When an undrafted rookie quarterback from Samford is winning on the road in October, it’s a sign of an odd NFL season. Devlin Hodges of the Steelers is a duck-calling champion and an underdog story that’s tough to top.
A quarterback coming back from mono to upset the Cowboys is not quite as unlikely, but Sam Darnold’s storyline was most popular with bookmakers Sunday because it made the bottom line.
Regression is due to hit at some point, yet this is shaping up to be the Year of the ’Dog. There were bigger ’dogs than the Jets in Week 6, but none more important.
“The Jets winning outright was huge,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “That was a monster game for the books. There were so many moneyline parlays and teasers on the Cowboys, it was stupid.”
As seven-point underdogs, the Jets proved to be the smart side. In his first game in more than a month, Darnold passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns to pilot the Jets to a
24-22 victory over Dallas, which took its third consecutive loss after starting 3-0.
The unpredictable nature of the NFL is what makes it so difficult for the betting public to beat and so profitable for bookmakers. If almost everything went according to form, almost everyone would win. It’s not that easy.
Underdogs finished 10-4 against the spread in Week 6, raising the record for ’dogs to 54-35-2 ATS (60.7%) for the season. When the ’dogs win straight up, it’s even better for the books. Aside from the Jets and Steelers, outright upsets were pulled by the Cardinals, 49ers, Saints, Seahawks and Texans. The Lions were denied a spot on that list after an officiating fiasco Monday night in Green Bay.
“If you’re betting just blindly taking the points, that’s pretty strong,” Bogdanovich said.
A $100 bet on each underdog would mean about a $1,600 profit to this point in the season. But the public prefers to play favorites, which is why bookmakers are enjoying a monstrous three-week run.
“We’re killing it right now in the NFL,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said.
There will be a week or two when the favorites line up and the tables turn — it always happens, but it has yet to happen this season.
“The last three weeks have been very nice,” Bogdanovich said. “The first three weeks of the season were nothing to write home about, but no complaints through Week 6.”
Five of the seven ’dogs to win Sunday were on the road, continuing a trend. Road teams are 55-33-2 ATS (62.5%) overall.
The Steelers were six-point underdogs in a 24-17 victory over the Chargers in Los Angeles, where Pittsburgh fans dominated the crowd. Hodges, the team’s No. 3 quarterback called to start after injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph, operated a conservative offense and followed the lead of a defense that pressured Philip Rivers into rookie-like mistakes.
Rivers is 2-9-1 ATS in his last 11 games as a home favorite. The strongest home fields in the NFL are worth about 4½ points, Bogdanovich said, but the Chargers’ bizarre home-field disadvantage has been adjusted to -1 by some oddsmakers. A team with a negative home-field rating is essentially unheard of in the history of NFL wagering.
“The Chargers have got more problems than their home field,” Bogdanovich said. “Their injuries are much more critical.”
Kansas City typically has one of the top home-field advantages, but the Chiefs have suffered back-to-back home losses to the Colts and Texans. Deshaun Watson passed for 280 yards and a touchdown for Houston, which opened as a 7½-point underdog before the line crashed to four at kickoff.
“The sharps were all on the Texans, and they were right,” Bogdanovich said.
The betting public was all over the Chiefs and Seahawks, splitting those decisions. Russell Wilson, playing the role of MVP front-runner while Patrick Mahomes hobbles into a minor slump, accounted for three touchdowns in a 32-28 win at Cleveland.
“I would say that was the pros-vs.-Joes game of the week in the NFL,” Murray said.
The Average Joes win some square plays too. Sharp money flowed in on the Browns, who closed as one-point favorites at most books. Baker Mayfield tossed three interceptions as Cleveland continued its tailspin to 2-4 straight up and ATS.
“The public was all over Seattle, but we took a big bet ($280,000) on Cleveland,” Bogdanovich said. “There really wasn’t a bad game for us.”
Even the winless Dolphins got a consolation prize by covering the spread for the first time. Sharp money showed against Miami, a six-point underdog in a 17-16 loss to the Redskins.
It was a big day for Darnold, a duck caller and the ugliest ’dog on the card.