads vary from book to book, so sometimes a cover at Book X is a push at Book Y. But these are the ATS records the internet seems to have agreed to use.)
Add it up, and the Chiefs of the last 2½ seasons are 38-11 (the best team in the NFL over that span, though without a Super Bowl win to show for it — yet), but just 22-27 against the spread. That’s a massive disparity in records. And a large enough sample size for it to mean something.
If you’ve watched this team play, it computes. Patrick Mahomes has proven himself the master of doing just enough, and there’s never been a quarterback more unstoppable with the ball in his hands and the game on the line in the fourth quarter. This Kansas City team pulls out far more than its fair share of close, come-from-behind wins, but it is also so highly regarded that it is usually favored to win less closely.
Getting a bit more specific, looking only at regular season games played in 2022 (so, the first 10 games of the current season and the final two games of the previous season), we find interesting numbers regarding the Chiefs as road favorites (which they frequently are) and as favorites of 7 or more points (which they also frequently are). Note that the sample sizes here are much smaller. But in six regular season games as a road favorite in calendar year 2022, K.C. is 4-2 outright and 2-4 ATS. And in five games in which the Chiefs closed as a favorite of 7 or more points, either on the road or at home, they’re 5-0 outright but just 2-3 ATS.
This week, the Chiefs are looking at a spread equal to the largest they’ve enjoyed in 2022, favored by 14 points at Arrowhead over the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. This looked like potentially the game of the year when the schedules were first released. But the Rams have had a shockingly rough ride this season, and at 3-7 and with Cooper Kupp injured and Matthew Stafford back in the concussion protocol, their playoff hopes are dead. (They’re one of eight teams FanDuel has taken off the board in terms of will/won’t make playoffs.)
So Kansas City is favored by two full touchdowns. As hopeless as the Rams have been this season, recent history suggests the Chiefs will have trouble covering a spread that wide. Recent history also suggests the Chiefs are a safe bet on the moneyline — but the best price you’ll find on them to win the game is a steep -835 at BetRivers, Barstool Sportsbook, and other Kambi-powered books.
Here are your options, sports bettors, if you believe in following the trends established by these Chiefs so far in the 2020s:
You can bet on the Rams to cover, getting 14 points.
You can bet on the Chiefs on the moneyline, though at that price, it’s perhaps better utilized as a leg in a parlay. (Random example: If you like over 44 points in the game, you can turn it from a -110 bet to a +101 bet by combining it with a Chiefs victory.)
You can wait, hope the Chiefs fall behind, and then bet them on the moneyline in-game. It’s a formula that routinely pays off, although the operators have learned never to make the payout too steep, even if Kansas City is in a double-digit hole.
The Chiefs are a tremendous football team. They’ve now pulled into Super Bowl co-favorite position at DraftKings Sportsbook. But that doesn’t make them a great team to wager on. When they’re favored by 6.5 points and they’re down by 4 with under two minutes to play — as was the case Sunday night against the Chargers — not even Mahomes is magical enough to figure out how to cover that one.
With that, let’s take a look at the rest of the opening lines and assorted betting odds and ends for Week 12.
The consensus lines
Most lines vary by half a point in either direction, with slightly different vigs from book to book, so it’s always advisable to price-shop at all the available mobile sportsbooks in your state. But here are the consensus (most commonly found) spreads for each of the 16 games in Week 12:
Bills (-9.5) at Lions
Giants at Cowboys (-8.5)
Patriots at Vikings (-3)
Buccaneers (-3) at Browns
Bengals (-1.5) at Titans
Texans at Dolphins (-11.5)
Bears at Jets (-4)
Falcons at Commanders (-3)
Broncos (-2.5) at Panthers
Ravens (-4) at Jaguars
Chargers (-3) at Cardinals
Raiders at Seahawks (-3.5)
Rams at Chiefs (-14)
Saints at 49ers (-8.5)
Packers at Eagles (-6.5)
Steelers at Colts (-3)
Line move to watch
The Bengals being favored on the road against the 7-3 Titans smells a little funky, but much like the Cowboys being favored in Minnesota in Week 11, this one screams “the sportsbooks know what they’re doing.” I’m not expecting that line to move much.
In fact, there aren’t any lines this week that I see moving a lot. But a little jiggling — maybe by a half-point or perhaps one full point — is possible in Jets-Bears once we know how healthy Justin Fields is or in Commanders-Falcons as the sharps take a stance on which of these fringe contenders is closer to being for real. Not-remotely-bold prediction: Washington closes at consensus -3.5, rather than the current consensus number of -3.
