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.
Entering Monday night, underdogs were 11-4 against the spread and Unders were 9-6, usually a bad combination for the betting public. Perhaps the sportsbooks’ week can be best summarized by Ed Salmons, VP of risk at SuperBook Sports: “It was a great week.”
Let’s run through some of the notable decisions and bigger bets in Week 1.
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 percent of bets and 75 percent of the money wagered on San Francisco to cover the spread. WynnBet had a staggering 96 percent of the money wagered on the 49ers to cover the spread and Caesars Sports wasn’t far behind at 83 percent. The 49ers closed as consensus 9.5-point road favorites against the Detroit Lions, the highest line on Sunday, though it was at 7.5 much of the week.
San Francisco was comfortably ahead 41-17, before Detroit scored two touchdowns (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 touchdown before turning the ball over on downs.
Saints demolish Packers
Any sportsbook you contacted 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 percent of bets and 92 percent of the money at DraftKings were on the Packers to cover, and the story was similar at other books.
“The Pack game was the most lopsided game in terms of splits (86 percent of handle on Green Bay spread, 90 percent on moneyline,)” said BetRivers sportsbook manager Zach Schlouch. “And the Green Bay spread generated the most handle of any individual bet on the entire board.”
Seahawks not daunted by the road
Seattle at Indianapolis had a range of Colts -2.5 to its closing line of Seahawks -2.5 after being as high as Seahawks -3. Seattle covering the spread was the highest liability of the early games at TwinSpires Sportsbook and a massive decision for most sportsbooks. Over 80 percent of the bets and 86 percent of the handle were 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 [over the Giants],” Stations sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “But overall it was a really good opening week for the books.”
Notable winning bets
$110,000 on second-half Over 28 in Browns-Chiefs at BetMGM; $100,000 on Panthers moneyline (-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.
Ben Fawkes writes for VSiN.com. VSiN programming can be heard on iHeart Radio platforms.