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NFL wild-card betting report: Bettor wins $500,000 on Browns

By Ben Fawkes and Dave Tuley  (VSiN.com) 

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An exciting weekend of NFL football with six wild-card games finished as a winning week for most sportsbooks, mostly due to the Cleveland Browns’ 48-37 upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. Underdogs went 4-2 against the spread and overs were 4-2.

The Steelers-Browns game was the most-bet game of the weekend at PointsBet, and 69% of the bets and 82% of the spread handle was on Pittsburgh. The Steelers had more than 80% of the money at several other sportsbooks as well, although one bettor at BetMGM was victorious on the largest wager of the day: A $500,000 bet on the Browns + 5.5. The Browns’ upset win was massive for sportsbooks, knocking out every moneyline parlay and teaser with the Steelers in it -- as well as ones tied into tomorrow's College Football National Championship Game.

One FanDuel bettor won over $100,000 on a six-team alternate spread parlay that had a final leg of Pittsburgh + 15.5. The Steelers converted a fourth down and scored a late TD to help him cash his ticket.

Books needed the Steelers win because the Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) beating the Tennessee Titans 20-13 and the New Orleans Saints (-11) defeating the Chicago Bears 21-9 were both great results for bettors. Over 65% of the spread handle in both games at multiple books was on the favorites, and the Ravens-Titans game was the most-bet game of the weekend at The Borgata in New Jersey.

“As we sit now, the great day that we had on Saturday pretty much has been given right back to the betting public today in the first two games,” Thomas Gable, Borgata sportsbook director, told VSiN before the Sunday night game. “Both favorites winning and covering dealt the book a big loss, and there is still a lot of liability outstanding on Pittsburgh tonight with all of the parlays and teasers still alive.”

Two big bets on the Saints -- $210,000 on Saints -10 and $176,000 on Saints -10.5 – cashed at BetMGM, helped by the Bears scoring a touchdown as time expired, but not being able to try the two-point conversion. The NFL changed that rule in 2018 following the Minneapolis Miracle, ending the game after a TD if it doesn’t impact the outcome of the game.

On Saturday, sportsbooks had a winning day, as all three underdogs covered against the closing number and the Los Angeles Rams (+ 3) won outright – 30-20 over the Seattle Seahawks. It was Russell Wilson's first playoff loss as a home favorite (7-0 previously).

"Saturday’s games were pretty good, as we had all three dogs cover," Station Casinos sportsbook director Chuck Esposito told VSiN in an email. "Sunday, all the late action was on the Ravens in the early game. Bettors did well on that game and the Saints, but [keeping those games under] really helped. Having both the Titans and Bears cover the first half was also good for our side." 

Put succinctly, South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews echoed Esposito's sentiments, telling VSiN, "Saturday was great. Today is going to be a wash, maybe a slight plus."

-- Ben Fawkes

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ATS recaps

Colts at Bills (-7, 50.5)

The Colts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then led 10-7 midway through the second quarter on Jonathan Taylor’s 1-yard TD run, but Josh Allen’s 5-yard run put the Bills up 14-10 with :14 left in the first half. The Bills took control in the second half, adding a Tyler Bass 45-yard FG and a 35-yard TD reception by Stefon Diggs (Allen’s second TD pass to go with the rushing TD) to lead 24-10 with 14:10 left in the game. However, the point spread and total were still in doubt.

Philip Rivers hit Zach Pascal for a 9-yard TD pass to pull the Colts within 24-16 (but short of the cover or a push as the 2-point conversion failed). Bass booted his third FG of the game to put the Bills back up by 11 points at 27-16, with 8:08 left; however Rivers drove the Colts right down the field in just five plays and capped it with a 27-yard TD pass to Jack Doyle to cover the spread for Indy backers (teasers on the Bills still ended up as winners, though they had to sweat out Rivers’ Hail Mary that went unanswered on the game’s final play). The two-point conversion on the final TD made the final 27-24 and also put the game Over the consensus closing total of 50.5, though some early Under bettors cashed on higher totals as it opened 52.5.

Final score: Bills 27, Colts 24

ATS winner: Colts

Total: Over 50.5

Rams at Seahawks (-3, 42)

This game had the lowest total of the weekend and looked like a stone-cold Under early as it was a battle of field goals with the Rams leading 6-3 more than midway through the second quarter, but then Darious Williams stepped in front of a Russell Wilson-to-DK Metcalf WR screen pass (after Metcalf had been openly complaining about his lack of targets) and ran it back 42 yards for a TD to put the Rams ahead 13-3. Wilson and Metcalf did respond with a 51-yard TD pass, but Cam Akers’ 5-yard TD run put the Rams back up 20-10 at halftime.

