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Betting on Week 17 of the NFL season can be an adventure.
Some teams are resting players, others are competing for playoff spots and others are jockeying for NFL draft positioning while playing for the last time under a coach set to lose his job.
That leads to a variety of factors affecting the odds for each particular game. The Sunday night game — the Washington Football Team vs. the Philadelphia Eagles — was the perfect example. Washington needed a win to clinch the NFC East for the first time since 2015. The Eagles, meanwhile, were completely out of contention and resting many of their top players.
The game featured the biggest line movement of Week 17 at BetMGM. The Eagles opened as 1.5-point favorites, and closed as 6.5-point underdogs. And after the first quarter, the game reflected the circumstances. One team was fighting for a playoff spot, and the other was three quarters away from an offseason overflowing with changes.
Washington led 10-0 and was in control. But Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, making his fourth start in place of the benched Carson Wentz, led back-to-back touchdown drives to put the Eagles ahead 14-10 with 3:54 left in the first half.
Washington scored just before halftime to retake the lead, 17-14, but it looked like a game that could go down to the wire.
Late in the third quarter, an Eagles interception put the offense in position to tie the game or go in front. Eventually, the Eagles had a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line and Doug Pederson curiously kept his offense on the field.
That fourth-down attempt came up empty, and Washington maintained a small lead. Even more curiously, Pederson then trotted out third-string QB Nate Sudfeld for the Eagles’ next drive. Sudfeld, who had been inactive for the majority of the season, ended up playing the entire fourth quarter. It didn’t go well as he completed 5-of-12 passes for 32 yards and an interception.
The Eagles lost 20-14. Philly managed to cover the spread, but the game fell well below the total of 42.5 after the two teams combined for 31 first-half points.
It was a game that reflected the trickiness that is betting on Week 17 football in the NFL.
Underdogs win early, favorites win late
According to MGM Resorts Director of Trading Jeff Stoneback, the three biggest winners of the day for the house at MGM were the New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions. All three were underdogs who covered short spreads.
The Giants closed as two-point home underdogs against the Dallas Cowboys and ended up winning outright, 23-19.
The Miami Dolphins, one of the best teams against the spread this season, opened up as a four-point underdog against the Bills but ended up finishing as 3.5-point favorites as they fought for a playoff berth. The game was never even close as the Bills won 56-26.
The Lions, meanwhile, were 3.5-point underdogs at home against the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions lost 37-35 to close the season with an ugly 5-11 record, but a touchdown run by D’Andre Swift with 4:26 to play got Detroit inside the number.
Overall, underdogs were 9-7 against the spread on the day, but a few of the biggest public favorites covered easily, including the Green Bay Packers (-4.5 vs. the Chicago Bears), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7 vs. the Atlanta Falcons) and the Los Angeles Rams (-1 vs. the Arizona Cardinals).
Forced to play backup quarterback John Wolford, the Rams actually opened as a three-point underdog before closing as a one-point favorite. The Rams won 18-7.
The Packers received 71% of the bets and 84% of the money and ended up covering easily in a 35-16 win. Similarly, the Bucs received 67% of the bets and 73% of the money and covered handily in a 44-27 win.
Overall, Stoneback said “it was about a break-even day” for the bettors at MGM.
Seahawks vs. 49ers bad beats
The Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers game came down to the wire with both the point spread and total. The spread drama was back and forth throughout the fourth quarter and those who bet the under dealt with an especially tough beat.
The Seahawks closed as seven-point favorites with the total at 46.5 The game was extremely low scoring through three quarters. The 49ers entered the fourth up 9-6. But over the game’s final 15 minutes, there were 34 points scored.
The 49ers went ahead 16-6 in the first minute of the fourth quarter before Seattle scored on its next two drives to flip the 10-point deficit into a three-point advantage, 19-16, with 2:20 to play.
At that point, the 49ers were still covering the spread and were about to regain possession. Things felt pretty safe for under and San Francisco bettors. But on the second play of the ensuing drive, 49ers QB C.J. Beathard was sacked and fumbled. The Seahawks recovered the fumble at the 49ers 17-yard line.
Three plays later, the Seahawks added to their lead with an eight-yard touchdown run by Alex Collins. Now up 26-16 with 1:49 to go, the Seahawks were covering the spread and the game was still under the total.
All of that set up plenty of betting drama. San Francisco regained possession at its own 25 and quickly marched down the field. Eventually, the 49ers scored a touchdown with 23 seconds to play to make it 26-23.
The 49ers covered the spread, and over bettors — after 15 points combined were scored through three quarters — miraculously cashed.
Team win totals on the line
There were three teams whose team win totals were on the line in Week 17: Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders.
The Panthers over/under was set at 5.5 entering the year, but they ended up falling under by getting blown out 33-7 by the New Orleans Saints to finish 5-11.
The Bears entered the weekend with an 8-7 record and couldn’t do anything worse than a push. But a win over the Green Bay Packers would cash bets for those who had the Bears going over eight wins for the season. But it wasn’t meant to be as the Packers cruised to a 35-16 win and the Bears finished 8-8.
For much of the year, an over 7.5 ticket for the Raiders looked like it would cash easily. At one point, the Raiders were 6-3 with seven games to play. Instead, it came down to the final week. The Raiders had lost six of their previous seven games entering Sunday’s finale against the Denver Broncos.
This one came down to the final minute. The Raiders fell behind 31-24 with 6:29 to go, but managed to put a 77-yard drive together and score with just 24 seconds to go. And instead of trying to force overtime with an extra point, Jon Gruden went for two and the win. Derek Carr connected with Darren Waller and the Raiders emerged with a 32-31 victory.
Best, worst teams ATS in 2020
With the regular season wrapped up, here are the teams that were the best and worst against the spread at BetMGM.
Buffalo Bills: 11-5
Miami Dolphins: 11-5
Green Bay Packers: 10-6
Pittsburgh Steelers: 10-6
Baltimore Ravens: 10-6
Dallas Cowboys: 5-11
Houston Texans: 6-10
New York Jets: 6-10
Cleveland Browns: 6-10
Philadelphia Eagles: 6-10
Minnesota Vikings: 6-10
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