Notable bets: Jaguars upset bad for bettors, survivor-pool playersby David Purdum
On and off the field, so much is different about the 2020 football season.
The Raiders are in Las Vegas, a place the NFL stiff-armed for decades over fears of Sin City's thriving sports betting market. On the opening Sunday, commercials for Las Vegas ran frequently during NFL games -- some of which were played in empty stadiums, with manufactured crowd noise.
Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay and found himself in the unfamiliar role of underdog in his debut with the Buccaneers. Philip Rivers is in Indianapolis, Cam Newton is under center for the New England Patriots, and an NBA playoff game took place in the thick of the football action.
Yet even in a year as unprecedented as this one, some things remain the same: People lined up at Las Vegas sportsbooks to bet on the opening Sunday of the NFL season.
"We had a good crowd this morning," John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN on Sunday. "People were very excited for the NFL to be back."
"The appetite for football is definitely there, as it always is," Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for BetMGM sportsbooks in Nevada, said Sunday. "Even though there's not as many people traveling as there were last football season, it still feels like 80 percent of the people who are here want to watch football."
Stoneback estimated that his books took 15 six-figure wagers on the NFL, the largest a $525,000 whopper on the Patriots -7 against the Miami Dolphins. Newton ran for two touchdowns in his New England debut, leading the Pats to a 21-11 victory and giving the big bettor a giant winner.
"We've had better opening weeks," Stoneback said, with a chuckle, of the book's day.
Here's a look at the notable bets from around the sports betting world as a one-of-a-kind season got going:
NFL notable bets
• The underdog Jacksonville Jaguars' upset of the Indianapolis Colts produced the biggest win of an uneven Sunday for several sportsbooks, especially those in Indiana. At the Indiana Grand Casino in Shelbyville, just outside of Indianapolis, 98.7% of the bets on the point spread were on the Colts, according to sportsbook manager Austin Herdina.
• Sportsbook PointsBet reported that 95% of the money wagered on the Colts-Jags money line was on Indianapolis.
• The Colts' loss also cost a bettor at DraftKings, who placed a $156,000 two-team teaser on Indianapolis -2 and Buccaneers-Saints over 41.
• Nearly a third of the entries -- 425 of 1,390 -- in the survivor contest run by Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports had the Colts in Week 1, more than any other team.
• DraftKings said nearly 40% of entries into its survivor pools had the Colts or Eagles (27-17 losers to the Washington Football Team). A company spokesperson said all customers who were eliminated in Week 1 were given a free bet equal to the entry fee they paid.
• The other big decision of the early kickoffs went the betting public's way, with the Buffalo Bills covering the spread in a 27-17 win over the New York Jets. "We took it on the chin with the Jets-Bills game," said Tom Gable, sportsbook director for the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey. "It was unusual for us to need the Jets that badly early in the season in this market."
• The Las Vegas Raiders covered the spread in their first game, a 34-30 road win over the Carolina Panthers.
• The Borgata lost two of the largest bets it took Sunday: $105,000 on under 24 in the first half of the Cardinals-49ers game and over 22.5 in the second half of the Browns-Ravens game.
• Included among the six-figure bets taken by BetMGM on Sunday in Nevada were the Browns +7 (loser), Cardinals-49ers over 48 (loser), Chargers-Bengals under 41 (winner), Chargers -3 (push) and 49ers -7 (loser).
• The only Sunday NFL game on which sportsbook PointsBet suffered a loss was Bucs-Saints.
• The Bucs-Saints game attracted the most bets at BetRivers sportsbooks around the nation, with 27% of the NFL bets placed with the bookmaker. The Saints closed as consensus 4-point favorites and won 34-23. Brady was favored in his previous 74 regular-season starts, a record streak dating to Week 2 of the 2015 season.
• Trailing the Detroit Lions 23-6 entering the fourth quarter, the Chicago Bears were 12-1 underdogs to come back and win the game at William Hill sportsbooks. Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, and Chicago prevailed 27-23.
• William Hill reported taking a $275,000 bet on the Patriots -7.
• A bettor with FanDuel hit a $2,500 five-leg parlay on five players to score touchdowns in their respective games: Falcons running back Todd Gurley (+100), Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (-185), Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (-125), Saints running back Alvin Kamara (+115) and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (-140). All five scored TDs, resulting in a $51,101.93 win for the bettor.
