Josh Katzenstein for Bookies.com

By Josh Katzenstein | | 6 mins

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SLIPS: In NFL Week 12, Bettors Still Sleeping On The Bills

SLIPS: In NFL Week 12, Bettors Still Sleeping On The Bills
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Veteran sports reporter Josh Katzenstein, who has covered both the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints, takes a deep dive into the weekend’s NFL betting slips, including where the money went, the bad beats, amazing covers, stunning parlays and more.


When I saw the point spreads for the Week 12 NFL matchups, the first game that caught my eye was the Buffalo Bills vs. the Denver Broncos.

The Bills opened as 5.5-point favorites, and even that seemed low to me. Buffalo entered the game 7-3 while the Broncos were 3-7, I figured the Bills would be favored by at least a touchdown.

Typically, when I see a line that doesn’t make sense, I assume the sportsbooks know something I don’t. For some reason, though, that opening line attracted enough Broncos action for the spread to drop as low as Bills -3.5 by kickoff at some books.

Why are fans of NFL betting still sleeping on the Bills? They have an elite defense and an offense that has been trending up.

According to Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill, Buffalo doesn’t have the big names that attract bettors.

“They’re a pretty vanilla team offensively and hang their head on their defense,” he said. “The masses, they don’t like teams like that. They want teams that light up the scoreboard.”


RELATED: NFL Week 12 Betting Takeaways: Road Teams Dominating ATS


Buffalo won Sunday with ease, dominating the Broncos in a 20-3 victory. Anyone who bet on the Bills, regardless of the spread, had a stress-free day. Buffalo is now 7-3-1 against the spread this year, and the under has hit in eight of 11 Bills games.

At William Hill, 63% of spread tickets and 61% of the handle were on Buffalo, but it wasn’t a particularly popular game as just 8% of the total tickets Sunday and 7% of the money bet were on this game.

On a day in which the books made a killing thanks to underdogs going 8-4 ATS, the Bills should have been an easy way for bettors to save themselves. Instead, many people ignored this relatively boring matchup to bet on the marquee games. Plus, many bettors went against the trend with 71% of tickets and 73% of the handle on over 37.

There’s little reason to think Bills-Broncos was an evenly matched game, and considering home teams typically receive a 3-point edge, the closing spread showed that many books and bettors saw these two teams as being evenly matched.

Bogdanovich said Denver’s showing against the Vikings last week likely gave the Broncos a boost, but I saw that as more of a reason to fade Denver because losing a game after having a 20-point halftime lead takes an emotional toll on the players.

“Other than they were coming off a pretty good game at Minnesota, and the Bills don’t get any respect,” he said. “I guess that combination led the people on to bet the Broncos.”

The Broncos defense entered Sunday’s game ranked fourth overall and seventh in points allowed per game, which is likely why many bettors liked the matchup, but Denver’s offense simply can’t be trusted. Brandon Allen, a sixth-round pick in 2016, was solid in his first career start against the Browns in Week 9, but he was awful against the Vikings, going 17 of 39 for 240 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Bills wide receiver John Brown made this diving catch for a touchdown Sunday against the Broncos.
Bills wide receiver John Brown made this diving catch for a touchdown Sunday against the Broncos.

“It’s just an unknown commodity,” Bogdanovich said of the Broncos’ backup. “You just don’t know. He could either implode or just keep getting better, but definitely an unknown commodity, which is a tough position to be in in the NFL.”

Allen imploded on Sunday, and it should have been easy to predict because the Bills defense — which now ranks third in yards and points allowed — is so much better than either Cleveland’s or Minnesota’s. Allen was 10 of 25 for 82 yards with an interception and a 32.4 passer rating against Buffalo, and Denver’ offense gained a total of 134 yards.

On the other side, Josh Allen proved again that he’s one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL as he had a 92.9 passer rating and added 56 rushing yards. Fantasy players have been aware of his rise this season, but bettors clearly don’t trust him yet.

Buffalo also has a stud running back in Devin Singletary. The rookie from Florida Atlantic is still relatively unknown, but he’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry and has 75-plus rushing yards in three of his past four games.

Add in a couple reliable receivers like John Brown (856 yards) and Cole Beasley (525 yards), and suddenly Buffalo has an offense capable of scoring against a defense as strong as Denver’s. Plus, with a defense as strong as the Bills have, this is a team that should be a betting favorite just about every week.

Underdogs carry the day

Underdogs went 8-4 ATS on Sunday, which led to a big day for sportsbooks. “It was a solid day, no doubt about it,” Bogdanovich said.

Some of the biggest wins for William Hill on Sunday were Washington +4 winning outright over the Lions (87% of spread tickets, 62% of handle), the Buccaneers +3.5 winning outright over the Falcons (77% of tickets, 67% of handle) and the Panthers +10 covering in a 3-point loss to the Saints (59% of tickets, 75% of handle).

William Hill had liability on both sides in the Cowboys (+5.5) at the Patriots, so Dallas covering in a 13-9 loss didn’t move the needle much. The Cowboys only covered because they settled for a field goal with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter when they clearly should have tried to convert fourth-and-7 at the New England 11.

The book’s big loss was the Seahawks +2 winning easily over the Eagles as 81% of the tickets and 76% of the handle were on Seattle.

Bogdanovich said over 51.5 hitting in the Bucs-Falcons game was costly, too. That was the biggest total of the day, and the over has now hit in nine of 11 games for Tampa Bay.

Sharps vs. Squares

Four games saw significantly different action from professional bettors compared to the public, and the sharps went 3-1.

The win for the public was in the Giants-Bears game as 57% of tickets were on Giants +6 while 60% of the handle was on the Bears, who won but by just 5 points.

There was a disparity in the Bengals-Steelers game, too, with 62% of tickets on Pittsburgh +6.5 but 54% of the money on Cincinnati, which covered in a 16-10 loss.

The Patriots-Cowboys game had a lot of action on both sides with the public favoring New England +5.5 (53% of tickets) compared to 57% of the handle on Dallas.

In the Jets-Raiders game, 74% of the tickets were own Raiders -3.5, but only 54% of the handle was on Oakland. Clearly, some sharps saw the Jets win coming.

Notable bets

  • One bettor at the Eldorado Resort Casino in Reno turned $10 into $8,000 thanks to a 10-leg parlay. The bet included the Browns -10.5, Bills -3.5, Bengals +6.5, Giants +6.5, Jets +2.5, Panthers +9.5, Buccaneer +4.5, Washington +3.5, Titans -3.5 and Cowboys +6.5.
  • DraftKings tweeted about a couple nice hits on first touchdown scored bets. One bettor put $40 on Ryan Tannehill to score first in the Titans-Jagurs game, and the quarterback’s 21-yard rushing score paid out $1,640. A bettor also had $100 on Sam Darnold scoring first in Jets-Raiders, winning $1,100 on his 4-yard run.
  • Per Patrick Everson at Covers, a bettor at William Hill hit on three of four big bets. The bettor had $480,000 on 49ers -3, $175,000 on 49ers moneyline, $460,000 on Bucs +3.5 and $440,000 on Eagle +2. The total: $1.55 million bet and $460,000 won.