Youmans: My 10 betting lessons from NFL Week 14
If at least one big favorite falls, the sportsbooks typically have a good Sunday. The Dallas Cowboys, the biggest favorite of all this Sunday, were in serious jeopardy of taking a fall when Dak Prescott threw a late interception.
The Cowboys, laying 17 points to the Texans, trailed 23-20 with 5:34 remaining. After Prescott was picked off, Houston faced a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. A touchdown could have nearly sealed the upset. What could go wrong, right?
“An outright win for Houston would have been huge for us,” South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said.
The Texans appeared to score on second down when Jeff Driskel completed a short pass to Chris Moore, who stretched the ball over the goal line as his knee hit the ground. Moore and his teammates celebrated, but that was premature. Moore was ruled down just short of the touchdown, and, of course, Houston was stuffed on its next two running plays and stopped on downs at the 2.
It seemed inevitable that Prescott would drive Dallas 98 yards for the win, and he needed 11 plays to do just that and make it 27-23 with 41 seconds to go. Game over—and a lucky result for the eight entries riding on the Cowboys in the Circa Survivor contest.
Dallas was -2,500 on the moneyline (bet $2,500 to win $100) to defeat the worst team in the league. No price is too high for some bettors to lay. Andrews said more than $100,000 in wagers were tied to the Cowboys in moneyline parlays at his book.
“Most guys figured it was a free square on the Bingo card,” Andrews said. “We had a pretty good day. If Houston would have won, it would have been a great day.”
Bad teams find ways to lose, and the Texans (1-11-1) are terrible. On a day when Prescott threw two interceptions, the Cowboys (10-3) almost paid for sleepwalking through most of the game.
Dallas, left for dead when Prescott suffered a broken right thumb in a Week 1 loss to the Buccaneers, is still alive with a chance to chase down the Eagles in the NFC East.
It’s risky business to lay 17 points in an NFL game, and never assume a huge favorite is a risk-free leg on a moneyline parlay—take that and nine more betting lessons away from Week 14.
A 27-0 lead is not even safe in Patrick Mahomes’ hands.
Mahomes’ two touchdown passes early in the second quarter staked the Chiefs to a 20-0 lead at Denver, where the opposing quarterback was about to stage his worst act in a season-long comedy of errors.
On a fourth down near midfield, Russell Wilson attempted to loft a screen pass, yet did not loft it enough. Kansas City linebacker Willie Gay tipped the ball, snared the interception with his left hand, and used his right to push Wilson face-first to the ground as he raced 47 yards for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead. With 4:32 left in the half, Denver fans booed the hapless Broncos and the result was history.
Amazingly, the Chiefs, 9-point favorites, were fortunate to avoid a collapse of historic proportions. Wilson passed for two touchdowns before the half and another early in the third quarter to close the gap to 27-21. Denver finished with its season-high in points in a 34-28 loss that should not have been close.
Mahomes is a magician. He threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, including two on incredible improvisational plays. Mahomes also can be maddening at times. He threw three interceptions that helped keep the Broncos in the game.
Jalen Hurts is closing the gap in the MVP race.
DraftKings listed Mahomes as the +125 favorite to win MVP going into the weekend, with Hurts as the second choice at +175. The two-horse race is tightening as the regular season reaches the fourth turn with four weeks to go.
Hurts and the Eagles put a painful 48-22 beating on the Giants. Hurts accounted for 294 yards (217 passing, 77 rushing) and three touchdowns, running his touchdown totals to 22 passing and 10 rushing for the season.
Hurts has accounted for 3,843 total yards and 32 touchdowns with three turnovers. Mahomes has accounted for 4,440 total yards and 35 touchdowns with 11 turnovers.
Shannon Sharpe, a Fox Sports analyst and Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end, tweeted: “MVP race over. That award belongs to Hurts.”
No sharp bettor or bookmaker would agree. The race is far from over, but Hurts has a great shot at winning if Philadelphia (12-1) finishes 15-2 or better. The Eagles’ game at Dallas on Christmas Eve could be Hurts' make-or-break MVP moment.
Deshaun Watson is the third-best quarterback in Ohio.
The quarterbacks for the Browns and Broncos are in a different kind of race. Which trade and contract extension will be worse — the Watson deal in Cleveland or the Wilson deal in Denver? It will take a few years to answer that, but both deals are among the worst in NFL history.
Watson is 27 and presumably has many better days ahead and much more upside. Right now, however, Watson is a wreck. He produced no touchdowns in his first six quarters with the Browns before throwing one late in the third quarter of a 23-10 loss at Cincinnati, which closed as a 4-point favorite.
“We opened it 6.5, and I liked the Bengals,” Andrews said.
Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow is getting hot, yet he is still the odd man out in the Mahomes-Hurts MVP debate. Considering the rust Watson is shaking off after a lengthy suspension, Cleveland would have a better shot to win now with backup Jacoby Brissett. Watson has four games left to show something and get the Browns (5-8) into the playoff picture.
