It was a weird weekend for the sportsbooks. FanDuel Sportsbook offered to pay off ticketholders who had Alabama winning the national title before the College Football Playoff started. Saturday night, the heavyweight title fight in boxing ended in a draw.
Despite the chaos and the payouts, this was a good weekend overall for the sportsbooks, thanks to a variety of upsets by significant underdogs in week 13 action across the NFL. Let’s review the week.
No Brees on a hot Dallas night
Sometimes games come along and you see a chance for a hot team to pull a big upset. Sometimes you pull the trigger for the upset, sometimes you don’t and play it safe.
Thursday night would’ve been a good time for the former option. Dallas hosted New Orleans, both on a full week’s rest after wins on Thanksgiving. The Saints hadn’t lost since Week 1 and entered a seven-point favorite.
The public backed the Saints across the board and expected the best offense in the NFL to pile on points. At DraftKings, the Saints had the highest handle of all the teams this week. 77% of the spread money went to New Orleans at William Hill.
The Cowboys’ upset win was a big win for all the books, including PlaySugarHouse, who noted that was their biggest bet game of the weekend. “The NFL has had a much improved primetime schedule this year, with consistently strong match-ups all year long,” said Mattias Stetz, C.O.O at Rush Street Interactive. “Bettors have taken notice as we’ve seen consistently strong action all year long.”
A wild Sunday
The curious week began on Monday morning, as I wrote my weekly first look column at TheLines.com. Atlanta was an early favorite hosting Baltimore at FanDuel, who has done well to offer early prices. However, DraftKings actually established the Ravens as the favorite at -2.5, despite Joe Flacco’s injury.
Money moved lines throughout the week. William Hill saw late money flip the spread edge from the Giants (97% Thursday) to the Bears (51% Sunday) and the Jets (78%) to the Titans (52%).
Like Thursday, there were some big favorites on the road who couldn’t get it done. The Colts got a lot of play across the books, earning 86% at William Hill visiting the Jags, now led by Cody Kessler. Jacksonville won 6-0.
It was overall not a good week if your ticket gave away double-digit points. Arizona went into Green Bay nearly a two-TD dog and won, although the public sided with them at William Hill. The Titans needed a late score to beat the Jets but didn’t cover. The Chiefs were favored by 14 in Oakland but only won by 7. Only the Rams, who have struggled ATS this year despite their impressive record, covering the 10 points in Detroit while locking up the NFC West.
That weird Falcons line? Atlanta earned 85% of the point spread bets and lost at home.
The public did have some decent winners. In the highest handle game of the day at William Hill, the Patriots covered at home against Minnesota. New England earned 73% of the money bet on the line. The bettors also won with Denver (67%), Miami (59%), and even correctly picked Tampa to cover against Carolina. The Bucs won outright.
The evening ended with a potential playoff preview as the Chargers visited the Steelers. This was the biggest handle on Sunday according to DK, although the total didn’t match what the Saints got Pittsburgh jumped out to a big lead but the Chargers came back to win at the gun, scoring another win for the books.
Flying high again
Cautious optimism permeated South Philadelphia as the Eagles faced Washington in a virtual eliminator game in the NFC East. Late money flipped the spread bets from the Skins (62% on Thursday) to the Birds (56%), shaving a half-point off the spread towards the home team.
Three tight quarters saw fans and bettors biting their nails. Even the presence of Mark Sanchez under center for Washington couldn’t shake the nagging concern. Fortunately, Carson Wentz led three scoring drives to bring home a 28-13 Eagles win for an easy cover.