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Tom Brady’s return to New England was one of the most-anticipated NFL games in recent memory, and it attracted a high volume of betting action.
Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened as 5.5-point favorites but ended up closing as 7-point favorites over the Patriots. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the money was on the Tampa side. As of Sunday morning, BetMGM said 83% of the bets and a whopping 92% of the money were on the Bucs. By the time kickoff rolled around, it ended up being 90% of the bets backing the Bucs -7.
As a result, the Patriots keeping it close and covering the spread — albeit in a 19-17 loss — was a big win for the sportsbooks.
“It was the most bet on game of the day and it was the worst game of the day for the bettors when the Patriots covered,” Jeff Stoneback, the director of trading for BetMGM, told Yahoo Sports.
It was a low-scoring game on a rainy night in Foxborough. The Patriots took a 14-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. The next three drives then resulted in field goals. The Bucs went ahead 16-14. The Patriots went back in front 17-16 and then Ryan Succop’s 47-yarder with 1:57 to play proved to be the game-winner.
There was still plenty of drama, however. The Patriots moved to the Tampa 37-yard line and opted to try a long field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-3 with 59 seconds to go.
Nick Folk’s 56-yard try had the distance, but hit off the left upright.
— NFL (@NFL) October 4, 2021
From there, Brady and the Bucs drained the rest of the clock and pulled out the win. If Folk made that kick and the Patriots pulled off the upset, it would have been an even bigger win for the sportsbook with 91% of the moneyline bets on the Bucs.
“If that field goal had gone through, there would have been a lot more losers on that game and it would have been a much bigger winner for the books,” Stoneback told Yahoo Sports.
Another good week for underdogs
The 2021 NFL season has been quite kind to underdog bettors.
Underdogs went 12-4 against the spread in Week 1 and then posted 9-7 ATS marks in both Week 2 and 3. Entering Monday Night Football, underdogs could make it four straight winning weeks. Currently, underdogs are 8-7 ATS in Week 4. If the undefeated Las Vegas Raiders cover as 3-point underdogs against the Los Angeles Chargers, it will be a third straight 9-7 ATS week for underdogs at BetMGM.
Thus far in Week 4, six underdogs won outright. That included the two previously winless New York-based teams.
The New York Jets were 5.5-point underdogs against the Tennessee Titans and ended up winning 27-24 in overtime. The New York Giants also needed overtime, but pulled out a 27-21 road upset over the New Orleans Saints. The Giants closed as 7-point underdogs.
Both were big winners for the sportsbook, though the professional bettors locked in on the Jets, Stoneback said. The Jets opened as 7-point dogs but were bet down to 5.5.
Another underdog the big-money bettors liked were the Arizona Cardinals on the road against the Los Angeles Rams. The Cardinals opened as 6-point underdogs, but the spread moved all the way down to 3.5. The Cardinals won, 37-20.
“The professionals bet it down to 3.5, but the public loved that Rams -3.5 and it did not work out well for them,” Stoneback told Yahoo Sports.
The other underdogs to win outright on Sunday were the Indianapolis Colts (+2.5 at Miami Dolphins), Seattle Seahawks (+2.5 at San Francisco 49ers) and Baltimore Ravens (+1 at Denver Broncos).
Underdogs are now 38-25 against the spread so far this season.
Chiefs finally cover the spread
The Kansas City Chiefs entered Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles amid a miserable stretch of 1-12-1 ATS over their last 14 games.
It turns out the best recipe for covering the spread is facing the Eagles defense.
The Chiefs put up 471 yards of offense, went 9-of-10 on third down and did not punt a single time in a 42-30 victory in Philadelphia, comfortably covering the 7-point spread. The game marked the first time the Chiefs covered during a regular season game since Nov. 1, 2020, when they were 19.5-point favorites over the Jets.
Despite the terrible recent ATS streak, the Chiefs were a very public pick again and were one of just two “significant” losses for the book, Stoneback said.
The other winner for the public was the Dallas Cowboys, who beat the Carolina Panthers 36-28 as a 4.5-point favorite.
The Cowboys are now the only NFL team that is 4-0 against the spread.
Bills cover as huge favorite
It’s not very common to see a team listed as a 17.5-point favorite in the NFL, but that happened Sunday with the Buffalo Bills hosting the Houston Texans.
The books are probably now wishing they made the Bills an even bigger favorite as Buffalo won 40-0.
As Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab wrote last week, since 1978 there had previously only been 36 NFL games with a point spread larger than 17 points. Two happened last year, including the aforementioned Chiefs-Jets game. The other also involved the Jets, who pulled off a huge upset and beat the Rams in Week 15 as 17.5-point dogs.
With the Bills winning and covering, NFL favorites of at least 17 points are just 12-25 ATS. They are, however, 34-3 straight-up in those spots.