NFL Week 1 betting roundup: Underdogs dominate, including incredible backdoor cover from Lions

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If you bet on an underdog during Week 1 of the NFL season, you probably won some money.

Entering Monday Night Football, underdogs are a sparkling 11-4 against the spread in Week 1. According to John Ewing of BetMGM, that’s the best Week 1 performance for underdogs since the 2003 season.

And not only did underdogs cover the spread at a prolific rate on Sunday, eight of them won outright. From a point-spread perspective, the biggest outright winner of the day was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went into Buffalo and knocked off the Bills 23-16 as 6.5-point underdogs.

There were also several underdogs who won in blowout fashion. The Philadelphia Eagles were 3.5-point underdogs on the road against the Atlanta Falcons and won, 32-6. Like the Eagles, the New Orleans Saints were also 3.5-point dogs. The Saints faced Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in a relocated home game in Jacksonville and came away with an impressive 38-3 victory.

Other blowout winners included the Arizona Cardinals (+3) over the Tennessee Titans, 38-13, and the Houston Texans (+3.5) over the Jacksonville Jaguars, 37-21.

But there was one underdog in particular who provided an early contender for bad beat of the season.

Lions had all-time backdoor cover vs. 49ers

If you backed the San Francisco 49ers on the road against the Detroit Lions, you were sitting pretty for nearly 60 minutes. Until you weren’t.

The 49ers jumped out to a 31-10 halftime lead and held a 41-17 advantage late in the fourth quarter. The 49ers were 7.5-point favorites throughout the week, but bettors continued to put money on the 49ers and that spread continued to grow. By the time kickoff rolled around, the 49ers closed as 9-point favorites at BetMGM.

If you got the 49ers at that number, you are probably still feeling sick a day later.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus (87) catches a touchdown pass as San Francisco 49ers defensive back Dontae Johnson defends in the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Lon Horwedel)
Detroit Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus (87) catches a touchdown pass as San Francisco 49ers defensive back Dontae Johnson defends in the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Lon Horwedel)

The Lions scored a touchdown and added a two-point conversion with 1:53 to play, making the score 41-25. Next, the Lions went for an onside kick and the ball bounced off the facemask of 49ers tight end George Kittle, allowing the Lions to pounce on the loose ball and regain possession.

Six plays later, Lions QB Jared Goff found Quintez Cephus for a score to cut the 49ers lead to 41-33 with 1:07 to play. Luckily for those who bet the 49ers at -7.5, the two-point conversion after this touchdown failed, keeping the advantage at eight points.

The 49ers were able to recover the ensuing onside kick, but they inexplicably fumbled as they tried to run out the clock. Now with a chance to tie the game, the Lions moved the ball all the way to the San Francisco 24, but finally stalled when a Goff fourth-down pass fell incomplete and the 49ers eked out a 41-33 win.

But if you got the 49ers at -9, you were left wondering how on earth they allowed a 24-point lead at the two-minute warning to evaporate.

Another bad beat, this time on the total

The second-most bet game of the day at BetMGM was the Cardinals vs. Titans. Though more of the action was on the point spread, if you were on one side of the total you were left shaking your head.

The total opened at 52 and later closed at 54. The Cardinals did their part for over bettors, putting up 416 yards of offense and 38 points, but the much-hyped Titans struggled mightily. They turned it over three times, turned it over on downs twice and missed a field goal.

Still, with Arizona’s lead at 38-13 with 3:06 left in the third quarter, all you needed was one score from either side to hit the over. It never came. First, the Cardinals missed a 43-yard field goal that would have at least given you a push if you got it at 54. Next, the Titans turned it over on downs again. The Cardinals got the ball back and ran the clock out.

Zero points were scored in the fourth quarter and under bettors were improbably able to cash their tickets.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) plays against the Arizona Cardinals in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) plays against the Arizona Cardinals in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Jets make Panthers bettors sweat

With a 16-0 score at halftime, the Carolina Panthers vs. New York Jets game was never really in doubt. But the Jets gave Panthers bettors a mighty scare late in the fourth quarter.

The Jets trailed 19-8 when they regained possession at their own 7-yard line with 4:27 left in regulation. The Panthers closed as 3.5-point favorites at BetMGM, so all they needed to do was avoid giving up a touchdown and two-point conversion for Panthers bettors to win their bets.

It came down to the wire.

The Jets had 159 yards of offense to that point in the game, so they naturally reeled off a 10-play, 93-yard scoring drive in the span of 2:31. With the score now 19-14 with 1:56 to play, all that stood between Panthers backers and a bad beat was a two-point conversion try from New York.

Luckily, Zach Wilson’s pass fell incomplete to keep the lead at five points. The Panthers then recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock to preserve the victory and, most importantly, cover the spread.

Biggest bet of the day: $400K on Rams

The biggest bet of the day at BetMGM came in on the Los Angeles Rams, who were big favorites at home against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football.

This bettor got the Rams at -8 with -110 odds and put down a whopping $400,000. The Rams, with Matthew Stafford making his debut at quarterback, won and covered the spread easily, 34-14. The bettor won $363,636.

To that point in the day, the sportsbook was doing quite well. The Rams were a huge public play and that put a dent in the day overall, BetMGM director of trading Jeff Stoneback told Yahoo Sports.

“We were having a good day, but [the Rams] took away almost all of our profit on that one game alone,” Stoneback said.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) yells instructions to his teammates during an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) yells instructions to his teammates during an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Another big winning bet was on the Cincinnati Bengals, who were 3-point home underdogs against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bengals led 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings were able to force overtime with a 53-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. The Bengals, however, were able to win outright 27-24, cashing a $105,000 bet for a BetMGM customer who had the Bengals +3. The bet had -105 odds, so it returned $100,000.

The other biggest bet of the day was a $75,000 moneyline bet on the Seattle Seahawks at -150. The Seahawks were 3-point road favorites over the Indianapolis Colts and won with ease, 28-16. As a result, that bettor won $50,000.

Saints' upset of Packers ‘huge’ for sportsbook

While the Rams winning and covering the spread against the Bears was a big win for the public, the Saints upset of the Packers was the biggest win of the day for the sportsbook.

“We had a very large win. The Saints covering vs. the Packers was a huge win for the books,” Stoneback said.

Other big wins for the house included the Cardinals beating the Titans and the Los Angeles Chargers beating the Washington Football Team.

Another positive outcome was the Kansas City Chiefs not covering the spread against the Cleveland Browns. The public loves the Chiefs, but they are now just 8-12 ATS since winning the Super Bowl two seasons ago.

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