There’s nothing more frustrating for a sports book than scratching and clawing for every cent on an NFL Sunday only to see it wiped away in one game, but that’s what happened when the Steelers (-3) beat the Bengals, 27-17, Sunday night.
“If Cincy covers, it would have been a really good day,” said William Hill’s head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich, “With Pittsburgh, it’s now just a small winner for us.”
The game staying UNDER 48 was a positive for the books, but Bogdanovich said it made only a small difference. With four straight covers now, Pittsburgh is cashing for the public and they’ll continue to get support at the bet windows. They will be favored at least one more time as they host the Ravens this Sunday in a wild card playoff game.
It was a trying week for bookmakers across the city, just because they had to be on their toes, waiting to react to any type of information that usually comes with Week 17.
On Sunday, they also got most of their regular bettors back wagering after lighter crowds and action were seen the past two weeks leading up to Christmas. For the only time this season, bettors had 16 NFL games to choose from on a Sunday and they had varied opinions.
“Everyone had Green Bay and Denver in the late games, but the worst game by far for us was the Cowboys; that was just a game the masses all seemed to have,” said Bogdanovich.
The Cowboys rolled to a 44-17 win at Washington, which easily covered the 6.5-point spread.
Green Bay was bet from an opener of -7.5 to -8.5 by kickoff and beat the Lions, 30-20, which gave them the NFC North crown and a first-round bye. The Broncos (-14) crushed the Raiders for the second time this season; this time it was 47-14, and large money pushed the Broncos from -14 to -16 Sunday morning.
“The game where the sharps beat us big was Kansas City where they got to run the game up to -4 before Alex Smith was ruled out, and then they came right back with the adjusted number (KC-1) and bet that up to -3.”
Chase Daniel was announced the starter on Friday after it was learned starting QB Alex Smith had a lacerated spleen. It was as if the sharps said, ‘darn, we got the worst of the number,’ which they rarely say, and then went back to the drawing board and then said, ‘get back there and bet it some more, the number is still off.’ They ended up being right at any number as the Chiefs won easily, 19-7.
“Our best two games were Baltimore failing to cover and Buffalo beating the Patriots – those were really good games for us on parlays,” said Bogdanovich.
The Ravens opened as 9-point home favorites over the Browns, which would have been good enough to cover in their 20-10 win, but when it was announced undrafted rookie Connor Shaw would be the starting QB, the spread was adjusted to -13.5 and then bet up to -14.
The Bills jumped all over Tom Brady and the Patriots first-stringers to a 17-6 first-half lead and then Brady watched the second half from the sideline as Buffalo won, 17-9, to secure their first winning season in 10 years. No need to risk Brady when home field is locked up, right?
Those are part of the things a book sweats over in week 17. How do you make a spread when you know the key components will play only one half, and won’t be too enthusiastic? Instead of being favored by 9-points, the Patriots opened -3.5 and were bet to -5.
To public parlay bettors, they didn’t care what the number was, they just wanted the Patriots.
“I have never liked Week 17,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne. “The last week with the parlay cards is absolute hell, and the freshest memory is when they got us good last season.
“But we knocked out some key games on the cards on Sunday with Baltimore and San Francisco and then overall with New England, however I’ve still got nine more bowl games to worry about through Wednesday with thousands in risk still alive.”
Osborne has lessened his risk on the parlay cards in the last three years by not offering all the bowl games each week, but rather only the games that run through the last day before the new cards arrive.
Stale lines on cards give bettors a huge advantage with true odds that exceed the pay chart on the cards. His strategy paid off Sunday much better than last season.
“We gave away some of the winnings from the morning in the late session with Denver, Green Bay and Seattle, and thankfully the 49ers didn’t cover, but the day ultimately came down to being a good day if the Bengals cover and an okay day to break even with Pittsburgh.”
Overall on the day, the favorites went 7-9 with four underdogs winning outright and the UNDER went 10-6. Dogs and UNDER have been the solid trend to follow for the past four Sundays.
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. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].