We’re only two weeks into the NFL season, and things are already getting wild.
Spreads are massive, marquee QBs are dropping and bookmakers are having trouble figuring out exactly what they’re seeing.
“The spreads are obnoxious,” Las Vegas veteran oddsmaker Ed Salmons said Sunday night. “It’s like I’m looking at college [football].”
Late Sunday afternoon, as opening lines for Week 3 matchups began popping up at sportsbooks, something happened that the NFL hasn’t seen in 32 years: The Dallas Cowboys opened as 20.5-point favorites over the Miami Dolphins, and the New England Patriots opened as 17.5-point favorites over the New York Jets.
According to ESPN Stats and Information research, there hasn’t been a week with multiple astronomic spreads since 1987, when, in Week 5, some starters began crossing the picket line during the NFL strike.
Welcome to this week’s edition of Notable Bets, our Monday wrap-up of the most notable sports betting storylines from over the weekend.
NFL notable bets
The Dolphins conundrum
• The Dolphins closed as consensus 18-point home underdogs to the Patriots on Sunday and lost 43-0. Miami was the largest home ‘dog in 12 seasons — and bettors weren’t scared. On Sunday morning, 82.9% of the money wagered on the point spread at Caesars Sportsbooks was on the Patriots.
• Early Sunday morning, a bettor at a William Hill sportsbook in Reno, Nevada, placed a $20,000 money-line bet on the Patriots at -2,400 odds. The bettor won a net $833.35.
• On Thursday, a bettor at a CG Technology sportsbook in Las Vegas placed a $100 money-line bet on the Patriots at -3,000. The bettor won a net $3.33.
• “I have a feeling that people are going to keep betting against [the Dolphins],” Salmons of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook said. “It’s not going to stop. I mean, what can you do? There’s nothing you can do. You just make high numbers.”
• There will always be bettors willing to back the Dolphins at the right price — the wiseguys. “I watched the same guys the past few years bet the Browns every week,” CG Technology oddsmaker/risk analyst Dave Sharapan said. “There was a number that they’d bet the Browns every single week. So, there’s always a number. It’s just getting harder to find with teams like the Dolphins.”
• “We are clearly in a situation that is like the reverse of when the Patriots were en route to an undefeated regular season,” Alan Berg, senior oddsmaker for Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN. “Patriots spreads got out of control to the point where the dogs started covering and the public and sharps were backing the underdogs.
“At some point the number will get to a playable spot for sharps,” Berg added, “but not sure anyone quite knows where that is yet.”
• By Monday morning, the point spread on the Dolphins-Cowboys game had already hit 21 at several sportsbooks.
• Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook director for MGM in Las Vegas, said his approach to booking the Dolphins-Cowboys game will be to attempt to attract early action on the underdog by offering a line inflated by a half-point or so toward Dallas. “There’s a sweet spot for every game,” Stoneback said. “We kind of like to throw chum in the water and see what it attracts.”
• CG Technology reopened betting on season-win totals after Week 1. “You could tell people were bailing on their positions on both Bears and the Browns,” Sharapan said. “We took under bets on those.”
• Miami’s win total was five to start the season. CG Technology, after ample debate, reopened the Dolphins’ season-win total at 3.5 last week. “The first bet we took as soon as we opened was under for the limit, so we went to three,” Sharapan said.
Big decisions for the books
• The Cowboys’ covering the spread in a 31-21 win at Washington was the worst result of the early games for several books.
• The Patriots covering the spread against the Dolphins was the most costly early decision for the sportsbook at the Borgata in Atlantic City.
• “The best game for us this morning was the Seahawks,” Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook director for MGM, said. “We had taken a six-figure bet on the Steelers early in the week.”
• “We had the wiseguys laying 2.5 [with the Bears], and the public was on the Bears money-line,” Salmons said, while watching the frantic final minute of the Chicago-Denver game. “If we don’t have [the Broncos], who knows how much we’re going to lose.”
With 31 seconds to play, Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass and converted a two-point conversion to give the Broncos a 14-13 lead. The Bears responded by driving into field goal position, and kicker Eddy Pineiro connected on a winning 53-yard field goal as time expired.
Chicago’s winning, but failing to cover the spread, shifted multiple six figures in favor of the CG Technology.
• “We need Atlanta basically for the day,” Sharapan of CG Technology said. “We’re slightly ahead going into this game, and if Atlanta gets there, it’ll be a worthwhile day. Nothing too great, but a winning day. And, if the Eagles get there, it’ll be a loss.” The Falcons beat the Eagles 24-20.
• On Wednesday, multiple Las Vegas sportsbooks reported taking big bets on the Bills to win the Super Bowl. At the South Point Casino, a bettor placed a $3,000 Super Bowl bet on the Bills at 100-1. Caesars Sportsbook reported taking a $4,000 bet on the Bills at 100-1.
“We’ve been taking Bills bets all season,” Sharapan said. “That’s one of our biggest needs in our season-win totals. We need [Bills] under seven.”
