FOX Sports Betting Analyst
Bettors often joke about hoping a team runs the cover play — just something in the game’s waning moments that clinches a successful wager. But the last thing NFL teams are concerned about, and rightfully so, is covering the number for one of our bets.
So it’s not often that anything resembling a cover play actually happens. But it did this weekend, and it was glorious for plenty of bettors and even for some bookmakers.
Let’s dive into that, how totals did and plenty of other interesting tidbits from the NFL playoffs betting weekend that was.
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There Was Much Rejoicing
Late Saturday afternoon inside The Cosmopolitan sportsbook, right on the Las Vegas Strip, a packed house of bettors eagerly anticipated what the Jacksonville Jaguars might do.
With 33 seconds remaining, the Jags trailed 27-17 while facing fourth and five at the Chiefs’ 30-yard line. Jacksonville coach Doug Pedersen decided to send kicker Riley Patterson out for a field-goal attempt to make it a one-score game.
And sportsbook patrons erupted. When Patterson subsequently nailed the 48-yard kick to make it 27-20, the roar was even louder.
Why you might ask? Well, the Chiefs were favored by 9.5 points. Anyone with a Jaguars spread ticket covered on that made Jags field goal. Plus, pretty much every recreational bettor in the country — and even some sharp bettors — was on what was deemed America’s Teaser this weekend: The two-teamer of Kansas City -2.5 and Philadelphia -1.5. The Jags’ decision pretty much guaranteed the Chiefs would get there, even for those who got on K.C. late when the 6-point teaser could only go down to 3 or 3.5 points.
In addition, some oddsmakers, including South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews, were buried on Chiefs point-spread bets.
“That last field goal was pretty huge. It was a thing of beauty,” Andrews said. “A touchdown would’ve been really beautiful, but you take what you can get.”
And for those on America’s Teaser, well, the Eagles had no issues finishing that off Saturday night. Philly put a 38-7 shellacking on the New York Giants in the NFC divisional round game.
Andrews’ good fortune notwithstanding, every bookmaker had a similar dilemma Sunday morning. Both favorites won on Saturday, and public/recreational bettors love nothing more than stringing together favorite-laden moneyline parlays.
With the Chiefs and Eagles winning Saturday, a large majority of those live moneyline parlays rolled into Sunday favorites Buffalo and San Francisco. And the teasers, as noted above, were also alive and well to the favorites.
Said BetMGM VP of trading Jason Scott before the Bengals-Bills game kicked off:
“We need one of the favorites beaten.”
Then Cincinnati, a 5.5-point road underdog in the snow, went out and bashed Buffalo 27-10.
“The Bengals were huge for us in breaking up [moneyline] parlays,” Scott said, while also noting BetMGM benefited from the Bills getting knocked out of the AFC championship and Super Bowl futures markets.
Added Andrews in the waning moments of the Bengals-Bills game: “This is a good outcome. We needed to beat the teasers one way or another. So we needed a Buffalo blowout or Cincinnati outright.”
But betting can and does vary from one sportsbook to the next. The Bengals’ outright win was a boon for bettors at WynnBet.
“The bettors got the best of us on the moneyline, as almost 70% of tickets and money were on the Bengals,” WynnBet senior trader Chris Youn said. “The spread was a wash, and we were a winner on the Under. Bettors were still betting the Over, even with the snow before and throughout the game.”
The total closed at 48.5 and was never really threatened. In fact, the Under hit in all four Divisional Round games this weekend. If you remember, Overs dominated last week, so things evened out this week.
Cowboys come up short again in 19-12 Divisional Round loss vs. 49ers
For the second straight year, the San Francisco 49ers bounced the Dallas Cowboys from the playoffs with a 19-12 final score.
Mattress Mack’s Millions
As was well documented last week, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was heavily invested in the NFC divisional playoffs and beyond. Last Monday, the Houston furniture store magnate put $200,000 on the Dallas Cowboys +625 to win the NFC title. The potential profit: $1.25 million.
