Back before football romances were all the rage, the betting public had summer flings with two lovable long shots that are not panning out as planned.
This offseason, more people bet on the New York Jets to win the Super Bowl than any other team. But Aaron Rodgers went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1, and Jets bettors found their wagers suddenly riding on Zach Wilson. The betting public never has had much luck.
The betting public's other offseason love interest was Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears. More people bet on Fields to win the regular-season MVP than any other player at sportsbook PointsBet, where the Bears quarterback attracted more action than Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes combined. Entering the season, Chicago posed one of the biggest liabilities in Caesars Sportsbook's Super Bowl odds.
"I never understood it," John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, said about the betting interest in the Bears. "They had the worst record in the league last season and ran it back with the same head coach and same QB."
The betting on the Bears began early in the offseason. On Feb. 27, Caesars reported taking a $3,000 bet on Chicago from a bettor in New York at 100-1 odds. Over the next seven months, enough bets came in on the Bears to cause bookmakers at Caesars to trim the Bears' Super Bowl odds to 50-1.
"Look, they were a big long shot with attractive odds," Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said Sunday. "People thought Fields was going to improve and they were due for an improvement overall, but obviously that hasn't transpired."
The Bears fell to 0-4 on Sunday by squandering a 28-7 lead in a deflating loss to the previously winless Denver Broncos. Leading by 21 points late in the third quarter, Chicago was listed as a -10,000 favorite to win the game at PointsBet, meaning you had to risk $10,000 to win $100. There were no takers.
Indeed, the betting public's affection for the Bears has dwindled, but there are still some believers out there.
Over the past week, Caesars Sportsbook said nine bets were placed on the Bears to win the Super Bowl. The largest was $150 at 250-1.
"This was definitely a buy-low," Pullen added.
Bookmakers knew it from the beginning of last week -- they'd need the Jets for a big decision in the Sunday night game.
They were right. All week public money poured in on the Chiefs, who opened as 9.5-point road favorites over the Jets. Kansas City was included on more parlays than any other team at some sportsbooks. Yet, the line moved the other way, in favor of the Jets, dipping to as low as Chiefs -7.5 on Sunday in the hours ahead of kickoff. The sharp money was on the Jets -- and it was big.
Caesars reported taking a $350,000 bet and a $240,556 bet on the Jets +8.5 on Sunday -- and still had lopsided action on the Chiefs. An hour before kickoff, 91% of the spread bets and 84% of the money bet on the point spread was on Kansas City.
So why did the line move from Chiefs -9.5 to -7.5, if the vast majority of the money was on Kansas City?
"We have to respect the sharp money," Pullen said.
The long-held belief that bookmakers try to attract even action and collect the juice or commission is a myth in modern bookmaking. Sportsbooks instead try to manage the amount wagered on a game in a way that puts them on the same side as their customers they know have had long-term success, the sharp bettors. Although the action was overwhelmingly on the Chiefs on Sunday, the bets from the sharps caused the books to move the line toward the Jets.
"They're sharp for a reason, and we respect their opinion," Pullen said. "When the sharps win, it's not like we're suffering big losses," Pullen said. "But when the public wins, when all the favorites come in, the public is going to give you your worst losses."
Sunday night's game went to the sharps and the books, thanks to Mahomes' decision to slide down at the Jets' 2-yard line instead of waltzing to the end zone for a touchdown that would put the Chiefs up 10, enough to cover the spread with two minutes to play. Kansas City kneeled out the final seconds of a 23-20 win.
For the second time this season, Penn State coach James Franklin took an unorthodox approach to a late-game situation, resulting in a score that covered the spread.
On Saturday, the Nittany Lions, who closed as consensus 26.5-point favorites, were leading by 21 and had the ball at the Northwestern 30-yard line with 2:26 to play. Typically, a time-killing running play or perhaps a kneel-down would be in order. Instead, Penn State backup QB Beau Pribula took a shotgun snap, stepped forward and pretended to kneel before popping up and throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Trey Potts. The final score was Penn State 41, Northwestern 13. Caesars reported taking a $90,000 bet on the Wildcats +26.5.
Franklin took a similar approach in the Nittany Lions' season-opening win against West Virginia. Leading 31-15, Penn State had the ball at the Mountaineers' 6-yard line with six seconds left. Instead of kneeling down, Franklin called a quarterback keeper, and Pribula scampered into the end zone to give Penn State a 38-15 win. The Nittany Lions were favored by 21 in that game.
In February, a bettor in Maryland used a $100 bonus bet at Caesars Sportsbook on a three-team parlay featuring the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl (+105), Denver Nuggets to win the NBA Finals (+700) and the Baltimore Orioles to win the American League East (+2,500). The Orioles finished the parlay this week, and the bettor won $42,400.
Twelve NFL players, at least one coach and an undisclosed number of league personnel have been suspended for violating the league's gambling policy over the past five years, since regulated sports betting began spreading around the nation.
On Friday, the NFL announced it was revising its gambling policy, increasing the minimum penalty for players who are caught having bet on games involving their teams to two years.
Blackjack: $99.1 million
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Milwaukee Bucks (+400)
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