The expectation of fireworks from both teams was reflected in the opening over/under point total of 57½, but that was quickly bet down to 56½ at most shops. An over/under of 56 is available at some sportsbooks.
Still, if the total holds at 56 or above at kickoff, it will be the third-highest total in Super Bowl history. One of those games, Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, went over the total of 57 (62 points were scored), while the other, Super Bowl XLIV between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, went under the total of 56½ (48 points were scored). Last year’s Chiefs-San Francisco 49ers game also finished under the robust over/under of 54½, with a 31-20 final score.
There are reasons to like the over in this matchup. This season’s scoring boom pushed 84 games over 57 total points during the regular season and playoffs, a hefty increase from last season (60) and the most since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002.
Kansas City and Tampa Bay had the fourth- and fifth-highest rate of points per drive during the regular season. But that isn’t as obvious of a clue as it might seem. Since 2002, when teams finishing in the top five in scoring efficiency have met in the playoffs, they have totaled 57 or more points in 11 of 21 matchups. That hardly suggests this game is a lock to go over.
Then consider this: Since 2002, there have been 102 playoff games in which one of the teams ranked in the top 10 in regular season defense, as measured by points allowed per drive. Just 27 of those games, or 26.5 percent, produced a combined score of 57 or more points. By that metric, the Bucs ranked sixth in 2020.
Plus, teams tend to start slowly in the Super Bowl. Over the past 18 years, only three title games had more than 10 points in the first quarter. Three of the past six Super Bowls didn’t have any first-quarter points. Not only is the under attractive; so is the under for the first quarter (10 points at FanDuel at -136 odds). Thanks in part to these slow starts, only five of the past 19 Super Bowls have gone over 56 points.
As for the final score, let’s work through a simple projection. NFL teams get about 11 drives per game, an average number for these teams and also for the Super Bowl participants since 2002. That would imply teams such as the Chiefs and Buccaneers, who score about 2.7 points per drive, should end the game with a final combined score of 59 points.
However, championship-level teams play defense, too. Tampa Bay had one of the best defenses this season (fifth best after adjusting for strength of schedule, per Football Outsiders), and Kansas City was a bit below average (22nd). If we adjust their offensive scoring efficiencies for the opposing defenses and simulate this matchup 1,000 times, the projected total goes under 56½ points almost 58 percent of the time, with an average total score of 54 points. (Last year, this method projected a final points total of 51, the exact number of points scored.)
Probability it goes under via simulation
There are alternative totals available, too. The Westgate SuperBook offers over/unders of 42½, 49½, 63½ and 70½, each with different money lines, implying different odds. As you would expect, the chance to go under increases significantly with each increasing score total. But in all of these scenarios, the “under” option offers at least some betting value.