A game which shouldn’t have been played

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Of all the COVID-19 unknowns put before oddsmakers and bookmakers during the 2020 NFL season, Sunday’s Week 12 action gave us a new one for any era.

Saturday morning it became known that all four Denver Broncos quarterbacks on the roster were going to miss Sunday’s home game against the New Orleans Saints. The starter would be WR Kendall Hinton, a former QB at Wake Forest who was on the practice squad.

“Seriously, it might have been the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” said South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews. “It moved the number from (Saints) -6 to -17. That’s one hell of a move.”

The oddsmakers had to rally and figure out what the value of losing a roster full of QBs, something no one has ever had to do, and then wait on who they would start. Would it be Phillip Lindsay or Royce Freeman running a wildcat offense? Or would someone be throwing? These things don’t happen in the NFL.

“It tops the list,” said Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick when asked about ranking his COVID-19 booking moments. “It made an NFL game non-competitive.”

Non-competitive games and questioning integrity is the worst thing the NFL wants. But it looks like they made one of their patented hasty rulings, and this one just looks lazy by the NFL taking a hard stance.

After the Broncos organization self-reported an improper QBs meeting regarding masks last week, the NFL put them in COVID protocol and ruled them out for Sunday’s game. The Broncos asked for the game to be moved to Monday, but the NFL said no, that the cause was negligence on the Broncos and not an outbreak like happened in Tennessee and Baltimore when the NFL rescheduled them and opposing teams.

The Broncos also asked to have two coaches put on the active roster as players, both of whom had QB experience, but the NFL again said no. They chose to make a game not competitive instead. They flirted with the integrity of the game, something they hold in high regard. Like the bookmaker, the NFL is also still learning how to handle things during a pandemic.

“They shouldn’t have played the game,” said Andrews.

The COVID-19 oddsmaking and bookmaking approach has been difficult because they’re learning on the go in 2020 with little things such as value to each home field, some with fans, others with none. Each player being out is also worth something to the number relative to their backup, and now players are missing games on the fly as test results come back positive on any day of the week, not just practice days. News is breaking at all hours. After 11 weeks, they’ve had lots of practice getting it right, and then the Broncos situation happened.

Hinton, who had less than a day to run the offense, completed just one pass while throwing two interceptions which may be some kind of record in futility. New Orleans won 31-3, covering the 17 points and fitting in under the tight total offering of 36.5. It was the Saints’ eighth straight win to make them 9-2 and in line for the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The Saints were one of only four favorites to cover Sunday which helped relieve some of the leftover risk from Thursday’s game that saw favorites and over go 3-1 on the day. The Thursday night game, Baltimore at Pittsburgh, was canceled and moved to Sunday because of a COVID-19 outbreak which apparently wasn’t their fault, and then the NFL later moved the game to Tuesday.

The game of the day for almost every sportsbook was the Raiders (-3.5) losing 43-6 at Atlanta, a game that was William Hill’s most bet game of the week with 12% of the tickets and the Raiders had 84% of the cash bet on them. It was the root game of the day from parlays, money-line parlays, and to some extent teasers.

This game had no shot at blossoming into a three-team parlay or two-team teaser and it killed all the risk attached to it which made it the top earner among many.

“The Falcons were our biggest win of the day,” said Station’s McCormick. “The Bengals, Buccaneers (+3.5, 27-24 loss to Chiefs), and Chiefs-Bucs under (56) were also very good. The public cashed on the Titans (+3, 45-26 win at Tennessee) and Dolphins (-7.5, 20-3 win at NY Jets).”

The game that generated the most cash action on the week at William Hill was the Giants (-6) at Bengals with 15% of the overall NFL action. That’s the beauty of betting the NFL; the stinkiest game on paper still has value and worth because of folks betting it.

On Friday, Wynn sportsbook director Doug Castaneda said the Giants were their biggest risk. On Sunday just before kickoff, William Hill had 98% of the cash on the Giants to cover in what was only the second time they were favored this season.  

No one wanted a piece of the Bengals with back-up Brandon Allen getting the start, but they would get the cover. The Giants won, 19-17, staying under 45 total points. The only time the Giants were favored this season, they were -2 and beat Washington, 20-19.

Underdogs would go 8-4 ATS with four of them winning outright which led to bettors losing most of their top selections of the week, similar to last week when they lost four of their five most bet games. And just like the previous two weeks, the sportsbooks came out ahead with little risk remaining to pop in the late game with the Packers (-8) hosting the Bears who returned Mitchell Trubisky to the starting QB role.

The Packers rolled to a 41-25 win, and a lot of the beatdown was Trubisky’s fault. Welcome back Mitch, turn your TV and radio off, and don’t read the paper.


“It was a very good day as we won three-fourths of our top decisions,” said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay who said the Falcons, Bengals and Buccaneers kept the popular parlay sides in check.

Teasers ended up going 34-10 between the first two waves of games. Only two of the games had two teaser wins and two losses. Three of the games had all-way wins and six of them went 3-1. It’s the one category in a department of the casino that analysts can’t figure out how to win consistently offering teasers. Two-team NFL teasers still remain the best value in the entire casino, but one book didn’t feel the teaser heat in Week 12.  

“We thought the 49ers outright win would have helped (beating teasers) but not a lot of action,” Kornegay said. “All the other tease-able teams came through but the public didn’t have a lot of confidence in the Giants, Browns, or Dolphins.

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