Then on Thursday, Mattress Mack showed up at the Horseshoe Lake Charles (La.) Casino with $2 million to wager on the Cowboys-49ers game. He put $1 million on Cowboys moneyline +170 and another milly on Cowboys moneyline +165. If Dallas beat San Francisco, McIngvale would collect $3.35 million in profit.
But the Cowboys lost a defensive struggle 19-12.
However, as usual, McIngvale’s wagers were a hedge against a furniture store promotion, primarily on — you guessed it — premium mattress sets. So worst-case scenario, he probably broke even this weekend.
Still, it’s been a bumpy betting binge lately for Mattress Mack. In the Jan. 9 College Football Playoff championship game, he had more than $3.1 million invested in TCU. That all went by the boards as Georgia dusted the Horned Frogs 65-7.
Winner for WynnBet
Staying on that Cowboys-Niners tilt, San Francisco had to grind its way to the 19-12 victory, covering as a 3.5-point home favorite. The defensive struggle proved to be just what WynnBet needed.
“The 49ers covering late was huge for us and capped off a great weekend for the book,” Youn said. “We only received 40% of tickets on the Cowboys spread but almost 70% of the money [was on Dallas]. Moneyline went the other way, as three-fourths of the tickets had Cowboys but just 56% of the money.
“Regardless, we were winners for both, and this game turned our NFL divisional playoff weekend from a good one to a great one.”
The late Saturday game proved key for WynnBet, as well. As noted above, the Eagles plowed past the Giants 38-7, laying 8 points at home.
“Moneyline and spread were both above 70% on Giants for tickets and money,” Youn said. “The Eagles taking care of business with an easy win was great for the book. We were also a winner on the Under, as two-thirds of the money was on the Over.”
The total closed at 48, so WynnBet was saved greatly by New York’s near-complete inability to score.
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Craig Carton had high hopes for Daniel Jones and the New York Giants as they prepared to take on the recently returned Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jacksonville was the Cinderella story entering the weekend, but the carriage hit the pumpkin stage in Kansas City. The Chiefs’ 27-20 win as 9.5-point favorites was a give-and-take result for WynnBet.
“Heavy action on the Jags, with 85% of tickets on the moneyline and two-thirds of the money on the spread,” Youn said. “We would have liked for the Chiefs to cover, but with the 7-point result, we just about broke even between the two [spread and moneyline].”
I Like Big Bets and I Cannot Lie
Along with the aforementioned Mattress Mack wagers — all at Caesars Sports, by the way — there were several more big-dollar doings on the NFL this weekend. The biggest play outside of McIngvale’s was a hefty $690,000 wager on Bills -5.5 (-115) at DraftKings.
That was a rough ticket to be holding, as Buffalo never led and, therefore, never came close to covering that number.
A big play that did get there came at BetMGM: $500,000 on Jaguars -10.5 (-125). That high roller cleared $400,000 in profit.
Other major wagers from Caesars Sports:
- $330,000 Bills -5 vs. Bengals (loss)
- $110,000 Bills -4/$220,000 Bills -5 (losses; both bets from same customer)
- $100,000 Bengals moneyline +185 (win)
- $220,000 49ers -3.5 vs. Cowboys (win)
- $220,000 Eagles -7.5 vs. Giants (win)
Then there were some more reasonable/relatable plays. A lot of people jumped on The SuperBook’s Yes/No prop query: Will Cowboys place-kicker Brett Maher miss an extra point?
Yes — that Maher would miss such a kick — was +500. No was a hefty -700 favorite which meant that oddsmakers didn’t expect Maher would replicate his awful performance against Tampa Bay. In the Cowboys’ wild-card win over Tampa Bay, he missed four PATs.
Still, after the Cowboys got on the board with a second-quarter TD, Maher’s extra point was blocked. Bettors nabbed the win on that prop.
“Insane. We were a small loser there,” said Casey Degnon, senior risk supervisor at The SuperBook.
Insane is a pretty good way to describe NFL betting in general. Some level of insanity is surely on the way for conference championship weekend. May the insanity fall in your favor, as it did for those Maher-will-miss bettors.
Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.
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