The Cincinnati Bengals are soaring up oddsboards, regularly attracting half-a-million-dollar bets in Las Vegas and causing oddsmakers to hang point spreads that haven't been seen since the early 1980s.
The Bengals kicked off the season at the bottom of the odds to win the Super Bowl, as long as 200-1. Only the Houston Texans had worse odds than the Bengals at most books. At some sportsbooks, the Texans attracted more Super Bowl bets than the Bengals in the preseason.
Two months later, Cincinnati is off to a 5-2 start, sits in first place in the AFC North and has climbed to the top half of the Super Bowl odds. The Bengals were 35-1 to win the Super Bowl this week at Caesars Sportsbook. At DraftKings, 1% of the money wagered on its Super Bowl odds is on Cincinnati.
"They were not popular at all," Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said of the betting interest on the Bengals. "They've completely gone under the radar."
One big bettor in Nevada, however, has had his eyes on the Bengals since the opening game. According to Mucklow, a high-level bettor has backed Cincinnati with seven big bets this season, ranging from a $200,000 bet on the Bengals +3.5 against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 to a $520,000 bet placed this week on the Bengals -9.5 on road against the New York Jets. The bettor is up $795,000 on his Bengals bets with Caesars.
"We pay attention when he bets," Muckow said of the unidentified customer. "I really respect him when he comes in on the Bengals. He obviously knows that team really well. Interestingly, he actually backed the Ravens last week against the Bengals. Thankfully, he was wrong for once. But he's on the Bengals again this week."
In the preseason, when sportsbooks posted early lines, the Bengals were listed as 1-point favorites over the Jets. Last week, the line was sitting at Cincinnati -3.5, but after the Bengals' impressive win over the Baltimore Ravens and Jets' rookie quarterback Zach Wilson being lost to a knee injury, the line grew to -9.5 and eventually to -10.5.
The Bengals haven't been double-digits favorites on the road since Week 17 of the strike-shortened 1982 season. Cincinnati has been a double-digit favorite in all games only once in the past five years (vs. Colts, Week 17 of 2017 season).
Despite their early success, six teams have better odds to win the AFC than Cincinnati. The Bengals, at +300, remain the third choice in AFC North odds at Caesars Sportsbook, behind the Ravens (-115) and the Cleveland Browns (+300). Cincinnati was as long as 30-1 to win the division in the offseason. PointsBet said the Bengals have drawn the most bets and the most money wagered on its AFC North odds of any of the teams "by a pretty wide margin."
"We do get crushed on them in the AFC North pool," said John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook. "Too many 30-1 bets on them there."
Big bets on the Bengals: [An unidentified customer has placed big bets on the Bengals with Caesars Sportsbook in six of the first eight weeks this season].
Week 1: $200,000 Bengals +3.5 vs Minnesota Vikings (win)
Week 2: $300,000 on Bengals +3 (-120) at Chicago Bears (push)
Week 3: $300,000 on Bengals +3.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers (win)
Week 5: $500,000 Bengals +3 (+100) vs. Green Bay Packers (push)
Week 5: $205,000 on Bengals money-line +150 Packers (loss)
Week 6: $500,000 on Bengals -3 vs. Detroit Lions (win)
Week 8: $520,000 Bengals -9.5 vs. New York Jets (TBD)