Books end NFL regular season on sour note

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Nevada sportsbooks closed out the fourth quarter of 2020 with stellar numbers but on 2021’s first NFL Sunday they did some giving back to the bettors during Week 17, the toughest of all weeks for bookmakers.

All 32 teams were in action and favorites would go 14-2 straight-up and 7-9 against the spread with the over going 10-6.

“No doubt our worst Sunday of the season,” said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay. “All the teams that needed to win, won today. The general public cashed all day.

“Normally there’s always a couple of teams that needed wins, but fall short. Not today. Parlays and money-line parlays were the big punches.”

Kornegay said the SuperBook’s worst results were the Packers, Saints and also the Raiders, only because it was the last game posted of the afternoon with every live parlay cashing on the 32-31 win at Denver (+3) coupled with the over (50.5).

The only book I surveyed that was showing a winner for the day prior to the Sunday night game was Marc Nelson’s Atlantis Reno sportsbook who said they “got killed on parlays with the Packers and Ravens being the worst.”

William Hill sportsbooks were a small loser with little hope of the Sunday night game being able to bail them out as was the South Point. Station Casinos were even with hopes of the Eagles covering to salvage something positive. Washington which closed a -6.5-point favorite, won 20-14.

BetMGM’s story was a tale of two segments of results posted between the seven morning-games and the eight afternoon-games.

“It was a monster morning for us, but we gave it all back and then some with a double monster-plus against us in the afternoon,” said Nevada’s BetMGM sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback. “That morning to afternoon turnaround for us was one of the biggest swings I’ve seen in 35 years of booking. It’s at least a top-10 of all-time.”

None of the eight afternoon-games had an underdog win outright so exotics were in play for a big public score and also for some casino whales who bet six-figure money-line parlays.

“I think the favorites went 13-2 and that set off all the big money-line parlays to pay out and we did poorly with teasers on the popular favorites as well,” Stoneback said. “The Packers ended up being our worst loss, a real bad parlay game.”

The Packers dropped from -5.5 to -4.5 at Chicago and for the first three quarters it looked like the Bears were going to stamp their playoff berth with a win being down only 21-16, but the Packers would score two TDs in the fourth and win 35-16 — Packers (-4.5) and over (48.5) get the money. William Hill had this game the most bet of the day with 15% of the cash and 10% of the tickets written and the Packers had 76% of the bets on them. The Packers get next week off as the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

The Bears made the playoffs thanks to Arizona losing and will be at New Orleans (-9) next week in the wild card round. The Saints (-5.5) played without their regular RBs Sunday at Carolina due to the group catching or contacting COVID-19 but still came away with a 33-7 win, another favorite winning.

The biggest favorites of the day would win and cover on the teasers with the Colts 28-14 win against the Jaguars (+15.5), the Ravens winning 38-3 at Cincinnati (+13.5), and the Browns 24-22 win against the Steelers (+10) to put them in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. William Hill’s Bogdanovich had an interesting take on the NFL favorites Sunday continuing an on-going trend for the season.

“The theme is the same,” he said. “Favorites of any size don’t lose. Ask the Circa Survivor guys who split 35 ways after 18 weeks.”

Obviously, Bogdanovich was exaggerating to make a point saying favorites don’t lose, but in Week 17, only the Bills (+3) and Giants (+1.5) would win as underdogs in the first two waves of games. Yes, the AFC East champion Bills closed a ‘dog. Sharp money anticipated Josh Allen sitting against the Dolphins and moved from a 3-point favorite to a 3-point ‘dog. The Bills rolled 56-26 as Allen and the starters played the first half to build a 28-6 lead. The South Point paid out a closing best of Bills +155 on the money line.

There were five games that ran 3 points or more during the week and four of them based on injuries or playoff situations and four of the moves went the sharps way.

“Week 17 is always so tough,” Stoneback said. “It’s like booking a preseason week not knowing who will play, or for how long.”

The big difference between preseason and Week 17 is more action and higher limits. But the not knowing part is the worst feeling. The bookmaker is sitting there antsy and uncomfortable because they don’t know the full story of their number. “The shop is not secure,” a bookmaker might proclaim (by a song in a musical). They have to play the waiting game on information where the wise guys do a great job of getting that information first.

The best news of Week 17 is that bettors got some of their holiday money spent on gifts back. Onward to the playoffs with continued success.

Big contest winners

The Circa Survivor contest paid out $2.39 million, and the Circa Million winner went to contestant DSR90. The SuperContest at the SuperBook paid out $439,623 to champion ODBMG2.

Bowl season

“Both underdogs covering in the college playoff games were good for us,” Stoneback said. “New Year’s Day ended up being a good day. In fact, all the Bowl games have gone well for us.”

The national championship game next Monday with Alabama facing Ohio State is interesting.

After seeing what a good aerial attack can do to Alabama’s worst defense of the Nick Saban era which began in 2007, I give Ohio State a real shot to win the game. Florida’s Kyle Trask abused the Crimson Tide (-16.5) defense for 408 passing yards in a 52-46 SEC Championship game loss. The Buckeyes’ 49-28 win last week confused the Clemson (-7) secondary all game with passing to the TE’s and then the running game opened up.

They can hit Alabama in the mouth early and feed off the effects. I played Ohio State +8 and also got greedy and bet Ohio State on the money line (+260).

Pederson’s tank

Hopefully, the NFL will do some kind of investigation on how Eagles head coach Doug Pederson threw a pivotal game for the NFC East playoff hopefuls. He soiled the integrity of the game by conceding the game in the fourth quarter by making a QB change from Jalen Hurts to third-stringer Nick Sudfeld, treating it like a preseason game.

You play to win in all NFL games. Pederson didn’t. Integrity? He not only let down the Giants, who needed the Eagles to win to make the playoffs, but he let down his own players who didn’t hide their disgust on the sideline.

He also let down the sportsbooks who got middled going from Washington -2.5 to -6.5. Most sharp money won, while the public late bets lost at -6.5. I’ve never seen a coach stink on purpose so much.

Seeing Washington make the playoffs brought a smile for several reasons, and none of it really had to do with football.

Head coach Ron Rivera beat cancer, and despite his River Ron gambles going bad during the season, they were the last team standing in the weary NFC East. Social justice made the Washington’s change their name to a generic Football Team temporarily.

It was tumultuous all season for these former Redskins, and then they also had to deal with COVID-19, which by the way didn’t cancel any NFL games this season. Alex Smith made a miraculous 2020 comeback to lead them to the playoffs. It’s just a great story while watching the beginnings of the next dominant defense in the NFL. 

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