It's a fact: The sharp money has been on the Cleveland Browns all season.
"Every week, it's the same thing," Ed Salmons, assistant manager at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, said Sunday afternoon. "We'll write a limit bet [on the Browns] by a wiseguy right at the gun."
It may be time to question the wisdom of the wiseguys.
Cleveland fell to 0-13 on the season with Sunday's 23-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns are now a league-worst 2-11 against the spread. The 2008 Detroit Lions, the only team to go 0-16 in a season, went 7-9 ATS during their winless campaign. No team has covered the spread in fewer than three games in a season in the past 20 years.
"It's hard to be that bad and not cover," Salmons said of the Browns. "Because the spreads get so inflated, it's really hard not to cover."
The Browns are managing to pull it off, and the betting public has rejoiced. "Who is playing Cleveland" has become a "free bingo spot" on parlay cards, bookmakers said.
On Sunday at William Hill's Nevada sportsbook, 85 percent of the money bet on Cincinnati-Cleveland was on the favored Bengals. "It doesn't seem to matter what number we hang, the public is going to fade them," a Caesars sportsbook manager said. "Honestly, I can't blame them."
Action was lopsided toward Cincinnati around Las Vegas. Yet, as kickoff approached, the line began shrinking.
Earlier in the week, the Browns grew to as much as 6-point underdogs. On Sunday morning, the line dipped to 4.5, after the routine late sharp action showed up on Cleveland, right before kickoff.
"We actually won money on the spread on that game, because of the sharp action that was on the Browns," Jason Simbal, vice president for Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology, said. "But obviously all the parlays accumulating had Cincinnati."
The Westgate took a $10,000 limit bet from a professional player on the Browns +4.5 right before kickoff Sunday. Still, the public money on the Bengals outweighed the amount on Cleveland, leaving the Westgate rooting against the Browns alongside professional bettors.
"These guys are professionals. They are playing numbers," Salmons said. "You want to gamble against the public, but at some point you'd like to see a team cover."
William Hill is offering odds on whether the Browns will finish 0-16. "Yes" is currently a -240 favorite.
At William Hill's 108 Nevada sportsbooks, 93 percent of the bets and 55 percent of the total dollars wagered are on "Yes." The book took a $5,400 bet on the "No" at -900 on Oct. 20. If the Browns win a game, the bet would net $600.
The Browns are the only team in the NFL this season to have been an underdog in every game. The SuperBook has installed Cleveland as a 10-point underdog at Buffalo this week.
Giants help salvage Sunday for Vegas books
Several Las Vegas sportsbooks were down heading into the Sunday night game between the Dallas Cowboys and home underdog New York Giants. The Westgate and South Point sportsbooks said they were in practically no-win situations. Six favorites covered in the early nine-game slate, and the Green Bay Packers, a popular home-underdog pick with bettors, rolled past the Seattle Seahawks in one of the bigger afternoon losses for MGM's sportsbook.
The early results left the MGM with a big decision brewing on the NFC East primetime showdown between the Cowboys and Giants. An hour and a half before kickoff, six times as much money had been bet on Dallas as had been bet on New York. "If we get Giants, we hold onto the money," Jay Rood, MGM vice president of race and sports, said. "If we don't, it's going to be pretty much a wash."
"If it's Dallas and over, we can lose a ton," SuperBook assistant manager Ed Salmons said. "If it's Giants and over, we still lose. And if it's Giants and under, we win literally next to nothing on the game. So it's like you can lose a lot or win hardly anything."
The Giants won 10-7 in a low-scoring game that stayed under the total.