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Sports betting winners and losers: With scoring exploding, will the trend of NFL overs ever stop?

Frank Schwab
·6-min read

Maybe Monday’s unexpected NFL doubleheader was a sign that the explosion in scoring this season might not continue forever. Or at the very least some unders might start cashing at the betting window.

Both games on Monday went under, which is actually a surprise this season. Before Monday night, overs were 37-24 against the under, a 60.7 mark. It’s rare to find any betting trend over 60 percent in the NFL, especially on something as simple as betting overs.

It has been a historic start for the NFL. Even with a couple of relatively low-scoring games on Monday, scoring is at 51.3 points per game, which would be an NFL record. Last year it was 45.6 points per game. Each team is gaining an average of 369.5 yards per game, up from 347.9 last season.

Through three weeks, there were 2,446 points scored, and that was 159 more points than any other three-week start in NFL history. Even with that being an obvious storyline and sportsbooks adjusting lines accordingly, overs were 9-4 through Sunday’s games.

There was a thought that a weird offseason would slow down offenses because of the lack of offseason practice and no preseason games. Apparently not.

No betting trend continues forever. Oddsmakers adjust to make sure bettors can’t just keep pounding the over and winning. But scoring is unlikely to slow down, due to incredible depth at quarterback across the league and the acceptance of college schemes that rely on spread formations and include run-pass options, along with most of the league preferring to hire offensive-minded head coaches. It’s just a matter of how much the sportsbooks can move the totals up before there’s a tipping point to unders catching up.

Six of the 11 NFL Week 5 games posted at BetMGM as of Tuesday morning had an over/under above 50, which would have been unheard of a few years ago. Is this the week the unders start catching up?

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) is one of the many NFL players scoring touchdowns so far this season. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) is one of the many NFL players scoring touchdowns so far this season. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Here are the winners and losers from the past week in the sports betting world:

WINNERS

Packers and Seahawks: On Monday night, the Green Bay Packers kept the Atlanta Falcons from a late score and the Packers easily covered the spread. That kept hope alive for an accomplishment that would put the 1972 Miami Dolphins to shame.

There are only two NFL teams still perfect against the spread. The Packers and Seattle Seahawks are both 4-0 straight up and against the spread. The other undefeated NFL teams have failed to cover the spread at least once.

A perfect record against the spread is just about impossible, of course. As teams keep winning and keep getting bettors’ attention, oddsmakers adjust. In many ways, that means against the spread records aren’t predictive. But tell that to Packers backers on Monday, because 75.6% of tickets were on Green Bay.

Yankees’ October surge: The New York Yankees are always a popular team, and they started getting hot late in the season.

The combination of that meant that nobody was buying the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS against New York.

“With Gerrit Cole on the mound, it seems like can barely print a ticket with Tampa Bay’s name on it,” said Jason Scott, VP of trading at BetMGM.

The Yankees won, with Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam putting the game away. They have the highest percentage of all World Series champion future bets at BetMGM. The Los Angeles Dodgers still have a higher handle and are BetMGM’s second-biggest liability on the future market (to the long shot Miami Marlins), but bettors are cashing in on the Yankees in October.

The Yankees are +300 to win the World Series at BetMGM, behind only the Dodgers at +280. Every other team is +550 or higher.

When the percentage of bets and money don’t match up: When you see a split like this, it’s worth taking note of it:

For Monday night’s game between the Chiefs and Patriots, most of the bets came in on the over but yet, a more overwhelming percentage of the money was on the under. That means small (mostly public) bets are on one side, and the large (typically professional or sharp) bets were on the other. As with many things in life, follow the money. The under covered without any kind of a sweat.

LOSERS

Betting with the line moves: Some of the games that saw the biggest line moves all ended up moving the wrong way.

The four games that saw the most notable line movement on the point spread in Week 4 all lost. Only the Miami Dolphins were even close to covering the spread among those four games.

Even though the books seem to have won all of those games with the big line movement, overall it still wasn’t a great weekend for BetMGM. Scott said some of the biggest bettors at the sportsbook had a good Week 4. The Vikings over the Texans and the Eagles over the 49ers were bad outcomes for the book, as was the Seattle cover due to a bet on the Seahawks -6.5 that won $500,000.

The Lakers sweeping through the NBA Finals: The Heat taking Game 3 of the NBA Finals ruined any bets on the Lakers to sweep, a prop that had become the favorite among all the exact series outcome options after two games. The Heat’s win over the Lakers was actually bad for BetMGM, which saw action come in on the Heat.

Overall, the sportsbooks are hoping for a Heat miracle. BetMGM’s highest ticket percentage and handle percentage in the NBA futures market is on the Lakers to win the title. More than 52 percent of the money bet on which team will win the NBA championship came in on the Lakers.

Hopefully for NBA fans, the Heat can make it a competitive Finals after all.

A ridiculous college football bad beat: While the intentional safety might not surpass the returned lateral on the final play for the most crushing bad beat possible, nobody wants to lose because a team gives its opponent two points.

It happened on Saturday. TCU led Texas 33-29. The spread wasn’t in doubt, and it seemed the over/under of 62.5 wasn’t either. Then weird things happened and the over cashed.

Condolences if you had the under.

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