Josh Katzenstein for Bookies.com

By Josh Katzenstein | | 7 mins

SLIPS: Outright Underdog Wins Help Books Salvage NFL Week 16

SLIPS: Outright Underdog Wins Help Books Salvage NFL Week 16

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.


Five of the seven biggest favorites covered on Sunday of the Week 16 NFL slate, which would normally spell trouble for sportsbooks.

However, thanks to a few NFL betting covers by underdogs, the books avoided a brutal day toward the end of the regular season. Outright wins by underdogs such as the Eagles, Cardinals, Jets and Raiders made it hard for bettors to hit big parlays or teasers during a fairly chalky week.

“Players definitely held their own for sure yesterday,” William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich said.


RELATED: NFL Week 16 Betting Takeaways: Two Playoff Openings Remain


The Chiefs (-7 against the Bears) and Ravens (-10 against the Browns) were huge losses for the books as both teams covered with relative ease. At William Hill, 93% of tickets and 94% of the handle were on the Chiefs; the Ravens took 90% of tickets and 78% of the handle.

The Broncos (-7.5 against the Lions) were another easy win for bettors, who backed Denver on 80% of tickets and 82% of the handle. Betting the Saints (-3 against the Titans) was good for the public, too, at 86% of tickets, but sharp action on the Titans dropped New Orleans’ share of the handle to 72%.

The Eagles (+2.5) beating the Cowboys really saved the day for William Hill as 75% of tickets and 86% of the handle were on the Cowboys. But bettors in Pennsylvania and New Jersey tend to favor the Eagles a bit more and SugarHouse actually finished Sunday with 51% of bettors on the Philadelphia moneyline.

This Sunday actually played out similarly to the Sunday from Week 15 with favorites dominating in the early slate, underdogs bouncing back in the late afternoon games and the preferred team of bettors (underdog Bills in Week 15, favorite Chiefs in Week 16) winning the nightcap. This is an exciting scenario for bettors because the favorites winning early likely keeps parlays and teasers alive, but the books love to see the underdogs make up ground.

Favorites went 5-2 in the 1 p.m. games Sunday, but underdogs were 3-1 in the late afternoon games, including the Raiders (+7.5 against the Chargers) and Cardinals (+9 against the Seahawks) winning outright.

Neither the Raiders nor Cardinals were big decisions for William Hill on straight bets. In fact, 53% of spread tickets and 56% of the handle rode on the Cardinals while the Raiders were preferred on 59% of tickets but just 33% of the handle.

Enough popular bets hit for bettors to have a good day, but there were enough surprises for books to avoid a bad day.

Weirdness Coming in NFL Week 17

Bogdanovich said William Hill took a “tremendous” handle on Sunday.

“There was a ton of business,” he said. “People were betting with both fists.”

Bogdanovich guessed a few of the possibilities that might have contributed to the increase in betting. First, it was a good week with lots of games where bettors saw value and many games were effectively playoff games. Second, he said, some people might have been trying to earn a little extra spending money for the holidays.

Looking ahead, betting will likely be down in Week 17 because many games will be unpredictable. Some teams, like the Ravens, will have a chance to rest their starters with nothing on the line in terms of playoffs as they face divisional opponents. Meanwhile, some other teams — like the Cowboys and Eagles — will be battling for the playoffs against bad teams, but bad teams often turn things up with a chance to play spoiler.

SLIPS: Outright Underdog Wins Help Books Salvage NFL Week 16 1
Carson Wentz and the Eagles just need to win in Week 17 against the Giants to clinch the NFC East.

“The games that really mean something you’ll see extra on,” Bogdanovich said. Instead of betting on the unknowns in some Week 17 games, he said many bettors will instead turn their attention to college bowl games.

Saturday NFL Week 16 Slate

The three Saturday games were not kind to bettors as favorites went 1-1-1 – and the betting public actually wanted that one favorite, the Patriots, to lose.

William Hill took 64% of tickets and 53% of money on Buffalo +6.5, but the Patriots covered with a 7-point win. Bettors were on the under, too, despite the low total of 37.5, but the game went over with 41 points scored.

The under in Houston-Tampa Bay was a big decision for the books, too. Bettors hammered over 50.5 with 83% of tickets and 91% of the handle, but the game finished with just 43 points.

Sharps vs. Squares

Two spreads saw a different teams favored by the public and professional bettors at William Hill on Sunday.

The Raiders +7.5 was the pick on 59% of spread tickets, but 67% of the handle was on the Chargers as sharps expected the home team to win. Instead, the public was right about the Raiders.

The public was also right in the Dolphins-Bengals game as 78% of tickets were on Miami +1.5 while 55% of the handle was on Cincinnati. The Dolphins dominated the first three quarters, then pulled out a win in overtime.

The discrepancy wasn’t enough to swing the majority of the handle in a few other games, but some sharps were on the Titans, Falcons, Colts, Browns and Cowboys. Among those, only the Falcons and Colts were good bets.

Notable Bets

  • At DraftKings, one bettor’s confidence in the Chiefs offense paid off handsomely. The bettor put $15,000 on Kansas City to score more than 2.5 touchdowns, so when the Chiefs scored three touchdowns, the bet paid $39,900.
  • Another Draft Kings bettor had $776 on the Raiders moneyline, which paid out $3,026.
  • Here’s one more from DraftKings where a player turned a $500 free bet into more than $18,000.

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