On The Money | NFL Week 16 Betting Recap: Defying Logic
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The NFL has been making every effort to have the 2020 season appear as close to normal as possible, with the league insisting games go on despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on rosters and practices. But let’s face it, this new NFL normal is not, well, normal.
On Sunday, the now two-win New York Jets and the now six-win Dallas Cowboys helped make the bookmakers’ day by winning their games against Cleveland and Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs — with an NFL-best 14-1 record and the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC — continued to be a nightmare for the betting public in failing to cover the spread for the sixth time in their last seven games.
And for reasons that defy logic, the biggest NFL betting win of the day came when an MGM customer put a cool half-million dollars on the mediocre, going-nowhere Carolina Panthers to beat the Washington Football Team, which should have been highly motivated to clinch the NFC East — and yet the Panthers won their fifth game of the season.
All of it can be heaped together in a category labeled “Go Figure,” but this much was true — the books had an excellent day.
The strangest game Sunday was one influenced by the pandemic as Cleveland, 10-4 entering the game, found itself fielding a team without four of its frontline wide receivers who had to sit out because of COVID exposure. The situation was reminiscent of Denver’s dilemma several weeks ago when it was forced to play without any of its rostered quarterbacks because of COVID exposure.
The Jets, now 2-13, jumped out to a lead early in the game and never relinquished it in a 23-16 win. The Browns started the week as 10-point favorites and when the roster problem was announced, the line plummeted to 6.5 points. The Jets, who have been vying with Jacksonville for the distinction of being the worst team in the league, had just won their first game of the season the previous week by upsetting the L.A. Rams.
The Jets calculating their playoff chances pic.twitter.com/SE81q7f2pa— FanDuel (@FanDuel) December 27, 2020
So, considering the Jets’ ineptness, even with the Browns’ roster problems, at FanDuel, 86% of the point spread handle was still on Cleveland; at William Hill, 84% of the spread handle was on the Browns, and at PointsBet, 82% of the spread handle was on Cleveland.
“The Jets game was a great game for us. Even though the spread came way down to 6.5 with the adjustment because Cleveland wasn’t going to have all those players, people were still betting the Browns because they figured the Jets couldn’t win two games in a row,” said Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook operations for DraftKings. “The bettors also bet the Indianapolis Colts today and the Steelers (a 1-point underdog) came back to win that game so that was good for us.
”Then in the late games, the people bet the Eagles (2-point favorites against Dallas) and Washington (a 1-point favorite over Carolina) and neither of those teams got there so it was a good day overall.”
Big Bet on the Panthers
The Carolina-Washington game was notable for a $500,000 wager at BetMGM that netted $434,782.60. On the surface, the wager was a head-scratcher considering the Panthers had little to play for and Washington, with a win, would have clinched the NFC East. However, the Panthers won outright, 20-13, so who can argue with that kind of success?
“That was actually at our place at the Mirage in Nevada,” said Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM Resorts. “So even though we went through that, we still had a very good day. The early games were very strong for us. We only had one loser (for the books), that was the Bears (beating and covering against Jacksonville, 41-17).
”Among the winners for us early were the Chiefs who won (against Atlanta, 17-14), but didn’t cover again. Actually, the Chiefs have been so good for us lately and I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a 14-1 team, but everybody keeps betting them every week, so that’s good for the books. The Steelers game was a big win and then the Bengals (a 7.5-point underdog to Houston) won.”
Week 16 Betting Odds & Ends
Stoneback said the book recouped a lot of that Carolina big-bet money with the Cowboys beating the Eagles, 37-17. Among big losing bets Sunday were moneyline wagers on Philadelphia ($220,00), Tennessee ($240,000, losers to Green Bay) and Indianapolis ($200,000).
The Carolina-bet MGM customer wasn’t shy about firing away. He also had a $100,000 winning wager on the Jets on the point spread and he cashed on the Sunday Night game with $170,000 on the moneyline going with the Packers who won easily against Tennessee, 40-14.
The Jets win also torpedoed a $52,000 three-leg moneyline parlay at William Hill that included Kansas City, Chicago and Cleveland. The payoff would have been more than $100,100.