Falcons' non-cover helps books cut losses; no upsets in NFL Week 15 as faves dominate again

By Dave Tuley  (VSiN.com senior reporter) 

December 18, 2017 11:44 PM

LAS VEGAS – The Falcons beat the Buccaneers 24-21 on Monday Night Football and helped the sports books here cut their losses as NFL Week 15 came to close.

As we’ve written and Tweeted several times now, the Chiefs-Chargers games on Saturday night and the Rams-Seahawks game closed at pick ‘em here in Vegas, but favorites went 14-0 straight-up in all the other games. They were also 9-3-1 ATS through Sunday night’s game, but dipped to 9-4-1 ATS as the Falcons didn’t cover after closing as 7-point road favorites.

With all that chalk cashing, books were paying winners all Sunday on favorites covering as well as parlays and teasers combining a lot of those faves, and a lot of those bets also were tied to the Falcons on Monday night. In addition, the Falcons had opened between -4 and -6, so it took a lot of lopsided action to move the line to 7 on Monday.

An Atlanta cover would have added to the books’ losses, so the 24-21 result burned a lot of tickets (though teasers still cashed). However, the books were also helped by the fact that Tampa Bay’s Patrick Murray missed a potential game-tying 54-yard field goal as time expired as the over/under had been bet from 47.5 to 49.5 so the books were helped by staying under all numbers. Unders improved to 9-6-1 for the week.

This was the eighth time in the last nine weeks that favorites covered more games than underdogs. As Bill Simmons alluded to on his podcast at theringer.com and asking for our stats to confirm (at the 36:30 mark), faves are 78-44-8 ATS (63.9%) over that span. dogs were actually leading 53-36-1 ATS after the first six weeks of the season, but now favorites lead 114-97-9 ATS (54%).

NOTE: The remainder of this article is updated from our betting recap that was posted Sunday night.

It’s not often that a game lives up to the hype, but the Patriots’ 27-24 win over the Steelers did just that on Sunday with the No. 1 seed in the AFC on the line, plus the controversial ending also had the added drama of impacting all those betting or booking the biggest game of NFL Week 15.

The Patriots closed as 2.5-point road favorites after being bet down from -3 (with all those early bettors on both sides ending up with a push), so it goes down as a cover in the record books, but that’s just the tip of the gambling iceberg in relation to how this game played out.

The Steelers looked like the “right side” most of the game and led 24-16 entering the fourth quarter. However, in true Patriot-like fashion, Tom Brady & Co. rallied with a Stephen Gostkowski 46-yard field goal to cut it to 24-19 and then a go-ahead drive capped by a Dion Lewis 8-yard TD run to put the Patriots ahead 25-24. They then went for a 2-point conversion to go up by a field goal (and of utmost importance to all spread bettors) and got it as Brady found Rob Gronkowski to go up 27-24 with 56 seconds to play.

That also put the total points within 2 of the closing over/under of 53 points, which suddenly looked like a surety when JuJu Smith-Schuster turned a short pass from Ben Roethlisberger into a 69-yard gain down to the New England 10-yard line. Over bettors (and Pittsburgh backers) rejoiced on the very next play when Roethlisberger hit Jesse James over the middle for the apparent go-ahead touchdown.

As we’ve all seen by now, it was overturned on replay as it was ruled James didn’t complete the catch by losing control when he went to the ground. Still, it was only second down and the Steelers had more chances to win or at least send the game to overtime with a field goal (and Steeler bettors were most likely thinking it might be better to not give the ball back to Brady with time on the clock).

However, Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey to the Patriot 7 and with everyone (including the Patriots) expecting the fake spike, Roethlisberger tried to force a pass into Eli Rogers and it was tipped and picked off in the end zone to seal the Patriots’ victory (and cover . . . and keep the game under).

It was par for the week that the Patriots won straight-up as there hasn’t been an outright NFL upset all weekend. The Chargers-Chiefs game on Saturday night and the Rams-Seahawks game on Sunday both closed pick ‘em at the majority of Vegas sports books -- so we don’t count those in our ATS stats as there’s no favorite and no underdog – and favorites were 13-0 straight-up and 9-3-1 ATS by the end of Sunday. The push was the Cowboys’ 20-17 win as 3-point road favorites over the Raiders on Sunday night.

Week 15 started with the Broncos’ 25-13 win as 2.5-point road faves over the Colts on Thursday night. The Lions also covered as 5-point home favorites in their 20-10 victory over the Bears on Saturday afternoon. As stated above, the Chiefs’ 30-10 win over the Chargers closed pick ‘em, though we know some people had the Chiefs as short home underdogs.

The chalk-fest continued in the early games on Sunday with all eight favorites winning and going 6-2 ATS. The only underdogs to cover were the Giants as 7.5-point home dogs in their 34-29 loss to the Eagles and the Jets as 16-point road dogs in their 31-19 loss to the Saints. The latter also included a “Bad Beat” for under 47 bettors as the Saints were leading 24-19 and running out the clock when Mark Ingram pulled a Derrick Henry (what’s with those Bama RBs?) and rolled 50 yards for a TD to put it over the total.

Among the winning favorites was the Panthers as they beat the Packers 31-24 as 3-point home faves in Aaron Rodgers’ return, though they had to hold off the Packers as Rodgers pulled them within a TD and then Green Bay recovered an onside kick. But they held on for the cover, as did the Bills, Redskins and Ravens in the early games.

The Patriots-Steelers game was the marquee matchup of the afternoon games (1:05 and 1:25 p.m. PT kickoffs here in Vegas), but the undercard featured the Rams blowing out the Seahawks in another game that closed pick ‘em here in Vegas (though the Rams were short dogs all week long) and the 49ers beating the Titans 25-23 on a Robbie Gould field goal as time expired, but they didn’t cover after closing as 2.5-point home favorites.

Sunday’s action closed with the Cowboys’ 20-17 victory as 3-point road faves over the Raiders, though it looked like an underdog was going to finally win a game outright when Derek Carr scrambled for a first down with 31 seconds to play and was lunging for the go-ahead TD when he fumbled through the end zone to secure the win for the Cowboys.

Just another wild weekend in the NFL – and in the sports books.

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