Dolphins bail out sportsbooks

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It’s been 25 years since we witnessed as big an upset as happened in Sunday’s Week 17 action when the Patriots, a 17-point home favorite, lost outright to the Dolphins, 27-24.

The Patriots were fighting for a first-round bye, but the loss sends them to the Wild Card round, a place they are unfamiliar with. The result was positive for most Nevada sportsbooks, but a couple of shops took their lumps with it on the money line.

“It was a good day driven by the Dolphins winning,” said MGM Resorts sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback. “We had a bettor play two $100,000 money-line parlays that already had LSU, the Saints, Chiefs, and Packers win and he needed the Patriots to win as the fifth leg to cash. It looked as though the Chiefs and Packers both had a chance to lose, but it was the Patriots, the unlikeliest that helped us the most.”

The last time a favorite as big as the Patriots lost outright was in 1995 when the Redskins (+17.5) beat the Cowboys, 24-17. Last season in Week 3 the Bills (+16.5) surprised the Vikings, 27-6. Tom Brady was 15-0 at home against the Dolphins in meaningful games, but there were signs something this was coming.

“You could see it a mile away,” said William Hill’s head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich. “Miami has been very competitive the last six weeks while the Pats have been very average at best. It’s been smoke and mirrors for them for the last seven weeks.”

After starting 8-0, the Patriots have gone just 4-4 (2-5-1 ATS) in their last eight. Tom Brady threw a pick-six, another sign that things are off for the defending champs.

The Dolphins closed the season with two straight wins to finish 5-11 after losing their first seven games. It forced several books to post props if they would go winless. They covered inflated spreads in nine of their last 12 games becoming the most consistent cover team over that stretch. In Week 2, they lost at home to the Patriots, 43-0, as 18-point dogs.

Bogdanovich said several Nevada bettors were feeling the Dolphins upset and said smaller wagers accumulating $6,800 across the state had the Dolphins money-line from +850 to 10-1 odds. Nice score!

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook also saw a few heavy bets on the Dolphins.

“We took a $15,000 money line bet on the Dolphins Thursday at 8-1 (odds),“ said SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay. “And then again this (Sunday) morning with $10,000 at 7-1.”

While most books did well to the Dolphins, it was one of only three losers on the day at the SuperBook which makes them one of the most fortunate books of Week 17.

“It was a very solid day,” Kornegay said. “Some of the results won’t make sense but we won on the sides the market moved mostly with players resting. We had big bets this morning on the Bears -3 and we had support for the Texans, a game we stayed ahead of the market with.”

In other words, Kornegay is basically saying his team baited bettors with numbers not available anywhere else. They closed the Bears -5 at Minnesota and closed the Titans -10 at Houston.

The Vikings rested all their key starters at home against Bears and played tough, but would lose 21-19 while covering the spread. The Texans rested their key starters as well, but the Titans didn’t. All the Titans had to win and they’d clinch the No. 6 seed in the AFC and they’d pile it on in a 35-14 win, covering a spread that went from Titans -3.5 to -10. The Titans will now face the Patriots this weekend.

“We were a small winner in the afternoon with the biggest being one of our big bettors laying six-figures taking +3.5 with the Giants,” Stoneback said.

All the Eagles (-3.5) had to do was win at the Giants to clinch the NFC

East title regardless of what the Cowboys (-12) did at home against the Redskins. The Cowboys rolled, 47-16, but the Eagles made it moot with a 34-17 win of a game that was once 17-17 and was giving Jerry Jones some hope watching the game on TV from his luxury suite.

The Ravens rested key players at home while the Steelers (-2) had to win for a chance at the playoffs, but backup QB Robert Griffin managed a 28-10 win to push them to 14-2 and extend their win streak to 12 games.

