No matter how hard you try to sell some people on respecting “bad teams” in the NFL because the lines are inflated too much due to sportsbooks placing a popularity tax on opponents, the public never seems to care and lays the bad numbers anyway.
Following Week 1, most bettors were strutting around with a swagger after their favorites came cashing in with multiple-legged parlays. “Yeah, I laid a bad number, but who cares, it was against a bad team” is what some bettors were saying over the weekend, as their pockets were flush with cash from the previous Sunday.
But in Sunday’s Week 2 action, that strategy would be tested. Bettors would run the same game plan, but this time the sportsbooks were standing there like Dikembe Mutombo waving the index finger back and forth (they really don’t do that, just some quiet high-fives in the back room).
The end result was a very good day for Las Vegas sportsbooks as favorites would go only 6-8 against-the-spread, which is always the perfect house recipe for success. Despite the books’ inflating numbers against the public’s “dirty-5” of Oakland, Tampa Bay, Washington, Jacksonville and Cleveland, bettors still attacked their opponents on the betting board with vigor. All five of those supposed junk teams not only covered the spread, they won outright.
CG Technology VP of risk management Jason Simbal said their books had a good day as did Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick. Every book was in the black and most of it was based on the public riding the teams hard that fared well last week, believing what they saw last to be gospel.
They laid more points than they should have on overpriced teams like New Orleans (-10), Tennessee (-1), Baltimore (-6), Miami (-6), and St. Louis (-3.5), much to the delight of the books.
“Yeah, it was a big day,” said Simbal. “The Redskins were the biggest game of the day, Raiders next and then the Browns.”
The most one-sided game of the day was the public rolling with the Rams on the road at Washington – 90 percent of bets were on the Rams. St. Louis had just come off a big win against the Seahawks.
Washington controlled the game throughout in a 24-10 win. And things like that just continued to roll on the day for the books, just one week after having things go against them in the same fashion.
Ten-point road underdog Tampa Bay would take out a popular Saints squad, 26-19, the Browns won at home over the Titans, 28-14, and then in the afternoon the Raiders (+6) beat the Ravens, 37-33, and Cowboys (+6.5) won, 20-10, at Philadelphia.
Of course, there were a few favorites that did come in which benefited bettors who play smart with straight bets. Parlay bettors couldn’t gain traction. Wise guys also fared well as they usually do when the house wins because they’re more apt to take the points with bad teams when they know exactly what the proper price should be.
“We had a house player on the Steelers pretty heavy,” said MGM Resorts VP of race and sports Jay Rood, referring to the Steelers’ easy 43-18 win as 6-point home favorites over the 49ers, “but overall, it turned out to be a good day for us.”
One of the few games where the public was correct was the Patriots, who had moved to a 2-point underdog at Buffalo, and won 40-32. Rood said his MGM books had taken sharp action on the Bills, but that it was one-sided with public parlay money on the Bills. McCormick cited the Cardinals, Steelers and combination of Patriots to OVER as being their worst decisions.
Let’s move on to next week, but first ask yourself a question: When is the last time you saw a wise guy play a three-team parlay or higher off the board? I’m talking about a real wise guy, not these guys who somehow self-anoint themselves “wise.” It doesn’t happen, not even two-teamers (I do see value in the two-teamer). So why wouldn’t you want to emulate their strategy?
It’s the same reason most play the lottery – because we want to win big for small. A little better odds of winning a 10-teamer in Las Vegas than the lottery, but you get the idea.
So what happens in week 3 with the Public? Yes, they enjoyed the riches of Week 1 and felt momentum and a crystal ball were going to carry into Week 2 with another nice win. They didn’t care that prices were inflated and some forgot this is the NFL where any team on any given Sunday can beat any other team.
One week after being down on the Bucs, you have to kind of respect the road win at New Orleans and think a little more when getting up to 7-points at 0-2 Houston this week. The starting point at a dead number of -5 or -5.5 with Houston looks like the better number.
That said, the Bucs still have that public stigma against them that is going to give you value with them, for one more week. If they win this week, they’ll definitely be in the public radar screen because the public loves winners.
One game that won’t see too much action, just because the public won’t have an easy decision, is the Raiders getting +4 at Cleveland. They hate both the teams, but at the same time, both teams showed some offense and life in their week two wins. The Browns might actually be a little cheap at home in this spot, but who wants to lay over a field goal with them. With so many betting options in the 1 p.m. ET start times, this will get buried on the level of importance while the parlays are being filled out.
One of the most popular public teams over the past decade has been the Saints, but they’re on a slow descent out of favor with many bettors, and this week they’re catching +3 at Carolina. The combination of the Saints on the road and on grass hasn’t been a good combination for New Orleans even when they were good.
Despite a 0-2 start, you can believe the public will come strong again with the Eagles this week, a team bettors absolutely fell in love with during pre-season and a team the sportsbooks jacked up; a team rating rarely seen so drastic during the exhibition season. They’ll be laying 2.5 at the NY Jets with a total at 47.5. This was a team expected by many to regularly be cashing side to OVER parlays at 13-to-5 all season, but it hasn’t happened yet. Look for the public to go to the well one more time with a desperate Philly squad until jumping off board if they reach 0-3.
Tough choices to make this week, but you can bet they will be made. Good luck on those choices.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].