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On The Money | NFL Wild-Card Betting Recap: Super for Books

Bill Ordine for Bookies.com

Bill Ordine  | 5 mins

On The Money | NFL Wild-Card Betting Recap: Super for Books

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The NFL’s Super Wild Card weekend was certainly that for bookmakers — meaning, it was a super moneymaker.

With six games over two days to start the Super Bowl run, all three Saturday NFL betting underdogs won with the spread and on Sunday night, still another underdog — in this case the Cleveland Browns, a 5.5-point ‘dog — won outright, 48-37, sinking money-line and teaser parlays. Since the public almost always bets favorites, a good day by underdogs usually means a good day for the books, and so it was this past weekend.

“Saturday was a really good day for us,” said Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook operations for DraftKings. “It started out with the Bills not covering and it went on to be a ‘dog day. Two favorites won straight up, but the dogs got there (against the spread).”

Buffalo won outright, 27-24, but the Bills were giving seven points to the Colts. The betting pubic really took a drubbing in Saturday’s other two games when the Los Angles Rams, 3-point underdogs at Seattle, won outright 30-20, and then in the night game Saturday, the Washington Football Team, a 10-point underdog, played a surprisingly scrappy game against the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers before falling, 31-23.

On Sunday, Baltimore was one of the few favorites (-3.5) to cover beating Tennessee, 20-13; New Orleans (-10.5 to -11) just managed to prevail against the spread beating Chicago 21-9 when the Bears, by rule, didn’t attempt a conversion after their game-ending TD, and then Cleveland throttled Pittsburgh by 11 points.

“Yes, Saturday was a big day for the books,” said Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM Resorts. “It started out with the Colts (covering). Then, in the Rams-Seahawks game, the sharp money was on the Rams but the public was on Seattle, so that was a small winner. But Saturday night’s game was a really big one for us when Tampa Bay did not cover. The game opened at 7.5 (with the Buccaneers favored) and closed at 10.”

The 2.5-point move during the week indicated that cash was flowing heavily toward the Bucs. At FanDuel, 78% of the spread handle was on Tampa Bay. Similarly, at PointsBet 73% of the handle was on the Bucs.

Browns Backer

However, the underdog star of the weekend was Cleveland in its double-digit 48-37 win over Pittsburgh, a 5.5-point favorite, on Sunday night — even though one BetMGM customer had a bundle riding on Cleveland.

“We took a half a million dollars on the Browns. This is a gentleman that’s bet half-a-million dollars with us at times and he had $300,000 on the Under in the Bears-Saints game (where the O/U was 48) that he won, and then he came back with that big bet on the Browns on the spread, and then another $100,000 on Cleveland at +210 on the moneyline. So, he’ll win $1 million today.“

And yet oddly in the world of sports betting, one bettor’s huge score was still a good thing for the house.

“Actually, it will work out better for us if he does win the $500,000 bet on the Browns,” Stoneback said as Cleveland built a 35-10 halftime lead and then held off a Pittsburgh rally. “There were tons of parlays and teasers tied up with the Steelers, so we would actually win some money if the bettor wins his (Cleveland) bet. So, we’re rooting for him.”

Teasers Becoming More Popular

Teasers are wagers where bettors get modified point spreads (typically adding 6, 6.5 or 7 points to their team’s total) but also have to lay significant odds in the process. Such bets are becoming increasingly popular in online wagering and in fact, some bookmakers are making the betting even more exotic and tempting by offering point spreads, called alternate lines, that add enormous amounts of points — but at hefty negative odds. Generally, teaser bets are helped when final point differentials come in close to the original point spreads.

“Most of the games this weekend were within teaser range,” Avello said. “All three games on Saturday did, and the first two games on Sunday.”

Representative of a teaser parlay was a $50,000 six-teamer that collected $110,379 at FanDuel that went like this: Colts (alt spread +20.5 at -700); Seahawks (alt Spread +12.5 at -900); Washington Football Team (alt spread +18.5 at -360); Titans (alt spread +16.5 at -700); Saints (alt spread +3.5 at -700), and, critically as it turned out, Steelers +15.5 at a whopping -2400.

That -2400 was an enormous number to lay but Pittsburgh needed most of those 15.5 points to make the wager work and in falling behind, 35-10, at halftime could have easily busted the parlay. In fact, the Steelers only covered the teaser with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 1:09 left in the game.

Parlays Take a Hit

Still, in winning outright by 11 points, the Browns did wind up crushing more conventional teaser parlays and regular parlays that included the Steelers.

“Overall, a strong weekend for the book with Colts covering, Browns (and) Rams covering (and winning outright), Washington covering (excluding a few sharps who got Tampa Bay at -7.5) and the Saints covering vs the Bears,” noted PointsBet’s Patrick Eichner. “The Under hitting in the Titans/Ravens and Bears/Saints (games) was also a great result.”

At PointsBet, the Over had 70% of the handle in both the Ravens-Titans and Bears-Saints games.

About the Author

Bill Ordine for Bookies.com
Bill Ordine
Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years and was lead reporter on a team that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.