Super Bowl Line Movement Analysis: Should You Bet Now Or Wait?

Patrick Mahomes is appearing in his second consecutive Super Bowl. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

Is it better to get in early on a Super Bowl line, or wait to see where it closes?

To find out, we are going to explore opening and closing lines, and line movements, going back to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season.

In this post, we’ll discuss all of the following:

  • How often closing lines are different than the opening line for the Super Bowl, for both spread and total
  • How much line movement we see in Super Bowl betting on the point spread and total
  • Which direction the line tends to move for point spread and total

We will also discuss the implications for this year’s Super Bowl, where Kansas City opened as a 3-point favorite and an Over/Under of 57.5 (which quickly moved down to 56.5).

Point Spread Line Movement: Opening vs. Closing Super Bowl Spreads

We have opening and closing line movement data, as well as the maximum and minimum numbers the spread hit up until closing, for all Super Bowls back to the 2008 season. That gives us betting data from the last 12 Super Bowls to analyze.

The chart below shows the opening and closing point spreads, the change from open to close, and the highest and lowest point spread at any time between opening and closing (all from the perspective of the favorite).

SeasonFavoriteUnderdogOpening LineClosing LineChangeHighest LineLowest Line

Here is a summary of what the line movement and opening and closing numbers show:

  • Only one game had zero line movement in the point spread, Atlanta-New England, where the line stayed on the key number of New England -3 from opening to close
  • Another game opened as a pick’em (New England-Seattle) and bounced between both teams being favored by 1 point before closing with the Patriots as a 1-point favorite
  • Three other games had the same closing and opening line, though there was line movement in between those points

Line Movement Tends Toward Favorites

As noted above, one game opened as a pick’em, which means 11 games opened with a team favored. Of those 11 games, 5 closed with movement toward the favorite, compared to 2 closing at a number that moved toward the underdog, while 4 others closed at the same line as it opened.

If we look at any movement, and not just the closing number, we also see that lines tend to move toward favorites. Of the 11 games where a team opened as a favorite, eight of those favorites had the number move in their direction at some point after opening. Five of them closed at a larger line, while three others saw the point spread increase, but returned to the opening line by kickoff.

These weren’t large moves (the Denver-Carolina game after the 2015 season was the only one where the line closed more than a point from the opening line), but if you like the favorite, the evidence shows that it might be wise to get in earlier, as the movement tends to offer you a slightly worse line by closing in the majority of recent Super Bowls.

This makes some sense as the public tends to prefer favorites and public money is more likely to come in later.

If you are on the side of the underdog, though, waiting may provide you line value as the majority of movement has increased the line slightly.

2021 Analysis

Kansas City opened as a 3-point favorite. You may not see that line move much since it is right on a key number, and Kansas City has won four games this year by exactly a field goal, including the regular season matchup between these two teams.

Add in that Kansas City is 25-1 in the last 26 games that Patrick Mahomes has started, though, and it’s not likely we will see the line drop below a field goal, unless some unexpected news breaks.

So if you are a Chiefs backer, you might want to get in on the 3-point line now, in case it moves a half-point as there has been a general lean in movement toward favorites by closing.

If you want to take the Bucs, though, you might be able to wait longer and see if you get that movement and get it above a field goal.

When the Lines Have Moved Recently, Teams Have Covered

Of the 8 games that closed at a different line than the opening, the team that saw the line movement in their favor has covered more often that not.

This is obviously a tiny sample size, so take this with a grain of salt, but here are the recent cases with a different closing line versus the opening number:

  • 2019 Kansas City vs. San Francisco, -1 to -1.5, won 31-20
  • 2018 New England vs. LA Rams, -1.5 to -2, won 13-3
  • 2017 Philadelphia vs. New England, +5.5 to +4.5, won 41-33
  • 2015 Carolina vs. Denver, -4.5 to -5.5, lost 24-10
  • 2014 New England vs. Seattle, pk to -1, won 28-24
  • 2013 Seattle vs. Denver, +2 to +1.5, won 43-8
  • 2012 San Francisco vs. Baltimore, -4 to -4.5, lost 34-31
  • 2010 Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh, -2.5 to -3, won 31-25

Those teams went 6-2 both straight up and against the spread, including both underdogs winning.

In fact, all four underdogs that have seen line movement in their favor (the Saints and Ravens both moved downward, before bouncing back to or past the opening line) have won outright in the last 12 years.

Opening Totals versus Closing Totals

Here are the opening and closing totals, the change from open to close, and the highest and lowest totals at any point, for the last 12 Super Bowls:

SeasonTeamsOpening LineClosing LineChangeHighest LineLowest Line
  • The last 12 Super Bowls have all closed at a different number than where it opened.
  • The total has moved down in 10 of the 12 Super Bowls, closing at a lower number than the opening total.
  • The total movements have also been larger than the point spread movements. While no spread closed more than 1 point off the opening number, four totals move more than 1 point, with all four of those seeing the number move lower by closing.
  • Three other totals moved exactly one point from the opening to the closing, with two of those three also moving toward the Under.

So while we think of the public as typically being Over bettors, the evidence recently is that if you want the Under in the Super Bowl, it might be better to move early. On the other hand, you might be able to wait for value on the Over.

Totals Line Moves Have Not Had Much Relation to Game Scoring

Finally, the totals moves have not had much relation to how the game actually played out. While 10 of the last 12 Super Bowls have seen the total close lower than the opening number, those moves have not necessarily been an indicator of what is to come.

The Super Bowl has gone Over 7 of the last 12 games, including 6 of the 10 where the line closed at a lower number than the opening.

That said, the last two Super Bowls have gone Under after movement downward, including the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever two years ago between the Rams and Patriots.

Overall, scoring has had very little relation to the final number. The six most recent Super Bowls with a closing total below 48 have hit the Over 5 times. Meanwhile, the six most recent Super Bowls with a closing total above 48 have hit the Under 4 of 6 times, with one of the overs requiring overtime to go over the number.

2021 Analysis

The Kansas City-Tampa Bay total opened at 57.5 and moved quickly down to 56.5, consistent with general recent trends that saw the line move in favor of the favorites.

Given that it is still one of the higher over/under lines in Super Bowl history, and it has already moved down a point, if you are an Under bettor you might want to get in early. An Over player might benefit from to waiting to see where the number settles.