The Falcons have won and covered six of their last eight and closed the season out with three straight wins with a 28-22 overtime win at Tampa Bay. Jameis Winston started a 5K-30-30 club by being the first with 5,000 yards passing, 30 TD passes and 30 picks in a season. His last pick was a game-winning interception for the Falcons which also sent the total over 48.5.

The Sunday night game was the most important game of the day because it decided who the NFC West Champion would be along with home-field advantage for the NFC Playoffs. It was the type of risk that could also wipe away all the winnings books made from the previous 15 games on the day.

“We have a six-figure decision on the 49ers,” said Stoneback.

The 49ers (-3.5) would win 26-21 at Seattle sending the game over 46 total points, a decision that was the worst for most books across the state.

Favorites would go 7-8-1 ATS with four underdogs winning outright and the over was the word on the day with 13 of the 16 games getting over the total.

Somebody will always tell you to never doubt the Patriots when they play a crummy game or two, and they’re always correct, but these last eight games just feel different.

LSU number goes up

Well, that didn’t take long.

LSU is a healthy favorite to win the college football national championship game on Jan. 13 after dominating Oklahoma 63-28 in Saturday’s CFP semifinals. The Tigers opened as low as -3 around Las Vegas but were quickly bet up to -5 in most shops after Clemson rallied to defeat Ohio State 29-23 in the other semifinal.

The total at most books in town was either 70 or 69.5.

“It has a lot to do with public perception weighted in what they saw last,” said Kornegay, who also set the total high at 71, though that dropped to 70 late Saturday night. “In a way, the spread reminds me of the Super Bowl line with the Panthers and Broncos after the Panthers crushed the Cardinals in the NFC championship game. It was a little overpriced because of the perception.”

The SuperBook opened LSU as a 3.5-point favorite over Clemson while Caesars Palace opened LSU -3. The process of setting the number had a lot to do with how each team did in their semifinal wins.

LSU (-12) routed Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl to advance with Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow throwing for 493 yards and seven TD passes while also rushing for a TD. The public couldn’t wait to bet LSU in the championship game but had to wait for an opponent to set the price.

As with every biggest game of the year, the public usually does bet what they saw last so there is always a luxury tax added to that side with hopes the book gets underdog money to push them down and at least seed the pool with some cash on the dog side.

As LSU was blowing out Oklahoma, I contacted a few books on what their opinion on the championship game might be. I suggested starting past the dead numbers of -5 and -5.5 and opening -6 and letting initial money push the game down.

Instead, the opposite happened. It opened low and was quickly bet up with one-sided money on LSU.

“I need to see the next game (Ohio State-Clemson),” said SuperBook manager Ed Salmons. “If we made a number now without the next game I think you’re spot on.”

Kornegay said after the Clemson game their crew was set on -3 or -3.5 and chose the higher number. Clemson showed something in a close game and why they always seem to be in this same spot every year.

Circa Sportsbook director Matt Metcalf said they had significantly adjusted LSU’s rating after their impressive win.

“It was about 4.5 points,” Metcalf said after initially making LSU -3 against either Clemson or Ohio state prior to the Fiesta Bowl’s kickoff. “But I’ve been way too low on LSU all season. It’s about the same adjustment I made after they beat Alabama and Georgia.”

Clemson’s win in the Fiesta Bowl nightcap made it 29 straight wins for the Tigers and bumped them to 10-1 ATS in their last 11 bowl games.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a 16-0 lead but a controversial targeting call on a third-and-15 in the second quarter changed the momentum and allowed for the defending national champions to reel off 21 straight points. It was an epic game but left many with a sour taste the way the SEC officials called the game.

The end result on Saturday for the sportsbooks was being a solid loser for most as all four favorites in Saturday’s bowl games won and covered. William Hill and Station Casinos had a bad day while the SuperBook actually pulled out a small win because of two games going under the total.

“It was good for the first half,” said William Hill’s Bogdanovich after LSU had built a 49-14 lead. “But look at the first three games (favorites). It looks like a Tsunami is coming.”

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