What a week. That can be said for almost any week in the NFL, but this was a real doozy. One young QB prodigy returned from injury, another fell and his season is over. While Father Time remains undefeated, this round went to the mortals as those past 35 turned back the clock with a victory. And we finally lived to see it: one Harvard man threw a touchdown to another in the NFL. The boys at Cambridge must’ve huzzahed and waved their hats in delight!
Sports betting saw some wild action as well. Let’s recap.
Thursday night delights
Do we really need Thursday Night Football? This is the marquee evening for network television. Advertisers focus this evening on men 18-49, pitching movies, restaurants, and other stuff to do on the weekend (which means less time to watch football). After years of waffling, I’ll put myself in the camp to retain this new institution. At the least, it makes for interesting wagering.
A couple books stood out with offerings for the innocuous Jets-Browns game. Before the game, most players in NJ saw the total around 40 or 41. Not 888Sport. They expected fireworks and put the over/under at 43. They hedged their position by putting a steeper price on the under. Interesting decision.
FanDuel definitely had a busy day. Before the game, they agreed to pay out a customer who got the Broncos +75000 in-game at Denver drove for the game-winning FG against Oakland in Week 2. That $110 wager, made on a line set in error, earned the player over $82,000. The book also settled with others who received incorrect lines but had winning tickets. The company rules and state regulations were opaque on how to proceed but most agree FanDuel did the right thing.
FanDuel decided to go beyond and offer a pretty interesting promotion. Working in the Garden State means being at the crossroads of three prominent, passionate NFL fan bases. They’ve seen fans come out for the Giants, Jets, and Eagles at the windows. Why not entice those who have been on the fence with a money-back deal?
Last week, FanDuel not only offered free parking for patrons looking to check out their retail location at the Meadowlands (easier to get to without that darn NFL hosting games in the same complex), fans could get their first money-line bet on one of those teams “risk-free”. FanDuel offered to refund up to $100 if your team didn’t win. After the loss on Thursday night, they posted on their site they refunded over $70K in Jets’ bets. Sunday was a little luckier. Carson Wentz won his return to the field as the Eagles downed the Colts, while Saquon Barkley and the G-Men fashioned a victory in Houston.
Beware of the dogs
Opening lines can be surprising. The Bills-Vikings game saw a historically large spread. The 1-0-1 Vikings returned home to face a Buffalo team starting a rookie QB against a prolific defense. Buffalo looked hapless in two losses. Their defense gave up points in droves. Their offense sputtered. Of course the Vikes were favored by more than two TDs. Did that line scare anyone? Not really. William Hill reported Minnesota got 80% of the money on spread bets for that game.
What happened? Josh Allen happened. And it was glorious. The team that was +1000 in ML bets before kickoff smoked the home team and won handily, the largest spread upset in the NFL in the last 23 seasons. So did some who had the guts to take the action. One fan at Monmouth Park turned $20 into over $2400 with a three-team parlay (Buffalo, Giants, and Detroit).
The dogs made it a good day for DraftKings. As was the case at many books, New England was well-bet against Detroit. As of Friday, they had 96% of the public spread money. It’s The Patriot Way against the Lions who look like they lost their way with a former Belichick acolyte at the helm. Of course, the Lions handled business on Sunday night, dealing Brady his first loss in eight starts against NFC foes on the road. Another big win for DK was Washington hosting Green Bay. The Pack had 89% of the money before the weekend and they lost as well.
DraftKings was nearing its 2 millionth bet in New Jersey last weekend, in half the time it took to get to 1 million. No formal announcement for when the historic purchase occurred or what incentive that player received. DK heralded their countdown to the first million, offering $10,000 in free bets to someone who made history with a $3 bet.
Do you believe in (Fitz)magic?
Last week, when the early lines dropped, installing Pittsburgh as a slight favorite on the road seemed questionable. The books did. The players jumped on it. By kickoff in Tampa on Monday night, the game switched from anything to a pick’em to Bucs -2. At William Hill, the Bucs outdrew the Steelers 2-1 in spread betting. Of course, those who backed Big Ben banked. The Steelers won 30-27. The big question this week will be if Ryan Fitzpatrick and his steampunk/prospector superbeard will be under center as Heisman winner Jameis Winston becomes eligible after his suspension.