• Station Casinos' sportsbook in Nevada reported a small winning day, with the Washington Football Team, Jaguars, Cardinals and Seahawks producing the biggest wins for the house.
• Three times as much money was bet on the Texans-Chiefs opener on Thursday as was bet on the Lakers-Rockets NBA playoff game on the same night at FanDuel.
• The Chiefs covered the 9.5-point spread, and the game went over the total (53.5) in a 34-20 win for Kansas City, handing FanDuel an opening loss. "Customers had a very good night," a FanDuel spokesperson told ESPN.
• "We're seeing heavy action on the Steelers spread, and also we have a good amount of clients cheering on the Steelers money line to close out parlays," Patrick Eichner, communications director for PointsBet, told ESPN. "Book will be rooting for the Giants to cover. Pulling off the upset would be even better." The Steelers are 6-point favorites over the Giants on Monday night.
• The sportsbook at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas reported taking a $1,000 money-line bet on Texas to beat UTEP straight-up at -100,000 odds. The Longhorns won 59-3, and the bettor won a net $1.
• With Pittsburgh leading Austin Peay 42-0 at halftime, the teams agreed to play 10-minute quarters instead of the normal 15 minutes in the second half. The Panthers went on to win 55-0 as 24.5-point favorites. However, most sportsbooks require football games to go at least 55 minutes for bets to be action, so if you bet on Pitt, like Las Vegas sports bettor Shane Sigsbee, your bet was likely refunded.
• Three hours prior to kickoff, Georgia Southern announced that 33 players, including seven starters, were inactive for the Eagles' game against Campbell because of coronavirus issues, injuries, suspensions and coach's discretion. The line dropped from Georgia Southern -34 to -27 at some books. "What we're doing this year is being more conservative during the week," Stoneback (BetMGM) said. "We're really not opening up [betting limits] until Friday. If someone came in and wanted to bet six figures on, let's say, Florida State on a Tuesday or Wednesday, unless he's a really, really good casino player, we probably wouldn't take that much because of the COVID situation. It's buyer beware for both sides of the counter."
• Johnny Avello, sportsbook director for DraftKings, said the betting handle on college football on Saturday was solid despite an abbreviated schedule. "You couldn't bet them all, when we had a full slate," Avello said. "You had to pick and choose. Now, you still have an ample amount to bet on."
• Notable Week 3 opening college football point spreads via William Hill:
Miami (Fla.) at Louisville (-2)
Wake Forest at NC State (-3)
UCF (-7.5) at Georgia Tech
Syracuse at Pittsburgh (-21)
South Florida at Notre Dame (-26)
Tulsa at Oklahoma State (22.5)
Houston at Baylor (-7.5)
• The Denver Nuggets' upset of the LA Clippers on Sunday produced a big win for multiple sportsbooks. "Weird having an NBA playoff game going on during an NFL Sunday," Murray (SuperBook) said, "but it was a great result for us with Denver winning outright."
• Murray said one bettor at the SuperBook placed an $18,000 money-line bet on the Clippers to win straight-up for a chance to win $5,000.
• The Clippers opened as 6.5-point favorites over the Nuggets in Game 7 on Tuesday.
• Australian sportsbook TAB on Sunday reported taking a $100,000 bet on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title at +140. It's "easily the biggest bet on any team to win the championship," TAB spokesperson Trent Langskaill said in a release.
• There's some big early love for Lefty at this week's U.S. Open.
On Wednesday, a bettor at a William Hill sportsbook in southern Nevada placed a $45,000 bet on Phil Mickelson to win the U.S. Open at 75-1 odds. The bet would pay a net $3,375,000. It's the second-largest liability on a golf wager in William Hill U.S.'s history. Mickelson has never won the U.S. Open. (And he weighed in on the wager via Twitter.)
• Odds to win the U.S. Open at William Hill U.S. (as of Sunday):
Dustin Johnson 15-2
Jon Rahm 10-1
Rory McIlroy 12-1
Justin Thomas 12-1
Xander Schauffele 18-1
Bryson DeChambeau 18-1
Tiger Woods 33-1
Phil Mickelson 80-1