• A bettor at DraftKings hit a $40,000 four-team parlay Sunday, featuring three money-lines — Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and Colts — and the Patriots at an alternate spread of -5.5. The Texans stopped a go-ahead, two-point-conversion attempt by the Jacksonville Jaguars with 30 seconds to play, and the bettor won $73,150.
• New Jersey sportsbook PointsBet reported taking three six-figure wagers:
• A bettor at the William Hill sportsbook at Ocean Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey won a $150,000 bet on the Colts +3.
• Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the first half with pain in his right elbow. Pittsburgh is at San Francisco on Sunday. Roethlisberger’s availability for the game is uncertain. Salmons estimates Roethlisberger’s value to the line to be close to seven points.
• New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees injured his thumb on his throwing hand in the first half of a loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Saints are at Seattle next week. Brees’ availability is uncertain. Salmons estimates Brees’ value to the line to be around three to four points, due to backup Teddy Bridgewater‘s experience.
Early Week 3 lines
From Caesars Sportsbook at completion of Sunday night game
Tennessee Titans (-2, 40) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts (Off)
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5, 54.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills (-6, 42)
Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers (-8, 43.5)
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles (Off)
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys (-21, 47.5)
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-17, 47)
Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings (-7.5, 43.5)
Carolina Panthers (-2.5, 45.5) at Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5, 48)
Houston Texans at Los Angeles Chargers (-3, 48)
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Off)
Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers (Off)
Los Angeles Rams (-2.5, 51) at Cleveland Browns
College football roundup
• A bettor at Caesars Sportsbook placed a $1,000 money-line bet on Auburn to beat Kent State straight up at -20,000 (1-200) odds. The bettor turned a $5 profit with The Tigers topped the Golden Flashes 55-16.
• A bettor at FanDuel hit a $15, 15-team college football parlay and won $29,000. The bettor took UCF -9, Arizona State +15, Arkansas -10, Louisville -10.5, Louisiana Tech -12, Charlotte -21, Nebraska -14, Oklahoma -23.5, San Diego State -16.5, Washington -21.5, Florida money-line, Oklahoma State money-line, Navy money-line, Western Michigan money-line and SMU money-line.
• Multiple five-figure bets on Oklahoma against UCLA were reported in Las Vegas. CG Technology took a $55,000 bet on the Sooners -23. The SuperBook took a $33,000 bet on the Sooners, and MGM also took a mid-five-figure wager on Oklahoma, according to Covers.com data. The Sooners raced past the Bruins 48-14, leading some sportsbooks to a losing Saturday.
• “By far our biggest decision yesterday was the Oklahoma game,” Salmons said. “And we lost that.”
• “We got dinged up on Saturday,” Sharapan said.
• Notable openers via Las Vegas sportsbook operator Circa Sports:
Utah (-1.5, 56) at USC
Air Force at Boise State (-9.5, 50.5)
Michigan at Wisconsin (-3, 51.5)
Washington (-6.5, 50.5) at BYU
LSU (-19, 58) at Vanderbilt
Oklahoma State at Texas (-6.5, 70.5)
Notre Dame at Georgia (-13.5, 59.5)
• Quarterbacks for Florida International, Indiana, UConn, Rutgers, Colorado State, Rice, Louisville and Army are considered questionable to start this week.
• Les Miles pulled off the second upset of his career as a 20-plus-point underdog with Kansas’ 48-24 win at Boston College on Friday. Since 1978, only four coaches have won three games as 20-plus-point underdogs, according to ESPN Stats and Information research: Paul Rhoads, Jim Leavitt, Dennis Green and Jim Walden.
• Texas (-32, 57) 48 vs. Rice 13: The Longhorns cruised into the fourth quarter up 38-0. The Owls had managed fewer than 120 yards of total offense at that point, but things opened up late. Rice QB Tom Stewart threw a pair of touchdown passes to Aston Walter, the second getting the Owls within the 32-point spread with 1:07 to play. Surely, Texas would kneel out the clock on its final possession, unless … D’Shawn Jamison returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown that covered the spread for the Longhorns and pushed the game over the 57-point total.
• Alabama (-26.5) 47, South Carolina 23: The Gamecocks covered the spread with a touchdown pass with 11 seconds left, one play after Alabama was called for roughing the passer on fourth down.
• In the Premier League, Norwich pulled off the largest upset, by the odds, in at least the past seven seasons when it stunned Manchester City 3-2 on Saturday. Norwich was listed as large as a 20-1 underdog to win the match at some sportsbooks. According to sports betting database BetLabSports.com, 39 teams have been underdogs of 20-1 or greater since 2012. Those teams were 0-39.
“This wasn’t a great result for our book at all,” Amy Jones, spokesperson for European sportsbook PaddyPower, told ESPN in an email. “Fairly heavy loss for the book with significant stakes on the underdog at big prices. A lot of casual bettors had just 10- or 20-pound bets at 20-1, but those bets can mount up quickly. Definitely a result for the punter — not the bookie.”
• New Jersey sportsbooks won a net $25.3 million off $293.5 million in bets in August. In comparison, Nevada sportsbooks handled $247.8 million in bets in August 2018.