NFL wild-card weekend betting recap: Sportsbooks lose on Bears-Saints ending

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(RADIO.COM Sports) It was a good NFL wild-card weekend for the sportsbooks. Underdogs went 4-2 against the closing line and are now 15-3 against the spread in the wild-card round the last four postseasons.

“Overall, it was a strong weekend for the book,” Pointsbook Sportsbook director of communications Patrick Eichner said. “The Colts and Washington covering (excluding a few sharps who got Tampa Bay -7.5) and the Browns and Rams covering and winning outright helped.”

The worst result for PointsBet was the Ravens winning and covering the spread against the Titans, Eichner said.

The Borgata sportsbook director Thomas Gable also pointed out the Rams as a big winner for their book, but the tables turned a little bit Sunday.

Books needed 1 second on the clock
The weekend was "a tale of two days,” as Gable put it.

“Saturday was a very good one for the book, but after the first two games on Sunday, we had almost given a lot of it back to the bettors," Gable said.

The ending of the Saints' 21-9 win against the Bears was a reason why, as it definitely turned out to be good for the bettors after a scare.

As most gamblers know when there's a double-digit spread, the backdoor is always open. And after trailing 21-3, the Bears drove 99 yards for a score that was meaningless for the game result but still meaningful to gamblers. Tight end Jimmy Graham made a one-handed touchdown grab as time expired.

Graham ran off the field after the catch, and so did both teams with the game out of reach and zeroes on the clock. Graham's touchdown had the attention of the books and the gambling public. The majority of the public took the Saints, and most books closed the game at Saints -11. The touchdown cut the Saints' lead to 12. With the extra point, the game would've ended in a push at many shops -- but the extra-point try never came.

“The Saints covering was a really bad result for us,” Gable said. “We needed that game to fall on 10 or 11 to have any consequence here.”

In the aftermath, the NFL released a statement on its officiating Twitter accounting citing Rule 4, Section 8, Article 2, (c) as the reason for why there was no extra-point or two-point conversion try.

The NFL made the rule change after the Vikings beat the Saints at the buzzer in the "Minneapolis Miracle" in January 2018. The rule no longer requires teams to kick a meaningless extra point after a score on the final play of regulation.

If the Bears would’ve scored with one second on the clock, it'd be a whole different story here. If they converted the extra point, it would've created a push for many. If they converted a two-point conversion, it would've been better for the books than the public.

“As soon as I saw the TD with no time left, I knew it was not going to have any effect on the outcome as they weren’t going to attempt an extra point or a two-point conversion,” Gable said. “It would have been nice for us if there was a second left where they could have attempted to put another point or two on the board, but the vast majority of the bettors were happy that time had expired.”

Going into the night game, the books needed the Cleveland badly -- and the Browns delivered in a 48-37 upset win against the Steelers.

“If there was a saving grace on Sunday, it was the Browns winning outright and knocking out all of that liability built up on the Steelers,” Gable said. “We ended up needing them to eliminate that teaser and parlay liability.”

Big bets
There were some big wagers on wild-card weekend. Shortly before the Browns and Steelers kicked off, a bettor with BetMGM in Nevada placed $550,000 on Cleveland +5.5. That was the largest reported wager of the weekend.

"Wild-card weekend was a mixed bag for bettors and bookmakers," BetMGM vice president of trading Jason Scott said. “That said, the Browns upsetting the Steelers was big for the book and helped us have a winning weekend.”

Some other notable bets at BetMGM were $330,000 on Bears-Saints under 48, $240,000 on the Ravens -3 and $210,000 on the Saints -10.

NFL divisional round
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