NFL Wild Card Weekend betting recap: Sportsbooks lose on Bears-Saints ending

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It was a good weekend for the books, especially Saturday. 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,” Patrick Eichner, Director of Communications for PointsBet Sportsbook, said. “The Colts and Washington covering (excluding a few sharps who got TB -7.5) and the Browns and Rams covering and winning outright helped.”

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

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

Books needed one second on the clock

“The weekend was a tale of two days,” said Gable. “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.”

The ending of the Saints-Bears game is a big reason why, as it definitely swung the scales back towards the bettors.

As most gamblers know when there is a double-digit spread, the backdoor is always open. So, once the game was all but over, the Chicago Bears drove down the field with a chance to score a "meaningless" touchdown. Chicago drove 99-yards, ending on a Jimmy Graham one-handed touchdown grab as time expired.

Graham ran off the field after the catch, and so did both teams since the game was out of reach. While Graham’s touchdown did not affect the outcome of the game, it did affect the books, as the majority of the public took the Saints. Most books closed the game at Saints -11. The touchdown made it Saints 21, Bears 9. With the extra point, the game would have ended in a push at many shops.

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

Afterwards, I got a lot of texts asking why the Bears did not kick the extra point or go for a two-point conversion. NFL Officiating must’ve gotten the same question from a bunch of gamblers, I mean tweets, which made them put out this statement regarding Rule 4, Section 8, Article 2, (c):

The NFL made the rule change following the Saints-Vikings playoff game after the Minneapolis Miracle in 2018. The rule no longer requires teams to kick a meaningless extra point after a score on the final play of regulation.

Now, if the Bears would’ve scored with 1 second on the clock, we’d be talking about a whole different story here. They would have been forced to come out and either kick the XP or go for two and then who knows what would've happened.

“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 2 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 2 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 Browns badly, and, they delivered.

“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 stated. “We ended up needing them to eliminate that teaser and parlay liability.”

Big Bets

It was NFL Wild Card Weekend, so of course there were some big wagers. Shortly before the Browns and Steelers kick-off, a bettor with BetMGM in Nevada placed a $550,000 on Cleveland +5.5. This was the largest reported wager of the weekend.

"Wildcard Weekend was a mixed bag for bettors and bookmakers, Jason Scott, VP of Trading for BetMGM, stated. “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.

College Football National Championship Game

Here are the current betting splits courtesy of BetMGM:

Spread: Alabama opened -7, current line -8.5

Alabama: 55.3% of tickets, 59.7% of handle

Ohio State: 44.7% of tickets, 40.3% of handle

In what should be a high scoring affair tonight, the point spread continues to grow in the title game. The spread now sits at Alabama -9 at most books. Andrew Mannino of the PointsBet Trading team told me the sharps hit Alabama early.

NFL Divisional Round:

If you are looking for odds and trends, we have you covered.