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There aren’t many things that throw the NFL betting market into flux more than a late scratch of a key player. That was on full display throughout the week and on Sunday with the Baltimore Ravens-Chicago Bears game.
During the week the Ravens were favored by as many as 6.5 points at BetMGM, but that figure was bouncing all over the place with the status of quarterback Lamar Jackson up in the air. Jackson was dealing with an illness throughout the week and was eventually ruled out late Sunday morning.
That was bad news for one bettor at BetMGM, who wagered $357,500 on the Ravens at -4.5. By the time kickoff rolled around, the Ravens were just 1.5-point favorites.
And depending upon the number you got, you were either thrilled or miffed by the result.
With Tyler Huntley making his first career start, the Ravens struggled offensively. The Bears weren’t much better, especially when Justin Fields left with a rib injury. But Andy Dalton came in for Fields and threw two second half touchdowns, including a 49-yarder to Marquise Goodwin with just 1:41 to play.
That touchdown gave the Bears a 13-9 lead, but the defense was unable to hang on. Huntley made a few clutch throws, including a 29-yarder to Sammy Watkins on a third-and-12 play, to set up the game-winning touchdown — a three-yard Devonta Freeman run with just 22 seconds remaining.
The Ravens escaped Chicago with a 16-13 win, but if you bet on Baltimore any time before Sunday you most likely lost your bet. That includes that big bettor at BetMGM, who would have won $325,000 had the Ravens covered the 4.5 points.
Cardinals unbeaten on road and as underdogs
The Seahawks have been struggling mightily this season and entered Sunday’s game with a 3-6 record. They have been without star quarterback Russell Wilson for a significant chunk of the year, but Wilson returned last week. He didn’t look like himself as the Seahawks lost 17-0 to the Green Bay Packers.
Back at home on Sunday, many bettors were expecting Wilson and the Seahawks to bounce back against the Cardinals, especially as it became clear that Kyler Murray would likely be sidelined again. The Cardinals opened as 2-point favorites, but that line swung all the way to Seahawks -4.5 at kickoff.
One bettor at BetMGM hopped on the Seahawks as underdogs and put down $325,000 on the Seahawks moneyline at +115, but they couldn’t come through. The offense struggled mightily yet again, mustering only 266 yards in a 23-13 loss to a Cardinals team led by veteran backup quarterback Colt McCoy.
While the Seahawks dropped to 3-7 straight up and 5-5 against the spread on the year, the Cardinals are now 9-2 straight up and 8-3 against the spread.
Remarkably, the Cardinals have won and covered the spread in all six of their road games this season. They have also won and covered in all five of their games as an underdog this season.
And if you’re looking for a reason to tail Seahawks games, consider riding with the under. The under is 8-1-1 in Seattle’s 10 games this season.
Another big Sunday for underdogs
The Cardinals were part of another winning weekend for NFL underdogs. Underdogs went 7-6 against the spread and had five outright winners.
And anytime underdogs do well, the house also does well. Jeff Stoneback, the director of trading for BetMGM, rattled off five “big winners” for the sportsbook. In addition to the Cardinals, Stoneback said the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Football Team and Detroit Lions all were “significant” for the house.
Two other sizable underdogs — the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts — were among the five outright winners. The Texans were 10-point underdogs against the Tennessee Titans but pulled out a 22-13 road win. The Colts were 7-point dogs on the road against the Buffalo Bills and won handily, 41-15.
The Vikings and Washington also won straight up. The Vikings were 1-point home dogs against the Green Bay Packers and won 34-31 with a late field goal. Washington was +3 on the road against the Carolina Panthers and won 27-21.
The Steelers were perhaps the most improbable ATS win of that group. On the road against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Steelers were 6.5-point underdogs and trailed 34-20 late in the fourth quarter.
In the span of just 1:25, though, that score flipped from a 14-point deficit into a 37-34 lead.
The Steelers scored at the 4:49 mark to cut the Chargers’ lead to 34-27. On the second play of the ensuing possession, the Steelers intercepted Justin Herbert to set up the game-tying score with 4:23 to play.
The Steelers defense then stuffed the Chargers on a fourth-and-1 play and took the 37-34 lead on a 45-yard field goal with 3:24 left in regulation.
The Chargers would respond and win the game 41-37 when Herbert hit Mike Williams for a 53-yard touchdown, but that late swing allowed the Steelers to cover the spread.
Lions cover the spread again
At 0-9-1, the Detroit Lions are the only winless team in the NFL. Nonetheless, the Lions have been one of the best ATS teams in the NFC.
The Lions were 13.5-point underdogs on the road against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday with backup Tim Boyle getting the start for the injured Jared Goff. Predictably, the Lions didn’t do much on offense but the defense was able to keep it close in a 13-10 loss.
The Lions are now 6-4 ATS on the year. They are 3-1 against the spread as a double-digit underdog and 5-1 ATS as an underdog of more than a touchdown.
Whether they get that elusive win remains to be seen, but the Lions have been pretty reliable for bettors.