Week 17 brought high-stakes games for players and bettors alike. While some teams locked up postseason berths and looked forward to 2019, many tickets were joyously cashed on some heavy favorites and one somewhat surprising upset.
Overall, Week 17 meant the NFL regular season proved a massive success with the legalization of sports betting across the country. New Jersey, the state fighting federal law to expand availability, will point to this as a major achievement in 2018. In the four months of football season, the state will see over $1 billion bet on the games, with handle increasing in each month. Players opted to go online over retail to bet, which meant more tax revenue for the state’s coffers.
Favorites end 2018 on a high note
This was the first week we saw bettors move towards some teams and away from others. One team this year that’s gotten a lot of money on spread bets across the books was New England. The Pats needed a win to lock up a bye week in the AFC Playoffs and did so by easily thumping the Jets on the road.
However, bettors at William Hill and DraftKings Sportsbook stayed away from the defending AFC champs. They only earned 55% of the money bet at William Hill and were also-rans in terms of handle share for Week 17. They did finish the overall leader of handle for spread and money line at DraftKings for the season.
The two major books reported different interests on the final Sunday of the regular season. At William Hill, Dolphins-Bills and Browns-Ravens were the hottest tickets at 13% each of the day’s spread handle. The Colts-Titans game finished third at 11%. The biggest game bet at DraftKings was Chargers-Broncos, two of the three most bet teams on the day. Bettors also put their faith (and money) on the Chiefs, Eagles, and Seahawks.
Miami-Buffalo was mostly an afterthought for the season finale. Both teams were eliminated and were mostly playing for pride. However, bettors saw an angle with the dejected Dolphins going to the cold and backed the Bills giving 5.5. 89% of the game’s spread handle went to Buffalo, the biggest number of the day. The Bills cruised to a big win.
While the Chiefs didn’t garner a big share of overall handle, they were substantial betting favorites (87%) at William Hill. KC locked up the #1 seed in a resounding win over their old rivals at Arrowhead. The Chargers won their game easily and covered against Denver.
Overall the day went well for bettors. Houston claimed the AFC South and covered for 64% of the money bet on 78% of the tickets. The Colts took the last AFC Wild Card berth with 65% of handle, winning as a road favorite against Tennessee. The Colts were also a big draw at PlaySugarHouse and scored a big win for bettors. Even the Rams, whose ATS record hasn’t been as impressive as their 13-3 SU mark this year, covered against San Francisco to claim the NFC’s #2 seed.
Fades don’t often go the public’s way but this was a good week to go against a few favorites. Even before Antonio Brown was ruled out for disciplinary issues, the public backed the Bengals to cover 14 in Pittsburgh, which they did. Carolina were underdogs in New Orleans but won the public’s support (55% of handle) to cover. They won outright after the Saints clinched homefield throughout the playoffs.
Some games didn’t go as well for the public. With Dallas locked into the #4 seed, the public backed the Giants at MetLife as favorites. Dallas covered and won. Aaron Rodgers’ concussion at home left the Packers and their backers high and dry. The Ravens won to clinch the AFC North but Cleveland hung around and covered the 6.5 point spread.
Finally, we come to the game that enthralled much of the Mid-Atlantic. The Eagles, despite injuries and early calamitous losses, could defend their crown with a win and Bears defeat of Minnesota on the road. Fans took both teams, despite the Vikings favored by 5.5.
After elimination last week, Washington put up little fight and Philly recorded a shutout. Coupled with the Chicago win, those two will meet next weekend. Philadelphia is one of four playoff teams that earned the top 5 in betting handle at DraftKings over the year, behind the Pats and Chiefs but ahead of the Saints. Expect to see that game draw the highest handle share of Wild Card weekend in New Jersey.