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Sunday's Best

Sharp's Best Props for SB LV

by Warren Sharp
Updated On: February 10, 2021, 3:31 pm ET

I broke down some key matchup aspects of the Super Bowl in an article earlier this week.  Now, it’s time to dive into what I think may happen and some of my favorite prop bets for the Super Bowl.  

For Kansas City, they need to stick with the pass.  The answer to beating these Bucs is quite literally abandon the run as much as possible and focus on getting it done through the air.

All of the teams that lost to the Bucs were either run-based offenses by nature or teams that chose to run the ball at too high of a rate against Tampa’s strength, the run defense.

All of the teams that beat the Bucs were either pass-based offenses by nature or teams that chose to pass the ball at a well above average rate to avoid Tampa’s run defense.

The Chiefs also need to continue to use high rates of passes which feature both pre-snap motion and play action.  No offense has used more of these plays.  And when using pre-snap motion and play action, the Chiefs Offense ranks #4 in success rate, #5 in EPA and #8 in YPA.

When facing pre-snap motion and play action, the Bucs defense ranks #24 in success rate, #24 in EPA and #22 in YPA.

And yet not a single team in the playoffs used a single pass attempt with both pre-snap motion and play action against the Bucs thus far.  That will change on Sunday.

And the Chiefs need to use Patrick Mahomes as a runner against this stout Bucs run defense.  Even though the Bucs haven’t faced any true threats as QB runners, when opposing QBs have scrambled, look at what they accomplished:  +0.76 EPA, 75% success and 8.5 YPC.

The ranks of those league-wide?  #31, #29, #30

With the Chiefs being unlikely to convert many successful runs on the ground, Mahomes needs to take any opportunity where protection breaks down to run to gain positive yards and keep the offense on track.  So long as his toe is close to 100%, he should be able to smash his projected 19.5 yard rushing prop.

For Tampa Bay, I would love to see the first play of the game feature Tom Brady stick the ball into the belly of Leonard Fournette… but pull it back and throw a play action pass on first down.  But that’s unlikely to happen.  Instead, the Bucs are likely to run the ball on first down.  And rinse and repeat all game long.  This puts them into many third down situations, needing Tom Brady to convert.  But on 3rd and longs this year, the Chiefs have allowed just a 26% conversion rate, ranking #3 in the NFL and well above the 36% NFL average.  I have no doubt we’ll see many third downs for Tampa’s offense, and it will come down to how well Tom Brady can execute on third down as to whether the Bucs have a shot at the upset.

Speaking of play action on the first play of the game, I’d love to see more play action in general.  This Bucs offense is doing what it’s been doing and winning games like it has… but it could be SO MUCH MORE efficient.

Look at the efficiency gain when using play action vs without play action for the Bucs offense since the bye week:

With play action:    10.6 YPA, 54% success, +0.41 EPA
Without play action:    7.2 YPA, 57% success, +0.26 EPA

But they’re using play action at a below average rate in the playoffs and it could bite them in the Super Bowl.  Especially because the Chiefs are allowing the 7th highest EPA/att vs play action over the second half of the season, and they are even worse when facing play action from 11 or especially 12 personnel.

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I expect the Bucs to target deemphasize perimeter WR targets and emphasize slot WRs, TEs and RBs.  A second half adjustment the Bucs made in the last game was to target the slot, and of 14 total WR-targets, Brady threw only THREE TIMES to WRs out wide and 11 targets to WRs in the slot.  Slot targets have a lot more success against this Chiefs Defense.

And while the Chiefs are outstanding vs WRs in general (rank #2 in EPA/att), they rank #28 vs RB passes.  Over the last two weeks, Leonard Fournette leads the Bucs in catches and should have a nice workload through the air in this game.  Not only has Fournette hit his receptions prop every game this postseason, look at Tom Brady’s RB targets and catches when in any playoff game since 2015 when his team trails at any point in the game:

NO (2020, W):  7 targets, 5 catches
TEN (2019, L):  10 targets, 10 catches
KC (2018, W): 14 targets, 10 catches
PHI (2017, L):  8 targets, 3 catches
JAX (2017, W):  14 targets, 10 catches
TEN (2017, W):  17 targets, 13 catches
ATL (2016, W):  19 targets, 15 catches
DEN (2015, L):  19 targets, 7 catches

We’ve seen 7+ targets in every game, with an average of 13.5.  And we’ve seen 5+ catches in 7 of 8 games, with an average of 9.  We don’t even need half of that to see Fournette go over 3.5 catches.

In the last meeting, Tampa threw to the TEs on 32% of attempts, second highest TE target rate on the season.  And those targets paid off, to the tune of 10.8 YPA, 69% success and +0.40 EPA.  Additionally, the Bucs must target TEs in the red zone – the Chiefs had the NFL’s worst ranked defense against TEs in the red zone

Three “over” prop bets I like which the above analysis supports.

Leonard Fournette over 3.5 receptions -145
Patrick Mahomes over 19.5 rushing yards -115 
Tampa Bay 3rd down conversions over 5.5 +120

I tend to come back and bet “under” prop bets on gameday.

Warren Sharp

Warren Sharp is a football and betting analyst for NBC Sports. As a leading voice in football analytics, Warren writes a yearly book previewing the upcoming season from all angles at his Sharp Football Analysis website. You can follow Warren Sharp on Twitter @SharpFootball.