Super Bowl 58 is the first one staged in Las Vegas, NV, the betting capital of America, aka Sin City. As a result, records in viewership and wagering will fall.
Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.
Super Bowl 58 in Allegiant Stadium; Las Vegas, NV
Four downs on San Francisco 49ers (14-5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (14-6)
First down: Records will fall.
The first-ever Super Bowl staged in the betting capital of America in the burgeoning era of legalized sports betting converge to surely make SB58 the most-watched and most-wagered Super Bowl of all time. The omnipresence of the world’s biggest pop star, Taylor Swift, aka Travis Kelce’s girlfriend, may push the TV audience close to 200 million – zooming past last year’s record of 115 million-plus. That would also exceed what is believed to be the all-time record for TV viewing. According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS estimated 150 million viewers on all three networks watched the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. As for money wagered, the American Gaming Association estimates 67.8 million American adults are expected to bet an estimated $23.1 billion on the game. Those figures represent a 35 percent increase in number of adults and 44 percent increase in money wagered on the game, according to Forbes.
Second down: The outcome that sports books don’t want.
When the 2023 season began, the favorites to reach the Super Bowl per BetMGM were the Chiefs (+650) and 49ers (+700). While it may appear this matchup was pre-destined, each team took divergent paths to get here. The Chiefs adjusted to a drop-off in offense and leaned more than ever on its defense (see below). The 49ers played their way out of a three-game tailspin instigated by a Game 6 loss to the Browns. Since each won its conference championship game (the Chiefs beat the Ravens, 17-10, and the 49ers beat the Lions, 34-31), the 49ers have held steady as 2-point favorites. The idea of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid as underdogs has been irresistible to bettors. According to BetMGM, 70 percent of the money wagered has been placed on the Chiefs. So, there is an outcome that may be considered the worst-case scenario for sports books. According to a BetMGM source quoted by YahooSports, a 1-point San Francisco win would be the worst of all worlds because sports books would have to pay off futures bets on the 49ers winning it all and the Chiefs beating the 2-point spread.
Third down: Mahomes the Magnificent.
A win for the Chiefs would intensify the once-unthinkable possibility of a quarterback matching, if not surpassing, Tom Brady’s record of seven Super Bowl championships. Mahomes, 28, is completing his sixth NFL season. He’s making his fourth appearance in a Super Bowl and owns a record of 2-1 so far. Brady was 27 when he won his third Super Bowl in his sixth season as a starter. So Mahomes can match Brady’s early start of three Super Bowl titles in his first six seasons. But Brady went on to win four more Super Bowls by playing 17 more seasons through the age of 45. It may be ridiculous to expect Mahomes to play 23 seasons through the age of 45. But Brady had a nine-year drought between his third Super Bowl title (2004 season) and his fourth (2013). Think about it. Mahomes can make up a lot of ground on Brady in the coming nine seasons.
Fourth down: Some football stuff.
Few could legitimately argue against the 49ers being the better team over the long 2023 season. They finished the regular season ranked third in points scored and third in points allowed. Their plus-193 point differential – a simple, tried-and-true measure of team strength – was also third, just one point behind underachieving Dallas and 10 behind seemingly invincible Baltimore. The 49ers have a galaxy of stars on offense (NFL rushing champion Christian McCaffrey, 1,000-yard receivers Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, 892-yard receiver Deebo Samuel and perennial All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams) and defensive standouts, too (end Nick Bosa, tackle Javon Hargrave, linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw). The Chiefs were uncharacteristically 15th in points scored and second in points allowed and were sixth in point-differential at plus-77. But the Chiefs showed their resilience in adapting to a terrible year by their wide receivers, who were mostly responsible for their NFL-worst 44 dropped passes. The receiver doldrums exacerbated an “off” year for tight end Travis Kelce, whose 984 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns were his lowest totals in eight seasons. The Chiefs wound up relying more on their running game, led by Isaiah Pacheco, and Kansas City’s best defense (second in points and yards) in Mahomes’ career. While the pass-run ratio over the course of Mahomes’ six seasons always has been well over 60-40, Reid has adjusted that ratio to 54-46 in the Chiefs’ three post-season wins.
The pick: Chiefs 26, 49ers 20.