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Favorites dominated the NFL’s wild card weekend, all except for one.
Of the five games played on Saturday and Sunday, the favorite covered the spread in four of them. And three of the favorites covered the number very comfortably. The only team that came up short was the Dallas Cowboys, who finished the regular season with the best ATS record in the NFL at 13-4.
On Sunday, the NFC East champions were 3.5-point home favorites over the San Francisco 49ers at BetMGM. The Dallas offense struggled early as the 49ers built an early 10-0 lead. That lead grew to 13-0 and was 16-7 at halftime.
Thanks to a slew of mistakes from San Francisco, the Cowboys had their chances late but could not capitalize. Leading 23-10, the 49ers were firmly in control but a Jimmy Garoppolo interception gave the Cowboys new life.
Trailing 23-17, the Cowboys had two chances in the final three minutes to surge in front but they failed both times. The game ended in inexplicable fashion with the Cowboys — with no timeouts remaining — running a quarterback draw in the final seconds. When the play ended, the clock continued to run and there was not enough time to get an additional play off.
That wacky ending sealed the 23-17 upset for the 49ers, who will move on to face the Green Bay Packers, the NFC’s No. 1 seed, next weekend at Lambeau Field.
It was an ending that was an especially nail-biting conclusion for one BetMGM customer. The bettor wagered $100,000 on the 49ers moneyline at +155. With the 49ers hanging on, the bettor won $155,000.
On the whole, bettors slightly favored the Cowboys in this one. According to BetMGM, 52% of the bets and 58% of the money was on the Cowboys covering the spread. Most of the moneyline bets (79%) were on the Cowboys, but 53% of the handle came in on the 49ers.
The total closed at 50.5 and most of the action — 68% of the bets, 62% of the money — was on the over. Under bettors were rewarded when the game finished with just 40 points.
Bengals-Raiders game brings drama for bettors
The first game of the weekend provided the most drama for bettors.
The Bengals, who hadn’t won a playoff game since 1991, held a lead for most of the afternoon. That lead grew to 26-16 with a field goal with 6:46 to play, but the Raiders kept fighting. On the ensuing drive, the Raiders stalled at the 10-yard line and opted to kick a 28-yard field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-3 with 3:34 to go.
That field goal, Daniel Carlson’s fourth of the day, cut the Bengals’ lead to 26-19. And it was a decision that had plenty of betting implications.
If the Raiders kept the offense on the field and scored a touchdown, they would have been covering the spread and (with an extra point) would have put the game over the total.
Instead, the Raiders cut the deficit to seven points with the hopes of getting the ball back for one final possession. And that’s what happened. After a three-and-out, the offense went back on the field with 1:51 to play. The Raiders quickly reached the Cincinnati 9-yard line and (after a questionable decision to spike the ball on first down) had three cracks at the end zone.
On fourth down, Derek Carr was intercepted by Germaine Pratt and the Raiders comeback effort came to an end. As did the hopes of Raiders and over bettors. The Bengals covered and the game stayed under the total of 48.5.
For one BetMGM customer, $120,000 was on the line. That bettor wagered $120K on the Bengals moneyline at -250. With that defensive stop, the bettor won $48,000.
While the spread bets were pretty even — 56% of bets on the Bengals, 52% of money on the Raiders — the betting public largely sided with the over. Per BetMGM, 77% of the bets and 81% of the money came in on the over. Those folks ended up with losing tickets.
Bills, Chiefs cover easily
The two biggest blowouts of the weekend came in the AFC.
The Buffalo Bills were 4.5-point favorites over the New England Patriots, their divisional rivals. To say the Bills dominated would be an understatement. Buffalo cruised to a 47-17 victory, both covering the spread and single-handedly going over the total of 43.5.
Bettors slightly favored Buffalo in this one. According to BetMGM, 51% of the bets and 58% of the money was on the Buffalo side ahead of kickoff on Saturday night.
The biggest point spread of the weekend was in the Sunday night game. The Kansas City Chiefs closed as 12.5-point favorites over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers actually jumped out to an early lead thanks to a defensive touchdown, but the Chiefs dominated from there in a commanding 42-21 victory.
Despite the big number, 62% of the bets and 68% of the money at BetMGM was on the Chiefs covering the double-digit spread.
Total drama in Bucs-Eagles game
Like the Bills and Chiefs in their matchups, the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not have much trouble with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
The Bucs, who closed as 7.5-point favorites, jumped out to a 17-0 lead and cruised to a victory. The Eagles, though, made things interesting for those who bet on the total, which closed at 47.5 at BetMGM.
The Eagles drove into Bucs territory on multiple possessions, but came up empty. That included a pass thrown by Jalen Hurts late in the first half that was intercepted in the end zone. If you had the over, those moments would matter in the long run.
Tampa’s lead was 31-0 entering the fourth quarter, but the Eagles put a few touchdown drives together and made it 31-15 with 4:45 to play. After a failed onside kick, the Bucs — who had been conservatively nursing the lead for much of the second half — took over near midfield and quickly moved deep into Eagles territory.
Eventually, the Bucs had a fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 14 with 1:16 to go. A field goal would have put the game over the total, but the Bucs kept the offense on the field. The Eagles stopped Giovani Bernard for a loss.
The only hope for over bettors became a long Eagles drive, but the drive went nowhere and the game ended with a 31-15 score — 2.5 points under the total.