John Wolford started in place of Jared Goff (thumb), but Goff was forced into action when Wolford injured his neck in the first quarter. Goff didn’t have to do much as Akers ran for 131 yards and the Rams’ defense held the Seahawks to 278 yards, though he threw his lone TD pass to Robert Woods with 4:46 to play to clinch the + 150 upset as the Rams extended the lead to 30-13 (and put the game Over 42 points). 

Final score: Rams 30, Seahawks 20

ATS winner: Rams

Total: Over 42

Buccaneers (-10, 45) at Washington

Tom Brady’s first playoff game with the Bucs started great as he threw first-half TD passes of 36 yards to Antonio Brown and 27 yards to Chris Godwin. Ryan Succop also added two first-half FGs, but had a PAT block and a two-point conversion failed, so the Bucs only led 18-7 at halftime. Washington rallied in the third quarter with a Dustin Hopkin 36-yard FG and an 8-yard TD run by Taylor Heinicke (though the two-point conversion failed) to pull within 18-16. The Bucs retook control with a Succop 38-yard FG and a 3-yard TD run by Leonard Fournette to take a 28-16 lead with 9:11 to play, but Heinicke rallied Washington again as his 11-yard TD pass to Steven Sims Jr. with 4:51 left pulled them within 28-23 to cover the spread and also put it Over the betting total. Tampa Bay backers had a chance for a late cover, but the Bucs settled for a 37-yard FG by Succop to go ahead by 8 points, but not enough for the vast majority of backers (though Tampa Bay still covered on teasers).

Final score: Buccaneers 31, Football Team 23

ATS winner: Football Team

Total: Over 45

Ravens (-3.5, 53.5) at Titans

It looked like the Titans would continue their recent dominance of the Ravens as they had a 75-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard TD pass from Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown and a 45-yard drive that ended with a 45-yard FG by Stephen Gostkowski to take an early 10-0 lead. But it was all Ravens after that as the Baltimore defense held Tennessee to 209 total yards (less than 90 yards after those two early scoring drives). Lamar Jackson’s spectacular 48-yard TD run tied the game 10-10 late in the second quarter. Jackson only threw for 179 yards, but he had a game-high 136 rushing yards. J.K. Dobbins’ 4-yard TD run put the Ravens ahead 17-10, and the Titans were only able to manage another FG by Gostkowski with 14:56 to play.

Final score: Ravens 20, Titans 13

ATS winner: Ravens

Total: Under 53.5

Bears at Saints (-11, 48)

Both defenses stepped up as this was a stone-cold Under the whole way. The Saints drew first blood on Drew Brees’ 11-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas with 5:09 left in the first quarter, but they only led 7-3 at halftime. Latavius Murray’s 6-yard TD run with 4:08 left in the third quarter put the Saints ahead 14-3 (pushing on the closing spread but covering all earlier numbers) and Alvin Kamara’s 3-yard TD run with 8:50 left made it 21-3. The Bears finally got in the end zone on an 11-play, 99-yard drive to end the game as Jimmy Graham made a spectacular catch on a 19-yard TD pass from Mitchell Trubisky. Some Chicago backers were hoping they could cover with the PAT or two-point conversion, but the NFL no longer requires all conversions to be attempted if it doesn’t affect the straight-up result, so the final margin stayed at 12 points for the Saints to cover all numbers.

Final score: Saints 21, Bears 9

ATS winner: Saints

Total: Under 48

Browns at Steelers (-5.5, 47)

This game couldn’t have started any better for the Browns and their backers -- or any worse for the Steelers and their backers. On the first play from scrimmage, the ball was snapped over Ben Roethlisberger’s head and Cleveland’s Karl Joseph recovered it for a TD just 14 seconds into the game. A Big Ben interception (he threw four INTs on the night) led to a 40-yard TD pass from Baker Mayfield to Jarvis Landry and Kareem Hunt had TD runs of 11 and 8 yards to give the Browns a commanding 28-0 lead in the first quarter!

It looked like the Steelers might get back in the game on James Conner’s 1-yard TD run with 1:44 left in the first half, but the Browns responded with a 64-yard drive capped by Mayfield’s 7-yard TD pass to Austin Hooper. Roethlisberger (501 passing yards and 4 TD passes) kept rallying the Steelers in the second half, and his 17-yard TD pass to TE Eric Ebron with 7:22 left in the third quarter made it 35-16 and put the game Over the total. The game really got interesting when they pulled within 12 points at 35-23 with 2:57 still to play in the third quarter, but the Browns had responses to the Steelers’ scores as Mayfield and Nick Chubb connected on a 40-yard TD pass and Cody Parkey added two FGs in the fourth quarter to secure the + 205 upset on the moneyline.

Final score: Browns 48, Steelers 37

ATS winner: Browns

Total: Over 47

-- Dave Tuley

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