Sportsbooks around Las Vegas reported shorter lines and reduced handle on Sunday. Bettors around town were short on cash due to the holidays, but also due to the fact that the books beat the public over the first two weeks of December. But that certainly wasn’t the case this week!
On Sunday, just about every major NFL decision went in favor of the bettors, not the house, and the books took an absolute beating. Public favorites cashed in game after game. The Patriots covered -14.5 against the Titans. The Seahawks covered -14.5 against the Browns. The Packers covered -4 against the Raiders. Most Steelers bettors cashed when Pittsburgh rallied to win by a TD, even though the line closed at -7.5 in many locations. The Chargers beat up on Miami. And Arizona hammered Philly on Sunday Night. The only major decision that went in favor of the house was when the Giants stormed back from a four TD deficit to cover the spread against Carolina.
These quotes from Matt Youmans' excellent article in the Las Vegas Review Journal tell the story from the bookmaker perspective. William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich: “The Steelers game was ugly...If Arizona covers it’s the worst weekend of the year...we need(ed) Philly to avoid devastation. It’s absolutely scary. It’s ugly.”
MGM Resorts sportsbook director Jay Rood: “The real killer is the public hitting when all the favorites clicked in. You can start to see it snowballing...It's a bad day. Lots of favorites. It's got the potential to be the worst Sunday of the season for us.”
While the books took a beating and the public enjoyed some extra holiday cash, the NFL playoff picture got much clearer on Sunday, with numerous teams eliminated from the chase. That being said, it felt a little bit like ‘Redemption Sunday’ for a number of teams and quarterbacks around the NFL in Week 15. In this week’s Wiseguy Report, I’ll focusing on a handful of teams and QB’s that gained a measure of confidence or market respect based on their Week 15 result.
Let’s start in Minnesota, where Teddy Bridgewater enjoyed his best game as a pro, throwing a career high four TD passes while running for a fifth as the Vikings cruised to a 21 point victory. The Vikings snapped a two game skid with the win, keeping pace with Green Bay in the NFC North race. Even so, only one of Minnesota’s nine wins this year has come against an opponent with a winning record, and that win came against KC when the Chiefs were on their way to a 1-5 start.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, talking about Bridgewater’s strong showings against the Bears and Arizona (in a SU loss but an ATS win) the previous week: “These last two weeks, I've seen a different look in his eyes. I really don't have to say much to him."
Bridgewater, after becoming the first Vikings QB since Brett Favre retired to throw for four touchdowns: “It shows that when we do put the ball in the air, we're pretty good.”
But Minnesota’s solid defensive showing must be taken with a grain of salt if we believe this Jay Cutler quote: “It doesn't matter who we would've played today, we weren't going to win playing that kind of offensive football.”
The Atlanta Falcons enjoyed some measure of redemption on Sunday as they snapped a six game losing streak, knocking off the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Of course, every team ends their losing streak against the Jags. Already this season, the Bucs and Titans both snapped eleven game home losing streaks against the Jaguars, while San Diego snapped a six game skid in Jacksonville last month.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan was surprised by how his team remained confident during crunch time, despite their repeated inability to get over the hump in close games for the better part of the last two months.
“It's very difficult not to allow doubt to happen when we haven't had success the last couple of weeks or the last two months. But I didn't feel that from anybody today. The reason you are so proud and you're so pumped up for the other guys is we know how easy it is to doubt yourself in those situations. But I didn't sense that from anyone, and I think that's why we won. It's been tough. It's been difficult. The only way to get out of it is to keep working hard, keep grinding. Everybody has continued to do that, and that's why it feels so good to get the win."
Texans quarterback Brandon Weeden certainly earned some redemption on Sunday, coming off the bench to rally Houston to their first ever win in Indianapolis following 13 consecutive defeats at Lucas Oil Stadium. Weeden had lost all three previous starts this season when he was the backup QB in Dallas before they cut him. He lost his only start in Dallas in 2014 and lost seven of his last eight starts in Cleveland in 2012 and 2013 before the Browns let him go.
Houston had signed Weeden less than a month ago as an insurance policy, which paid off following injuries to Brian Hoyer and TJ Yates. And it’s certainly not like Weeden lit up the Colts defense – it was the Texans stop unit holding Indy to 190 yards and ten points that made the real difference in the game. Still, Weeden rallied the team from a ten point deficit to win the game, snapping a two game losing streak for the Texans and catapulting the Texans into first place in the AFC South.
Head coach Bill O’Brien: “He's a pro, he acts like a pro, he carries himself like a pro, he is a pro. Look, I'm not sure he has the whole offense down pat, but I think he has enough that he can go in there and function." Weeden: “I've only been here a month, but I found out early in the week that we had never won here and I think guys were hungry. I think guys kind of knew what we were playing for and all that was at stake."
Defensive force JJ Watt: “Kind of the way we did it is more our style. You got T.J. going down and Weeden coming in and we just kind of grinded it out."
WR DeAndre Hopkins, talking about Houston’s ability to grind through adversity: “We knew when we were 2-5 that we had a good team and we could turn this around. The Colts kept us in this division by losing a couple of games and we knew that we had to take advantage of it. That's what we did."
Last, but not least, we’ve got the Seattle Seahawks to talk about. Seattle lost the Super Bowl last February. They looked thoroughly hung over throughout the preseason, and opened up the regular season with four losses in their first six games. Yet according to a tweet from Jay Kornegay, director of the Westgate Superbook, right now, Seattle would be favored over all 31 other NFL teams on a neutral field right now after notching seven wins in their last eight games; a team that has earned some redemption following that rough start.
WR Doug Baldwin after tying Jerry Rice as the only WR in NFL history to catch ten TD passes in a four game span: “We're resilient. You can count us out. You can say what you want to about all of our players, but we're going to be consistently efficient at what we do.”
Pete Carroll talking about Russell Wilson’s incredible streak of 19 TD passes without an interception over the past five games: “The efficiency of the offense is the best it's been since we've been here.”
Like Minnesota, however, it’s very much worth noting that seven of the nine Seahawks wins this year have come against absolute bottom feeders.
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