By Josh Katzenstein | | 7 mins
SLIPS: Lions, Bills Headline Banner NFL Week 4 For Underdogs
Week 4 of the 2019 NFL season featured four of the seven unbeaten teams losing, but two of those teams actually covered as home underdogs.
Sportsbooks were rightfully skeptical of the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills even after their strong starts as both teams were 7-point underdogs at home against fellow unbeaten teams on Sunday.
The Lions, after starting 2-0-1, played host to the Kansas City Chiefs, and 92% of bettors laid the 7 points to pick the Chiefs, according to William Hill. Detroit grabbed an early 10-0 lead, didn’t trail until the third quarter and took a 30-27 lead with 2:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs ultimately won, 34-30, but the 8% of bettors who backed the Lions and the points were comfortable for most of the game. If not for two Detroit fumbles inside the 5, the Lions likely would have won outright to the pleasure of the believers who risked the Detroit moneyline at +310.
Buffalo, which started 3-0, welcomed the division-rival New England Patriots and covered the 7-point spread in a 16-10 loss. The Bills outscored the Patriots in the final three quarters 10-3, but their last-ditch drive with backup quarterback Matt Barkley failed after reaching New England territory.
Bettors loved the Patriots with 84% backing New England despite the 7-point spread. Those with losing tickets will surely blame Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s missed extra point in the first quarter as a reason the bet didn’t push, and it was Gostkowski’s fourth missed extra point through four games.
Regardless, the Bills ended a streak of five games in which they failed to cover at home against the Patriots.
Belief in Lions, Bills Should Build
Before the games began, Rush Street Interactive chief operating officer Mattias Stetz took note of the money backing the Patriots and Chiefs. On Monday, he acknowledged it was a good weekend for sportsbooks.
“We take risk every weekend,” he said in a news release. “This weekend the book happened to be on the winning side, but the season is long and we know the bettors will havegood weekends as they have in the past with us.”
Moving forward, Detroit and Buffalo should start to get more respect from books and, presumably, the betting public.
The Lions were hard to read after an ugly tie against Arizona to open the season. They followed with a home win over the Chargers and a road win over the Eagles. After the impressive game against the Chiefs, with quarterback Matthew Stafford playing through injury no less, it’s hard to see them getting anywhere close to 7 points in the near future.
The Bills feasted on lousy opponents — the Jets, Giants and Bengals — en route to their 3-0 start, but they impressed in the test against New England, even with Barkley playing most of the fourth quarter in place of Josh Allen, who suffered a concussion. Buffalo’s defense is so stout that it’s hard to see books giving them 7 points again — at least until they visit New England.
Meanwhile, the Packers and Cowboys also lost for the first time after starting 3-0, leaving just the Chiefs (4-0), Patriots (4-0) and 49ers (3-0) as unbeatens.
Sportsbooks Win Big
Kansas City and New England failing to cover represented massive windfalls for bookmakers in Week 4, but the house cleaned up on the rest of the slate, too.
The favorites were just 4-10, including the Green Bay’s loss on Thursday, and six of the eight most popular teams on the point spread fell. Behind the Chiefs at 92% and Patriots at 84%, the Houston Texans at -5.5 were the most-backed team Sunday at 75%, according to William Hill. But the Carolina Panthers completed the upset, winning 16-10.
In the Sunday night game, 69% of bettors picked the Dallas Cowboys -2.5 in New Orleans, but the Saints pulled off the upset at home in a 12-10 defensive battle. William Hill also had 68% of bettors back the Baltimore Ravens at -7, but the Cleveland Browns dominated on the road with a 40-25 victory in which they never trailed.
The Los Angeles Rams were a popular pick, too, with 67% of bettors behind them and the 9.5-point spread. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made that pick look foolish as they jumped out to a 21-point lead and finished things off.
A few favorites actually did their job on Sunday, and the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants likely saved the day for some bettors. The Seahawks had 69% of tickets and covered the 5-point spread with ease in a 24-10 road win over the Arizona Cardinals, and 68% of bettors took the Giants -3 at home as they trounced Washington, 24-3.
The only other favorites to cover were the Chicago Bears, beating the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 with a -1.5-point line, and the Los Angeles Chargers, who covered a 15-point spread with a 30-10 road win over the Miami Dolphins.
For some reason, people are still betting on the Dolphins, who fell to 0-4 and have now lost by at least 20 points — and an average of 34! — this season.
Miami was actually the preferred bet against the Chargers on Sunday as 59 percent of bettors backed the home Dolphins at +15, according to William Hill.
Sure, the Chargers, who entered 1-2, have some flaws, but they’re still a capable team. The Dolphins have yet to prove worthy of that distinction, failing to cover in seven straight games. Yet people are still jumping on the massive point spread hoping for signs of life from Miami. The only positive for the Dolphins on Sunday is they took a lead for the first time this season at 7-3, but it lasted less than 4 minutes.The Dolphins are idle in Week 5, which should save some bettors from themselves.
Big Bet on Big Blue
Imagine at any point this offseason thinking the Giants would be a lock. Somehow, with Daniel Jones at quarterback and in a matchup against woeful Washington, one bettor recognized New York as a sure thing. Ocean Resort Casino’s sports book took a $150,000 bet on the Giants -3 on Sunday. Big Blue dismantled Washington, 24-3, to give the bettor an easy $125,000 win.
These are no longer the same Giants who lost by double digits to Dallas and Buffalo to open the season. After a 1-point win over Tampa Bay in Week 3 and this easy win over Washington, these Giants look like a legitimate opponent instead of a team vying for one of the top picks in the draft.
Shout out to the confident bettor, who probably owes Daniel Jones a dime.
As usual, bettors were confident in Clemson last weekend, betting the opening spread against North Carolina from -24.5 up to -27.5. According to William Hill, 80 percent of the spread tickets — as well as 77 percent of the money — were on the visiting Tigers.
The Tar Heels spoiled the bet easily as they led for much of the game before losing 21-20. North Carolina nearly won the game outright, but its 2-point try in the final minutes failed, sealing the victory for the Tigers.
The close call led to Clemson dropping from No. 1 to No. 2 in the polls behind Alabama, but the Tigers are still the favorite to become national champions as DraftKings lists them at +200, slightly ahead of the Crimson Tide at +250.
Odds & Trends
- In losing to the Titans on Sunday, the Falcons (-3.5) continued some ugly trends. They have now failed to cover the spread in 13 straight games when favored against the AFC, including eight straight at home.
- Favorites had won the last 15 games in Indianapolis, but the Colts (-6.5) ended that streak Sunday with a stunning 31-24 loss to the Raiders.
- The Browns had lost 25 of their previous 26 Sunday road games before their Week 4 upset over the Ravens.
- The Panthers, who beat the Texans 16-10 in Houston, have now won seven straight games against the AFC South.
- Despite having a high-powered offense, Houston has gone under the total in seven straight Sunday games at home. Sunday’s loss to the Panthers wasn’t even close to the total of 47.5.
- The Vikings have now failed to cover six straight games as an underdog. When the books don’t like Kirk Cousins, you shouldn’t either.
- The Vikings and Bears had the second-lowest total at 38 this week, and the game never approached that number with Chicago winning 16-6. The last nine games between NFC North foes have gone under.