On The Money | NFL Week 15 Betting Recap: Right on the Line
Bill Ordine | 6 mins
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Whenever a football game ends with a point differential that is exactly on the point spread or within a point or so, the betting public marvels at the expertise of the oddsmakers who set the original line. And no doubt that admiration is warranted.
However, the fact is that while the oddsmakers might appear to be prescient in setting the NFL point spread when the game “lands on the number,” the bookmakers are looking at a potential headache.
Such was the case Sunday when the most heavily bet game of the day — Kansas City at New Orleans — fell either right on the line or within a half-point (depending on the book and when the bet was made). Financially, the game wasn’t an across-the-board disaster for the books — but it wasn’t much of a money-maker, either.
Leading up to the game, Kansas City started the week as a 4-point favorite but the betting, some of it sharp money, meaning professional bettors, kept nudging the line lower to 3.5, then 3, and finally by kickoff, to 2.5 at some books.
The Chiefs held the lead throughout the game but could never shake the Saints, and QB Drew Brees’ 17-yard-touchdown pass to Lil'Jordan Humphrey along with the PAT closed the score to 32-29 with a little over two minutes to play, and that’s how it ended.
Kansas City’s 3-point win was good for bettors at some books who had moved the line below the key 3-point threshold but there were also books, such as William Hill, FanDuel and BetMGM, where the line at kickoff was at 3. However, with the line shifts leading up to the game, many bookmakers were clearly holding wagers at point spreads that were all around the final number.
Therein, is the danger for the books.
“The biggest game of the whole day for us was probably the Chiefs game. And that game wound up falling on the number,” said Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook operations for DraftKings’. “So, we were at 4 (early), we closed at 2.5, we took some plus-3 money. The bettors had the Chiefs on the money line so those are all winning bets … but when the game falls right on the number, it could be very bad. It’s worse if the point spread goes from the favorite down(ward), then it gets pushed back up.
”On this game, the Sharps took the higher pluses (the underdog Saints), and when it got to a lower number, the public bet (the favorite). So, we wind up paying one and probably refunding the other. So, it’s never good to be around the number.”
According to reports from around the betting world, it’s clear that the betting public was rooting for the Chiefs (94% of the early point-spread handle at FanDuel; 89% of the point-spread handle at PointsBet, 88% of the spread handle at BetRivers.com). But depending on exactly at what number a bet was placed, the actual profit-loss results of those wagers will vary.
Chiefs bettors seeing New Orleans make a small comeback, but stop short of covering: pic.twitter.com/uPv9fbQZdm— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) December 21, 2020
Holding the Line at 3
Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM Resorts, said his books held the line at 3 points and in the process, avoided paying off parlays that included the Chiefs where the spread was involved.
“This game, (KC-NO), We opened at 3.5 but it didn’t take much to get it down to 3 and that’s where we stayed all day so it was kind of a wash,” Stoneback said. “We did not get off the 3 and I’m glad we didn’t because there were a lot of parlays on the Chiefs so those winning parlays would have been paid off a bit more than with the push. But as rule, it’s never a good outcome and we never win money when the game falls on the number. We just hope we don’t get middled.”
A middle occurs when bettors are able to wager on a shifting line, say, with substantial money on both the underdog getting 7 points and the favorite giving 5 points. If the favorite wins by 6 points (a so-called middle), both the favorite wagers and the ‘dog wagers get paid.
Overall, the betting public had a decent day Sunday after getting beat up though November. Tennessee, an easy 46-25 winner over Detroit, was heavily bet, and so was Baltimore, which cruised by Jacksonville, 40-14.
Week 15 Betting Odds & Ends
Good Morning from your AFC East Champs. ?#GoBills | #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/akme0IhOht— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 20, 2020
One bettor made some noise at the MGM casino betting windows putting down 35 six-figure wagers with mixed results.
An eyebrow-raising parlay bet of NFL Week 15 wasn’t on Sunday but rather was the result of Buffalo’s 48-19 win over Denver on Saturday. That was a same-game $1,000 parlay ticket with six legs featuring a point spread bet (Buffalo -5.5), an O/U bet (Over, 59.5, alternate total) and four TD scorers (Josh Allen, Noah Fant, Dawson Knox and Devin Singletary). The parlay paid nearly $493,000.
Representative of Miami’s turnaround season, the Dolphins are an NFL-best 11-3 against the spread. In the AFC East standings, they’re 9-5 after finishing 5-11 in 2019. Sunday, they accomplished what few teams have done in the last 20 years by beating Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. Going into yesterday’s game, Belichick was 21-5 against rookie quarterbacks. Sunday, Dolphins rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa led Miami to a 22-12 win, easily covering a 1- to 1.5-point spread.
One customer in NJ placed a $100 bet back in September for the Jets' first win of the season to come against the Rams in Week 15.— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) December 21, 2020
Today that bet won $12,100 ? pic.twitter.com/B7ZdDGLJau
J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets
And not to be overlooked, the New York Jets avoided a winless season by hanging a 23-20 loss on the duly embarrassed Los Angeles Rams. The Jets were 17-point underdogs. But here’s a head-scratcher — according to FanDuel, 51% of the money line tickets were on the previously 0-14 Jets at its book (yet, 89% of the money line handle was on the Rams).
That weird thing aside and after the FanDuel-Jets thread, FD reported that a New Jersey customer placed a $100 bet back in September for the Jets' first win of the season to come against the Rams in Week 15. That paid $12,100.