Intriguing moneyline underdogs to consider
Sure, last week’s gold medal pick of the Steelers over the Bengals came up slightly short, but the silver and bronze ‘dogs — the Lions and the Titans, respectively — both came through. So, I’m not retiring the “Red Hot Rasky” nickname just yet. It’s all about being selective to create the impression that you know what you’re doing. Two out of three plus-money underdogs winning? Red. Hot.
And sorry to be boring, but the smaller underdogs (in the +100s) strike me as having better value than the longer shots this week. The Lions over the Bills on Thanksgiving at +340 has a chance at hitting, as do the Saints at +320 in San Francisco, but it’s some of the chihuahuas, not the mastiffs, that are barking loudest in Red Hot Rasky’s ear this week.
Bronze medal: Jaguars +175 (Caesars) vs. Ravens. The 3-7 Jags are that reasonably talented team that rarely manages to actually win, and the 7-3 Ravens are that banged-up team that sputters along most of the game and then emerges with the edge on the scoreboard at the end. So, even in Jacksonville, the Jaguars are rightly viewed as underdogs. But +175 is a decent price to bank on this being a weird game where the Jags, rested off their bye, are in kitchen-sink mode and the script gets flipped.
Silver medal: Browns +144 (FanDuel) vs. Buccaneers. This isn’t a bet on the Browns, really. It’s a bet against the Bucs. Two straight narrow victories does not a fully righted ship make. Put a little defensive pressure on 45-year-old Tom Brady, and he’s ready to unleash a stink bomb.
Gold medal: Patriots +140 (DraftKings) at Vikings. The bloom is off the proverbial rose now with the Vikings, who, believe it or not, have a negative point differential to go with their 8-2 record. Thanksgiving night weirdness awaits, and when things get weird, you want to be betting with Bill Belichick, not against him.
Textbook teaser candidates
Fans of the three-team (or more) teaser know what to look for: favorites of 6 or more who become very safe bets if you reduce the spread by about a touchdown. Here are this week’s options that fit the bill:
Bills: Can tease down to -3.5 or -2.5 in Detroit on Thanksgiving.
Cowboys: Can tease down to -2.5 or -1.5 hosting the Giants on Turkey Day.
Dolphins: Can tease down to -5.5 or -4.5 at home against the league-worst Texans.
Chiefs: Can tease down to -8 or -7 hosting the officially Super Bowl hungover Rams.
49ers: Can tease down to -2.5 or -1.5 at home against the scuffling Saints.
Eagles: Can tease down to -0.5 or +0.5 on Sunday night hosting the put-a-fork-in-‘em Packers.
Pick three (or more), pick 6 points or 7 (or 6.5), and let the sweating of a +140 or so return begin. First things first: If you’re including the Eagles, make it a 6-point tease, there’s no sense crossing zero. As discussed in the lead item of the column, the Chiefs are unreliable when it comes to covering, so getting them down to -8, even if they’re facing a back-up quarterback for the Rams, is still risky. A 6-point tease with the Bills doesn’t get you under a field goal, and the Lions have won three in a row and are undeniably frisky. As banged up as the Giants are, that’s a divisional-rivalry game in Dallas and it could easily come down to a final drive in one direction or the other.
So, what are we left with? Eagles needing to win, Dolphins -5.5, and Niners -2.5. That one gets the Red Hot Rasky seal of approval. (Which is worth a lot, as long as you’re willing to go that selective-memory route.)
I mentioned in the opening section that the Rams are one of the eight teams that FanDuel has taken off the board for yes/no bets on making the playoffs. The other seven: the Chiefs, Eagles, Bills, Vikings, Bears, Texans, and Cardinals. Four of those are near-certainties to make the postseason, two are near-locks to miss, and Arizona is trending strongly toward missing the playoffs, but I suspect they’re off the board mostly because they play this Monday night and bookmakers aren’t quite sure what to do with them until this result is in.
It’s tempting to bet on the Bengals to win the AFC North — I’m seeing them as high as +450 at DraftKings, and they’re only one game back of Baltimore. But have you looked at Cincy’s remaining schedule? At Tennessee, home against the Chiefs, home against the Browns (probably with Deshaun Watson), at Tampa Bay, at New England, home against the Bills, and home against the Ravens. That’s why they’re priced as a longshot despite the standings being so close.
How ‘bout this Thanksgiving slate? All three games are intriguing, all six teams are playing for something, the six teams have a combined record of 39-21, and if the playoffs started right now, five of them would be in. Even the Lions — usually the reason at least one Thanksgiving game can be easily ignored — are fun and are, at the very least, making a fierce run at their preseason over/under of 6.5 wins. You wouldn’t necessarily know it from the point spreads, which include a 9.5 and an 8.5, but this is one of the best three-game slates we’ve seen on this holiday. Family takes a backseat this year. There’s good football to watch, damn it.
Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY