NFL bettors are walking tall with the chalk.
Hot favorites, juggled lineups, and a crazy end to a nearly $500,000 DraftKings Survivor Pool headline our NFL betting trends for Week 14.
Chalk, Chalk, Everything is Chalk
It’s been great for the gamblers and bad for sportsbooks in the past two weeks. After favorites were 12-4 in NFL Week 12, a bevy of chalks covered, some just barely, in Week 13.
That included the Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts, who covered just barely. Public money was riding high on those teams.
The San Francisco 49ers destroying the Philadelphia Eagles 42-19 and the Miami Dolphins upending the Washington Commanders 45-15 also were backed by the players.
The exceptions were the Arizona Cardinals topping the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-10 at +5.5, but it was not a heavily wagered game.
The Green Bay Packers upending the Kansas City Chiefs 27-19 at +5.5 saved the books from having an awful weekend.
That’s the nature of the beast according to Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings.
“You can usually figure there are going to be three or four weeks in which the players do really well,” Avello told Gaming Today. “That doesn’t mean they don’t win in other weeks, but it means that three or four times a year, we absolutely get buried. There are some years in which that happens six or seven times.
“There are also some other weeks that work out well for the house if a big favorite or a team backed by most of the gamblers loses.
“It looks like what we’re seeing is that you have teams that are a full A, B, or a C,” he added, regarding lines that reflect clear-cut advantages for top teams. “But we don’t have a lot of teams that are A minus or B minus. You have top echelon teams and then you have weak teams.”
The lopsided matchups favor multi-legged moneyline parlays. A $5 bet and sweep of the card can result in a payday of several thousand dollars.
Bettors will get tested this week, however. Eight games have a point spread of 3.5 points or less. The lineup encourages a more mixed bag of favorites and underdogs, given the parity of the teams and our next betting trend.
Gamblers Must Back the Backups in NFL Week 14
The biggest injury news involves Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars. A high ankle sprain will likely shelve him for a while. Avello estimated that the Jags, +3 at Cleveland, would have been -3 with him. This could be a massive break for the Browns.
So, let’s look at the leap of faith bettors will make in determining who to trust.
Several games have second and third-string signal callers.
Cleveland Browns vs Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s CJ Beathard against perhaps Joe Flacco. Dig in. Flacco is the fourth Cleveland starting QB this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots
It looks to be Bailey Zappe against Mitchell Trubisky in a battle of second-stringers. It’s another game the NFL should take out an ad thanking the betting community. Who else would support this game?
Houston Texans vs New York Jets
Rookie CJ Stroud faces either Tom Boyle or Trevor Siemian, the third- and fourth-string Jets quarterbacks. The Jets’ defense has been stout. If their offense can do anything, they can stay in it.
The Jets have quietly failed to cover for five straight weeks. That’s a lot of points for the Texans to give on the road. Have the Jets quit on Robert Saleh?
Minnesota Vikings vs Las Vegas Raiders
Joshua Dobbs, the third-stringer for Minnesota, faces Aidan O’Connell, the third-stringer for Vegas.
Dobbs is an excellent running quarterback, but didn’t do so when the Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears 12-10 last Monday night.
One reaction to the backups is tangible. Look at these totals.
Three games this week go between 30 and 33.
When the Strong Survive, They Pocket Big Riches
Sure, it was the Week of the Chalk. Except in two major cases. And those cases helped one DraftKings bettor pocket nearly half a million bucks.
The gambler was involved in one of the book’s survivor pools. One ticket wins everything in these competitions, unless multiple tickets make it all the way to the final week.
There were 23 tickets left from an original field of 495, in which every player paid a $1,000 entrance fee.
This gambler apparently had the short straw compared to the competitors. The ticket had the Los Angeles Chargers against the host New England Patriots. Yes, the Chargers were -4.5 and the Patriots were bad, but Justin Herbert and Co. only scored six points.
Fortunately, the Patriots got none.
Of the 22 remaining tickets, 11 were on the Pittsburgh Steelers -5.5 against the Arizona Cardinals. 11 more were on the Jacksonville Jaguars at -8.5 versus the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals.
The bettor had to merely hope to stay in the competition.
But this gambler took it all as the Steelers laid an egg against the Cardinals. And the Jags lost at the final gun to the Cincinnati Bengals. Picture the glee of the gambler watching the final kick sail through the uprights.
What an unexpected development.
The road team with the sub .500 record won and two playoff contenders, who were 7-3 and 8-3, flopped on the moneyline as big home favorites.
“With 23 entries left, no way you are thinking you might win this thing this week,” Avello said.
“Like all players who make it this far in the survivor, I am sure this one had a couple of Houdini’s in there,” he added, referring to slim, maybe even miraculous victories earlier in the season. “Before there were so many players involved, you might see this competition last about 10 weeks.
“This year, it went longer and it looked like it would go a lot longer. This is a great story.”
Survivor contests are one of the most unique gambling experiences. A bettor can only use a team only once. At some point, the player will need a very bad team to win a game outright.
The trick is deciding whether to roll the dice early with borderline calls, protecting the top teams for late in the year, or piling up wins with good teams and rolling the dice later.
The 22 players who lost followed textbook execution. They had strong teams left for the first week of December. They appeared to do everything right.
They just didn’t win.
Even good logic can’t ensure good results.