In a Ravens-Steelers matchup, be the Undertaker.
It’s usually ugly when Baltimore and Pittsburgh rumble in the AFC North jungle, and that was true even when Lamar Jackson and Ben Roethlisberger were the opposing quarterbacks. With Jackson out with an injury, the Ravens used two quarterbacks (Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown) who combined for 94 passing yards in a 16-14 win.
After Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett was knocked out early, Mitch Trubisky entered in relief and threw three interceptions in Baltimore territory. Trubisky did pass for a late touchdown for Pittsburgh, which had a field-goal try blocked and failed as a 1.5-point home favorite.
While the Ravens were the right side, the best bet was the UNDER, and the bettors got that right. DraftKings opened the total at 38 and it closed at 36.5.
The Lions can be trusted as favorites.
Minnesota opened as a 2.5-point favorite and closed as a 2.5-point underdog at Detroit because sharp bettors continued to fade the Vikings, who went into the game with a 10-2 record that was widely considered phony.
Justin Jefferson, arguably the best wide receiver in the league, is the real deal for Minnesota. Jefferson had 11 catches for 223 yards — and he was robbed of 32 more yards and a touchdown when he was wrongly ruled to have stepped out of bounds after a 39-yard catch with 3½ minutes to go. Jefferson made four Lions defenders whiff on what should have been a 71-yard score. The Vikings eventually got the touchdown 40 seconds later, time which could have been valuable in their comeback attempt.
But set aside the officiating blunder and credit Detroit for the 34-23 win, their fifth in the past six games. Jared Goff passed for 330 yards and three touchdowns without an interception or sack as the Lions totaled 464 yards.
The Titans are finally showing their true colors.
Remember that mystifying stretch when the Titans were 7-1 straight up and 8-0 ATS? After a three-game losing streak that includes back-to-back blowouts, it’s easy to forget that Tennessee was once among the hottest teams in the league.
Trevor Lawrence made it look too easy, passing for 368 yards and three touchdowns in the Jaguars’ 36-22 win in Nashville. Jacksonville (5-8) is 2-1 in its past three games, with the loss coming 40-14 two weeks ago at Detroit.
The Titans (7-6) will likely hold on to win the AFC South — a division race that’s not quite as sad as the one in the NFC South — but they won’t be a threat to do much in the postseason.
The Seahawks are no longer a Cinderella story.
Geno Smith’s career revival is still a good story, and Seattle’s future seems bright after dumping Wilson off to Denver, but the Seahawks (7-6) have lost three of four and face the 49ers and Chiefs in the next two games.
Smith threw two interceptions in a 30-24 loss to Carolina. Seattle, a 3.5-point home favorite, was the most popular pick in the $6.133 million Circa Survivor contest. The Seahawks were used on 15 of the 59 remaining entries—and 12 more entries were eliminated with the Titans’ loss.
Brock Purdy is a better bet than Tom Brady.
Purdy or Brady? The San Francisco 49ers could be faced with that decision next year. Brady will be a free agent in the offseason and probably would like to return home and play for the 49ers if he wants to continue to play. The 49ers are Super Bowl contenders, unlike the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It’s also possible the 49ers can reach the Super Bowl with Purdy, who passed for two touchdowns and ran for one in his first career start. Purdy, the final pick in this year’s draft, outplayed Brady in San Francisco’s 35-7 win. Brady threw two interceptions and one wicked temper tantrum in his homecoming.
Unfortunately for the 49ers, who have won six in a row, receiver/running back Deebo Samuel was lost with an apparent high ankle sprain that might sideline him until January.
The Buccaneers (6-7) are all-around bad—coaching, defense, offense and special teams—and have turned into the worst bet in the NFL at 3-9-1 ATS, including 1-9-1 in their past 11 games. Brady will want out, but will the 49ers still want him?
Fade the NBC experts and follow Justin Herbert.
On NBC’s Sunday night pregame show, all eight analysts and hosts picked the Dolphins to beat the Chargers. When eight squares agree on a side, go the other way. Of course, Los Angeles won 23-17 as a 3-point underdog.
Believe it or not, several so-called experts have been critical of Herbert, the Chargers’ quarterback, while claiming he’s inferior to Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa. Anyone with a sharp eye for scouting quarterback talent knows Herbert is the better player by a wide margin, a point reinforced by the lopsided results in their head-to-head showdown.
“I would offer eye exams to anyone who thinks Tua is better than Herbert,” said VSiN analyst Michael Lombardi, a former NFL general manager. “It’s really ridiculous to even have that conversation. It’s a myth that gets perpetuated by certain people in the media. Herbert can carry a franchise. He’s sensational.”
Herbert completed 39 of 51 passes for 367 yards and a touchdown. Tagovailoa went 10-for-28 for 145 yards and a touchdown against a short-handed Chargers defense.
It’s only getting tougher for Tagovailoa. DraftKings opened the Dolphins as 7-point underdogs at Buffalo in Week 15.