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One of the league’s best teams, the Chiefs still have trouble covering the spread

The Chiefs are almost as good at covering the spread as Vegas thinks they are.

NFL: SEP 25 Chiefs at Colts Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since Patrick Mahomes became their quarterback in 2018, the Kansas City Chiefs have easily been the league’s best team. But against the spread, they have had a pedestrian 40-39-3 record. Last season — when they went a sickly 5-11-1 against the spread — was the low-water mark.

There are a lot of reasons the Chiefs failed to cover the spread in more than two-thirds of 2022’s games. One is that they played inferior teams more closely than they should have, defeating the Tennessee Titans, Las Vegas Raiders, and Denver Broncos by three or fewer points — not to mention the Week 3 meltdown against the Indianapolis Colts, in which Kansas City actually lost to one of football’s most lifeless teams.

It’s also possible that the Chiefs might be struggling to cover the spread because they had a tendency to start games slowly. In 2022, Mahomes had four fourth-quarter comebacks — and all of them were settled by a touchdown or less. When nearly a quarter of their games come down to the wire, a team just isn’t likely to cover many of them.

Another problem is paradoxical: the Chiefs have become so successful in recent years that expectations have grown very high — and are now outpacing the team’s output. In the parity-driven NFL, it’s hard to beat even the worst team. In 2022, Kansas City’s average point spread was -7.29 — but on six occasions, the spread was -10 (or greater). In those games, they went 1-4-1 — with the lone cover coming as an early Christmas present against the Seattle Seahawks.

In games that were supposed to be more even, the Chiefs didn’t fare much better. When favored by a touchdown or less, the team went just 2-4 against the spread.

Under Mahomes, 2019 was the Chiefs’ best year against the spread. The point spread averaged -4.89 — and against the spread, they went 10-5-1.

Interestingly, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl in their best and worst years against the spread — so whether Kansas City covers a bet has little to do with its actual on-field success.

In fact, simply betting on the Chiefs to win is one of the safest gambles you can make. In Mahomes’ career, Kansas City has finished 11.5 games over their expected win total. In 2022, the team went 3.5 games over its expected win total of 10.5.

This season, oddsmakers have the Chiefs winning 11.5 games.

For their 2023 Week 1 matchup against the Detroit Lions, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Chiefs at -6.5.

If it’s your money, who ya taking?

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