Super Bowl NFL first touchdown scorer predictions
Think predicting who scores the first touchdown of a game is impossible? Wrong! While it’s not a perfect science by any means, there are some trends and rules that have helped me cash FTD (first touchdown) tickets all season long.
Here are some reminders heading into the big game:
- Inferior offenses aren’t always inferior at scoring first. Some of the best FTD teams didn’t even make the playoffs this season. This could reflect the aggressiveness of the head coach, the team’s ability to execute a scripted drive, or big-play ability. Case in point, the Chiefs averaged just 21.8 PPG in the regular season, yet managed to be the third-best team at scoring the game’s first touchdown. Typically, I recommend sticking to one team’s players based on which team has the better FTD success rate, but we have the #2 and #3 teams on our hands, therefore I won’t be scared by Kansas City’s mediocre offensive output this year. I’ll have bets on both teams this time.
- Bet on more than one player. The shortest odds I’ve seen in this market is of course, on Christian McCaffrey at +350. This means if you bet him, you can still bet on two other players and make a profit. If you leave him off (although I do not recommend this), every player is at least +600, meaning you can bet up to six players and come out ahead. There is no need to put all of your eggs in one basket.
- Look to bet team-first touchdowns if you can. Most sportsbooks will offer odds to score the game’s first touchdown and who will score the team’s first touchdown. While the odds for team-first touchdowns (TFTDs) aren’t nearly as long as they are for game-firsts, it’s much easier to predict. Both of these teams have some favorite targets that we can hopefully cash in on, even if it isn’t the first of the game.
- Getting the ball first means nothing. Yes, in theory, the team with the ball first has a better chance of scoring the first touchdown. But it just doesn’t happen as often as you’d think. Of the 12 playoff games we’ve had so far, the game’s first touchdown was only scored on the opening drive four times. On top of it being impossible to be 100% sure what a team will do if they win the coin toss, teams are typically conservative early in games. They are comfortable punting or kicking a field goal as opposed to trying their hardest to get in the end zone. This trend is emphasized in the 57 Super Bowls we’ve had, as the game’s first touchdown has only been scored on the opening drive FIVE times. If you decide to only bet players on one team, and the other team gets the ball first, it might actually be a good sign based on the data.
Now that we’re in the right mindset, let’s make some first TD scorer predictions for Super Bowl 58.
San Francisco 49ers
I’m going to bet on players from both sides in this game, so I’ll start with the NFC Champion 49ers. San Fran was the 2nd best FTD team this season, finding the end zone first in 14 of their 19 games. They are also one of the most consistent teams in terms of player targets. Christian McCaffrey scored their first touchdown a whopping EIGHT times – that’s nearly half of their games. He comes with ridiculously short odds, or what I call the “McCaffrey Tax”, but it’s worth it. For reference, the shortest shot in last year’s Super Bowl was Jalen Hurts at +700, which cashed. I’ll have a ticket on McCaffrey (+350 at DraftKings), but with two units to help offset the cost. My other picks on this side also sit atop the list of Niners favorite FTD targets, Deebo Samuel (+850) and Brandon Aiyuk (+850). Both players had huge roles in their win over the Lions and have also been great at scoring the first touchdown with three team-firsts each.
(Note: TFTD – team first touchdown; FTD – first touchdown of the game)
Kansas City Chiefs
While being very successful this season, the Chiefs are a much more annoying FTD team. While they’ve scored the game’s first touchdown in an impressive 14 of 20 games, they’ve done so with eight different offensive players and even had a defensive score. That said, they do have two players I’m going to bet on. Isiah Pacheco (+600) has become a massive part of this Chiefs offense, with at least 24 carries in two of their three playoff games. He was also their #1 FTD guy this season, scoring first for KC in six games. I’ll also be on Travis Kelce (+650). The superstar tight end had a down year in terms of scoring FTDs compared to 2022 when he had nine team-firsts and five game-firsts. But, he has reemerged as Patrick Mahomes favorite red zone target over the last two weeks. He’s now scored KC’s first touchdown in back-to-back weeks after going all season with zero. After fading him every week since September, I’m back on board!
I realize most of my picks are near the top of the odds board, so why not throw a couple bucks on a longshot or two for fun? Marquez Valdes-Scantling (+3000) went from zero to hero in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens, catching a 32-yard pass which allowed Kansas City to kneel out the clock. After missing multiple crucial catches this season, this reception could have restored Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes’s faith in him. For the Niners, Brock Purdy (+2800) intrigues me. He showed off his wheels against Detroit, rushing for 48 yards on five carries. He only has two rushing touchdowns on the year, but could Kyle Shanahan draw up a surprise play for Mr. Irrelevant? I’d love to see it!