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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 betting slips in the NFL and college football, including where the money went, the bad beats, amazing covers, stunning parlays and more.
Sunday’s NFL games are a reminder of why some people hate gambling.
We’re past the midway point of the NFL season, so it would seem there’s enough evidence to bet confidently. But that’s just want the sportsbooks want us to think.
Underdogs covered the spread in six of 10 games on Sunday — seven counting the push between the Cleveland Browns -3 and Buffalo Bills. Five of those underdogs won outright, ruining a lot of parlays and teasers. Among the upset winners were two double-digit dogs, the Atlanta Falcons +13.5 over the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins +10.5 over the Indianapolis Colts.
“Straight bets were probably dead even (on New Orleans and Atlanta), but all the rest, there was an insane amount on the Saints,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill. “No one wanted the Falcons. They’ve looked horrible, (Matt) Ryan was hurt. New Orleans has looked like a machine. That was the shocker of the day, 26-9. Never in a million years did I think they could win, let alone win easily.”
Saints fans in our mentions right now...pic.twitter.com/38iYj8xQkk— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 10, 2019
When actually analyzing those two games, the lines were probably too high. The woeful Falcons entered 1-7, but they had only lost to the Saints, who were 7-1, by 14-plus points once in the past seven years — granted it happened last season. Meanwhile, the Colts had to play Brian Hoyer at quarterback, and his teams had lost nine straight games when he starts.
Out of the six games in which the underdogs covered, bettors only backed two teams correctly at William Hill, and neither was by a significant margin. Bettors had the Arizona Cardinals +5 on 68% of point-spread tickets as they covered in a 30-27 loss to the Buccaneers, and the Dolphins were the pick on 61% of tickets for their 16-12 win in Indianapolis.
It’s always easy to look back at these games in hindsight, but Sunday was the kind of day that keeps sportsbooks profitable year in and year out. The day started ugly for bettors as the Baltimore Ravens -10.5 were the only team covering at halftime in the early games, and things just never turned around.
“There were three monster games that were the story of the day,” Bogdanovich said. “Saints obviously was the biggest. Chiefs was really good and the Rams-Pittsburgh. Those three were by far the best by a country mile.”
The most popular team of the day was the Kansas City Chiefs -6.5, who took 90% of tickets at William Hill before losing on the road to the Tennessee Titans, 35-32. With quarterback Patrick Mahomes returning from a knee injury, bettors lined up to back the Chiefs as this game was on 13% of the spread tickets at William Hill, the highest of the week.
However, many sharps favored the Titans as the money wagered on the spread was just 73% on the Chiefs compared to the 90% of tickets.
“I’d say the pros got pretty lucky in that game,” Bogdanovich said.
One underdog the public liked that didn’t pan out was the Detroit Lions and this was a brutal beat for anyone who bet before Sunday. As of Friday, Sugar House saw 77% of spread tickets on the Lions +2.5 in their road game against the Chicago Bears. Betting on Matthew Stafford and against Mitchell Trubisky seemed like a dream scenario.
Instead, the Lions ruled out Stafford on Sunday morning because of a back injury, the line shot up to Bears -6.5, and Chicago covered for just the third time this season.
In addition to spread and moneyline bettors having a nightmarish day, people betting on over/unders didn’t fare much better. The under hit in six of 11 games, and William Hill saw more tickets on the over in every game.
The most popular over play was Packers vs. Panthers 48, and the under hit in the 24-16 Green Bay win. However, this game shows just how close some of these wagers are every week. Carolina was mere inches from scoring a touchdown on the final play of regulation. Had they gotten into the end zone, a 2-point conversion would have tied the score, tied the total and ensured a win for over bettors if either team scored in overtime.
Dolphins trending up
When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong, and I was wrong about the Dolphins.
After Week 4, I questioned how anyone could possibly bet on Miami. The Dolphins fell to 0-4 straight up and against the spread, and they had lost every game by at least 20 points and an average of 34.
Well, the once-tanking Dolphins are suddenly the hottest bet in the NFL as they have covered the spread in five straight games and have won two in a. Miami defeated the Colts on Sunday and the Jets last week.
I would tell you to start betting the Dolphins, but I don’t want to have a reason to apologize again next month.
Colts bettors *calmly* watching this first half: pic.twitter.com/JVgFxKYFXS— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) November 10, 2019
Sharps vs. Squares
Two games game Sunday featured the pro bettors clearly favoring a different team than the amateurs at William Hill.
The squares preferred the Lions with 61% of the point spread tickets backing Detroit, but 65% of the money bet was on the Bears.
Obviously, much of the money came in before the significant shift in the line, which opened at Chicago -3 and moved up to -6.5 when the Lions ruled out Stafford on Sunday. The sharps were right to back the Bears, who won 20-13 to cover regardless of timing for bettors.
As lousy as Chicago has been recently, it has now covered eight of nine divisional games, and the favorite has won 22 of the past 23 games in this matchup.
William Hill also saw a disparity in betting for the Browns-Bills game as 65% of tickets were on Bills +3 compared to 54% of the handle on the Browns, a sharps darling this season. This game ended in a push as the Browns won, 19-16.
There were two over/unders in which the sharps saw the games differently at William Hill. The Ravens at Bengals (44.5) had 62% of tickets on the over, but 73% of the money was on the under. Count this as a win for the squares as Baltimore hit the total on its own in a 49-13 blowout.
The public also preferred the over in the Rams at Steelers (43.5) with 58% of tickets, but the sharps altered the money as 71% of the money was on the under, which hit in the 17-12 Steelers win.
Golden Gophers crush bettors
Minnesota entered Saturday 8-0 and ranked 17th, but few people believed in them because of a lousy schedule. In Saturday’s matchup against No. 4 Penn State, bettors backed the Nittany Lions -6.5 heavily.
At William Hill, 80% of spread tickets and 79% of the handle were on visiting Penn State, and it was the most-heavily bet game of the day, accounting for 17% of total tickets and 13% of money bet.
Well, the Gophers pulled off the upset, 31-26, and they never trailed so the spread never came into play. However, Bogdanovich said Saturday was rough overall for William Hill as a couple of bettors hit on big parlays, and 6-point underdog LSU’s upset win over Alabama proved costly for the book.
- One of those college parlays at William Hill featured a bettor who turned $1,548 into more than $367,000. The bet had three moneyline underdogs — Illinois +500, Minnesota +220 and Cal +245 — as well as Illinois-Michigan State over 47 and Minnesota-Penn State over 48. This incredible bet was first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and confirmed by Bogdanovich.
- Draft Kings took a $375 bet on the Falcons moneyline at +600, which was good for a $2,625 win.
- Another bettor at William Hill hit a four-leg parlay with Clemson -34.5, USC -4.5, Southern Miss -7.5 and Georgia -18.5. The $30,000 bet hit for a $330,000 win, per Bogdanovich.
- Draft Kings had a fun bet on Titans running back Derrick Henry and Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton to both score two touchdowns. They did, and the +8400 odds turned an $18 bet into $1,530. Here’s to hoping the bettor had those players in daily fantasy lineups, too.