The dogs had their day in Week 1 of the NFL season Sunday. Pointspread underdogs finished 10-3 ATS on the first big slate of football action in 2014, handing sportsbooks across the globe a nice win to start the season.
Following a win for the favorite in the season opener between Seattle and Green Bay Thursday night – Seahawks winning 36-16 as 4.5-point chalk – the Sunday 1 p.m. kickoffs produced underdog winners in eight of the first 10 games of the day. Houston covering as a 3-point favorite versus Washington and Philadelphia coming back from 17 points down to win 34-17 as a 10-point fave were the lone favorites to hit early.
“The early games were very good for the books, and days like these are tough on the general betting public,” a spokesman for GTBets.eu told Covers. “Notable dog covers of the day were Atlanta, Miami, and Buffalo. Had Jacksonville pulled it off, it would have been a straight massacre.”
The Falcons, Dolphins and Bills were cash cows across the board for most books as well – all winning outright as underdogs. Atlanta (+3) knocked off New Orleans 37-34 in overtime, Miami (+3.5) stunned New England 33-20, and Buffalo (+7) forced overtime and eventually won 23-20 in Chicago.
“The Falcons, Bills and Dolphins we needed big,” Michael Stewart, an oddsmaker for CarbonSports.ag, tells Covers. “Every game we were exposed on landed on our side. Very good day for the first Sunday.”
UK-based sportsbooks watched plenty of parlays burn up early with big favorites like the Patriots and Saints go down. According to Ladbrokes, Chicago was a very popular tie-in on many punters’ parlays cards, with many expecting the Bears to easily cover the touchdown spread at home.
“We did indeed have a very good Sunday with particularly well-backed favorites New England and New Orleans both losing being the most profitable of the results,” Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes tells Covers. “Chicago losing at home to Buffalo was also a good result as many punters included the Bears as a banker bet in multiples.”
In Las Vegas, bookmakers celebrated similar results. In the late afternoon starts, Carolina’s 20-14 win over Tampa Bay - with backup QB Derek Anderson in for the injured Cam Newton – was the biggest winner of the day at MGM properties.
“Carolina was the biggest win for us, beating the Bucs,” Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at the MGM Mirage, tells Covers. “That, then the Bills and the Bears tied for second. A short third was the Falcons beating the Saints.”
And even when the favorite did cash in Sunday, sportsbooks were still reaping the rewards. San Francisco dominated Dallas 28-17 as 4-point chalk. Stoneback says the wiseguy money jumped on the Cowboys, eclipsing what the public was betting on the 49ers.
“It was actually our fourth-best result of the day,” he says. “All the sharp money was on Dallas but we still had people betting the Niners. All the parlay cards and ticket count was high on San Francisco, but an onslaught of sharp money on Dallas made it a winner for us.”
The Sunday Night Football finish, with Indianapolis just covering as a 7.5-point underdog, was actually a breakeven game for bookmakers. Stoneback says there was so much first-half action on Denver and Over that it wiped out any profit from the overall game result.
“It was a small winner if that. Ninety-nine percent of the first-half bets were on Denver and the Over,” he says.
As for Monday night’s games, Stoneback doesn’t see the betting public blindly following the red-hot underdog trend from Sunday. Early money has come in on the Lions (-6.5) versus New York while siding with San Diego (+2.5).
“We’ll likely need the Giants and Cardinals, so we’ll be rooting for at least one favorite,” says Stoneback.