The opening weekend of the 2021 NFL season brought several new legalized states into the world of sports betting (increasing the overall total to 26) and what’s sure to be an increase in money wagered.
It also reminded bettors new and old that the oddsmakers are pretty good at this.
Underdogs went 11-4 against the spread and unders went 9-6 heading into Monday Night Football, usually a bad combination for the betting public.
Perhaps the sportsbooks’ week can be best summarized by Ed Salmons, vice president of risk at SuperBook Sports: “It was a great week.”
Let’s run through some of the bigger bets and notable decisions for the sportsbooks in Week 1 of the NFL season.
Lions with an all-time backdoor cover
The San Francisco 49ers were heavy public favorites with nearly every book I spoke with having at least 70% of bets and 75% of the money wagered on the 49ers to cover the spread. WynnBet had a staggering 96% of the money wagered on the 49ers to cover the spread and Caesars Sports wasn’t far behind at 83%. The 49ers closed as consensus 9.5-point road favorites against the Detroit Lions, the highest line on Sunday, though the line was at 7.5 much of the week.
San Francisco was comfortably ahead 41-17, before Detroit scored two TDs (aided by an onside kick recovery) and converted two two-point conversions to make the final 41-33. The Lions even had a final chance to score a TD before turning the ball over on downs.
“Lions backdoor push was a pretty brutal push for the public,” BetRivers sportsbook manager Zach Schlouch told VSiN. “We had 80% of the tickets and 83% laid the points, the vast majority at 8. It was also the highest volume game of the early window.”
Seahawks a rare public win
One of the most interesting spreads in Week 1 was in Seattle-Indianapolis, which had a range of Colts -2.5 to its closing line of Seahawks -2.5 after being as high as Seahawks -3 for much of the week. The Seahawks covering the spread was the highest liability of the early games at TwinSpires Sportsbook and a massive decision for most sportsbooks. Over 80% of the bets and 86% of the handle was on Seattle to cover at DraftKings, though PointsBet was one of the few books that needed the Seahawks due to a $15,000 wager on the Colts + 3.
The Seahawks won 28-16 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score, leading to one of the few wins of the day for public bettors.
“The two best games for the players were the Seahawks and the Broncos,” Stations sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “But overall it was a really good opening week for the books.”
Saints demolish Packers ... and bettors
Any sportsbook you spoke with on Sunday was loaded with money on the Green Bay Packers (-3.5) to beat the New Orleans Saints, but the line actually dipped from -4 to -3.5, indicating some respected money was on New Orleans to cover. The Saints did plenty more than cover, dominating Green Bay and crushing many moneyline parlays and Packers bets. A remarkable 87% of bets and 92% of the money at DraftKings was on the Packers to cover, and the story was similar at other books (87% at Caesars, 80% PointsBet, 66% at BetMGM).
“Best results for us were the Panthers and Seahawks covering, the Saints’ upset of the Packers and the Chargers beating Washington,” Thomas Gable, sportsbook director at The Borgata in New Jersey said.
“The Panthers was a big win for the public in the early window, with 70% of bets and 76% of the money on Carolina,” Schlouch noted. “But the Pack game was likely the determining factor overall. It was the most lopsided game in terms of splits (86% of handle on Green Bay spread, 90% on moneyline) and the Green Bay spread generated the most handle of any individual bet on the entire board.
Notable winning bets
$400,000 on Rams -8 at BetMGM
$110,000 on 2H Over 28 in Browns-Chiefs at BetMGM
$100,000 on Panthers ML (-200) vs. Jets at FanDuel
Notable losing bets
$110,000 on Colts + 2.5 at BetMGM
$110,000 on Packers -3.5 at BetMGM
$120,000 on New York Giants ML at Caesars Sports
$100,000 on Packers ML -141 at FanDuel