Underdogs bite betting public on big Sunday for sportsbooks
Adam Pullen, a longtime Las Vegas bookmaker, reviewed Sunday’s NFL results, as the prime-time game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins kicked off.
“Yeah, so, with those results, it’s hard not to have a solid day,” Pullen, of Caesars Sportsbook, said somewhat sheepishly. He didn’t want to pour salt in the wounds of the betting public, which came up short, way short, once again.
After a competitive start to the NFL season, October has taken a turn for the worse for bettors. Sunday, for the second straight week, featured all the ingredients needed for lucrative day for the house. Hopes and dreams of most bettors were squashed quickly Sunday. There were five outright upsets of heavily backed favorites, and underdogs covered the spread in five of the six early games. The few underdogs that were popular with the betting public on the day — the Detroit Lions and Dolphins — both went down in flames.
Even bettors at The Borgata in Atlantic City, who are typically loyal to the Eagles, messed up Sunday and backed the Dolphins.
“A little odd to say this, but we will need the Eagles tonight,” Tom Gable, The Borgata’s sportsbook director, told ESPN, adding that it’s rare for the house to be rooting for Philadelphia. “[It’s] shaping up to be a decent decision, too.”
The Eagles won 31-17, covering the 2.5-point spread in a game that went under the total.
Caesars Sportsbook reported taking multiple six-figure money-line bets on the underdog Dolphins, but also took a $220,000 bet on the Eagles (-2.5) and didn’t have a giant decision on the game, mostly because so many parlays had already been wiped out, many of them by the New England Patriots. New England pulled off the third-biggest upset of the season point-spread-wise, knocking off the Buffalo Bills as 7.5-point underdogs. Buffalo was included in a ton of parlays; as the biggest favorite on the board almost always is.
“We can’t have a huge day without getting one or more dogs to win outright,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, said. “And I don’t mean a field goal underdog. You need to have a couple surprise winners to break up those money-line parlays.”
Perhaps, the best thing to happen to the betting public this week was that it lost so much of its bankroll last week, well, that and Travis Kelce props.
NFL betting notables
• Kelce had been a darling of the betting public way before Taylor Swift entered the picture. The prolific Chiefs tight end is always among the most heavily supported players in the prop betting market.
“Kelce’s the punter’s pal,” said Craig Mucklow, vice president of Caesars Sportsbook. “Every week, we just pray for him to have a substandard game.”
The punter’s pal delivered in a big way Sunday, catching 12 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. Only Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs attracted more money from bettors in DraftKings’ anytime touchdown scorer market. Kelce and Diggs each found the end zone.
• Underdogs were 7-5 against the spread and 6-6 straight-up entering Monday night’s game between the 49ers and home underdog Vikings. Home underdogs were 4-0 against the spread this week. Home teams, overall, went 9-3 against the spread, their best mark of the season.
• Despite some low totals, unders were 7-5 ahead of Monday and a 47-23-2 (67%) since Week 3. The average over/under total this week was 42.58, one of the lowest non-December/January weeks in more than a decade.
• The Patriots’ upset of Buffalo was New England coach Bill Belichick’s 11th outright win as 7-plus-point underdog. Belichick is 11-15 straight-up as an underdog of seven or more, the best such mark of any coach in the Super Bowl era.
• The total on the Browns-Colts game closed at 40. The teams combined for 41 first-half points. It was the second game this season that has gone over the total in the first half (Broncos-Dolphins, Week 3).
• “The Ravens game was huge,” Murray of the SuperBook said of Baltimore’s 38-6 rout of Detroit, “The Lions were a popular ‘dog play all week. Baltimore really pitched a perfect game today. They looked like a Super Bowl team.”
• The largest reported NFL bets at Caesars were on the Steelers, $220,000 on Pittsburgh +3.5, and Eagles, $220,000 on Philadelphia -2.5 The Steelers rallied from behind in the second half to beat the Rams 24-17.
The largest reported bet at The Borgata was on $110,000 on Denver +1 against the Green Bay Packers, which caused the sportsbook to move the number to Broncos -1. Gable, The Borgata’s sportsbook director, said the same bettor put another $55,000 on Denver at that price. The Broncos won by two 19-17.
• The betting market in the U.S. is evolving rapidly, with money lines and props becoming increasingly popular. However, the point spread still attracts the most betting interest in the NFL, according to Murray, the Las Vegas veteran with the SuperBook.
“Nowadays, the money-line column is more popular than ever,” Murray said. “The side remains No. 1, but the money line is closing the gap due to all the parlay action. Total (over/under) is next, followed by the player props. That’s always a growing market, but the limits are so much lower. It remains a market dominated by wise guys, and you need to tread lightly.
Week 8 opening lines via SuperBook
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills (-7.5, 43)
New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts (pick ’em, 42)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (pick ’em, 41)
Houston Texans (-3, 41.5) at Carolina Panthers
Philadelphia Eagles (-6, 44.5) at Washington Commanders
Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys (-6, 46.5)
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (-11.5, 46.5)
New York Jets (-3, 35.5), at New York Giants
Atlanta Falcons (-2, 37) at Tennessee Titans
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-1.5, 43)
Cleveland Browns at Seattle Seahawks (-2.5, 41)
Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5, 45.5) at Denver Broncos
Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers (-5.5, 45.5)
Baltimore Ravens (-8, 44) at Arizona Cardinals
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Chargers (-8.5, 44)
Las Vegas Raiders at Detroit Lions (-7, 45) (Monday)
Betting industry notes
• Research firm Eilers and Krejcik Gaming reported last week that DraftKings moved ahead of FanDuel as the largest sportsbook in the U.S. The firm estimates that DraftKings has an approximate 31% share of the gross gaming revenue from the U.S. betting market, just ahead of FanDuel (~30%).
• DraftKings also opened its new sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale on Friday. It’s the first permanent retail sportsbook at a PGA Tour tournament location. The TPC Scottsdale hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Feb. 8-11, the same weekend as the Super Bowl in Las Vegas.
College football betting notables:
• Michigan became the consensus national title betting favorite over the weekend, moving ahead of Georgia for the first time at sportsbooks around the nation. The Wolverines are +220 to win the College Football Playoff, followed by the two-time defending champion Bulldogs at +280 at Caesars.
Michigan emerged as the consensus favorite after clobbering Michigan State 49-0 and amid a reported sign-stealing investigation involving the Wolverines. Oddsmakers downplayed the impact of any alleged sign-stealing and instead pointed to Michigan’s upcoming schedule. The Wolverines travel to Penn State and host Ohio State in November.
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy also became the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, listed at +220 at Caesars.
Notable opening lines via Circa Sports
Oklahoma (-10, 68.5) at Kansas
Oregon (-6, 47.5) at Utah
Georgia (-13, 44.5) vs. Florida
BYU at Texas (-16, 51.5)
Ohio State (-14, 45.5) at Wisconsin
• The total on Minnesota-Iowa closed at 30.5, the lowest total in any college football games since at least 2000, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Iowa won 12-10.
• Speaking of unders, Air Force beat Navy 17-6 on Saturday. The total was 34. Games between two service academies are now 24-3-1 to the under in the past 10 seasons.
• Virginia upset North Carolina as a 24-point underdog, the largest point-spread upset by an ACC team since 1998 (NC State (+26.5) over Florida State)
*ESPN Stats and Information researcher Mackenzie Kraemer contributed to this column.