Public betting favorites, strange coaching decisions, and sportsbook operators awaiting a sweet Saturday tripleheader highlight NFL betting trends for Week 15.
San Francisco 49ers
It’s hardly a surprise that the Niners become a top betting choice. They have steamrolled five straight opponents since getting all their players back and have done more than simply reach the No. 1 NFC playoff seed.
They are a whopping +240 Super Bowl favorite at DraftKings. It’s rare to see a number below +400 on a team to win the big game two months away.
For Week 15, San Francisco is nearly a two-touchdown favorite in Arizona. It took a number that high for early handle to be roughly split — 52-48% — on San Francisco.
“The Niners are the love story of the NFL right now and the bettors are playing them week in and week out,” Johnny Avello, director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told Gaming Today. “They score a lot of points. Their defense is adequate, it’s at least good enough, and when you score like this team does, how much of a defense will you really need?
“The public is playing them everywhere, on futures, conference, everything.”
The only mystery each week is whether they can cover a big number. The answer was “yes” for many, and “no” for some last week.
San Francisco was -10.5 against the Seattle Seahawks last Saturday night. But when news came that Drew Lock would replace Geno Smith at quarterback for Seattle, the line shot to -15 (Best Live Odds: ) on Sunday.
Seattle covered for the Sunday bettors in the 28-16 setback. Niners’ backers from early in the week were rewarded.
Yes, Da Bears are hot. The return of Justin Fields, the clutch play of tight end Cole Kmet, and an underrated defense sparked Chicago’s recent 4-0-1 ATS run.
Chicago has a lost season at 5-8 ML but just knocked off the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. The team gains increased respect and often wins when Fields runs.
Chicago visits the Cleveland Browns at +3.5 (Best Live Odds: ), gaining a slight nod with 60% of the DraftKings handle.
The public has feasted on them in recent weeks, backing the ‘Boys winning five straight by a margin of 116 points. They just spanked the Philadelphia Eagles 33-13 and lead the NFL with 421 points.
This will be an interesting week to test that trend. Dallas is getting points for the first time in six weeks, +2 (Best Live Odds: ) against the host Buffalo Bills.
The early handle, 71%, is on the Bills, a talented AFC team fighting for its season.
Kansas City Chiefs Cooling Off with Bettors
The Kansas City Chiefs have been as reliable as the 49ers to many gamblers in recent years.
But what’s happened in recent weeks may alter that. Avello anticipates a subtle backing off with Chiefs’ bettors, as the team has struggled offensively.
“It seems like if a team gets 20 points against the Chiefs, they are going to be a winner in the game,” Avello noted of a team losing home games by 21-17 to the Philadelphia Eagles, 21-20 to the Detroit Lions, and 20-17 to the Buffalo Bills this season.
“The Chiefs always scored more than 20 in a game. We have often seen them get 20 in a half. That doesn’t seem to be the trend for them this season.”
The 8-5 Chiefs have consecutive losses against the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo before visiting the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Denver Broncos: Show Me More
The Broncos are a hot team being played less than their record would indicate. Denver is 5-2 ATS since the middle of October and has beaten the Bills, Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, and Cleveland Browns. All are playoff-quality teams.
But the Broncos rarely get the betting love.
“The perception among the gamblers is that the Broncos are very fortunate,” Avello said. “I think that is true. There are a couple games in there they could have been beaten. They are an average football team, not much better than that, and the public really hasn’t gotten behind them.”
That will be affirmed, or changed, after Saturday. The Broncos invade the Detroit Lions as a decided dog. If they beat another top team, the Broncos may be backed in their final three games.
Bettors Perplexed Over Coaching Analytics
Trevor Lawrence guided the Jacksonville Jaguars to an apparent push or covering touchdown against the Cleveland Browns for many of the early Jacksonville +3 bettors or +3.5 bettors.
But then Doug Pederson crossed up all conventional wisdom by going for two. It failed and Jacksonville fell 31-27.
An extra point would have bailed out many Jacksonville bettors.
By missing the two-point try, Jacksonville would have needed a touchdown (not a field goal) and then overtime, had it gotten the ball back. That did not happen, which made the two-point decision loom large.
Bettors who think a team trailing by 10 and getting a late touchdown believe they will get the extra point, taking the margin to 3.
When teams deviate from that, gamblers may have to avoid them.
“Bettors keep asking me, ‘What the hell are these coaches thinking?'” Avello said. “They make decisions based on analytics. Bettors are thinking about what these decisions mean to a game. Some coaches are trying to change the way the game has been played for many years.
“Bettors are saying they can’t take a chance with certain teams anymore, they keep getting burned. That is unfortunate, because there are spots in which you like those teams.”
Strong NFL Week 15 Saturday Lineup
Sportsbooks are bolstered by a staggered three-game Saturday package.
There is a theme for the Minnesota Vikings at the Cincinnati Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Indianapolis Colts, and the Broncos-Lions in consecutive games.
Everybody’s gotta have it. And, apart from the 9-4 Lions, everybody is 7-6.
Talk about a dwindling margin for error.
“They create the schedule far in advance and we are fortunate that the Saturday matchups are all real good ones,” Avello said.
Sportsbooks Enjoy Exceptional Week
The Bears topping the Lions was an excellent development for bookmakers. Detroit had the top handle of any team in the early window according to DraftKings.
Buffalo’s victory over Kansas City at +2.5 was another big one. The New York Jets’ victory over the Houston Texans became another score for operators.
And then came Monday night, when the New York Giants at +6.5 and the Tennessee Titans at +13.5 notched late moneyline upsets.
Bettors had been on a recent hot streak. But NFL Week 14 was one for the books.