A peculiar trend has been popular this offseason at sportsbooks: people have been betting thousands of dollars on the New York Jets to win the Super Bowl.
The first big bet on the Jets came on Jan. 31 in New York just hours after Caesars Sportsbook opened its odds on next year's Super Bowl. A bettor wagered $5,000 on the Jets to win it all at 200-1 odds for a chance at a $1 million payday, but that was only the beginning.
Online sportsbook PointsBet took a $1,000 bet on the Jets to win the Super Bowl at 200-1 in April from a customer in Pennsylvania. DraftKings, BetMGM and WynnBET each reported taking $500 Super Bowl bets on the Jets this offseason, and as of this week, the Jets are the largest Super Bowl liability at FanDuel, Caesars and at The Borgata in Atlantic City. More bets have been placed on the Jets to win the Super Bowl than on any other team except one -- the Buffalo Bills, who are the consensus favorites.
"I'm not too concerned about the Jets," Tom Gable, sportsbook director at The Borgata, told ESPN this week.
The team has fallen well short of the Super Bowl over the past decade or so. The Jets have a 22-59 record over the past five seasons, tied with the New York Giants for the worst in the NFL, and have a minus-8.4 point differential per game, easily the worst in the league. The Jets have the longest active postseason drought in the NFL, having failed to reach the playoffs in 11 consecutive seasons. Despite their perennial struggles, pro-Jets money has been showing up on all types of betting offerings in recent months:
• More bets have been placed and more money wagered on the Jets to win over 5.5 games at DraftKings than any on other team's win total.
• The Jets have attracted more bets to win the AFC East at PointsBet Sportsbook than the favored Bills and more money than the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots combined.
• The Jets have received more bets to make the playoffs at Caesars Sportsbook than any other team.
ESPN personality and loyal Jets fan Mike Greenberg said his first reaction when he heard of the betting interest on his favorite team was, "God bless our fans," but added that he understands the increased optimism. "Now, do I expect the Jets to win the Super Bowl this? Of course not," Greenberg said. "But, the Bengals were three points away and a year ago at this time that would have seemed just as unlikely."
Jets general manager Joe Douglas received high praise for the team's offseason moves, including signing tight end C.J. Uzomah, safety Jordan Whitehead, offensive guard Laken Tomlinson and cornerback D.J. Reed. The Jets' draft class, featuring first-rounders Ahmad Gardner, Garrett Wilson and Jermaine Johnson II and second-rounder Breece Hall, has also been lauded.
"This is the best offseason that they've had in a long time," Kenny Scarabaggio, a 40-year Jets season-ticket holder from New Jersey, said. Scarabaggio bet $200 on the Jets to win the Super Bowl and $2,000 on the team to win more than six games this season. He hosts a Twitter show as part of the fan community site The Jets Lounge and isn't embarrassed about putting money on the Jets, but others are.
Sportsbooks reached out to customers who had bet the Jets to win the Super Bowl on behalf of ESPN to participate in this story but were denied. Some bettors said they were worried about being "mocked."
"Yeah, I've got money on the Jets. I put money every year on the Jets to win the Super Bowl," Scarabaggio said enthusiastically. "It's always a good return. One day, it's going to pay off and I'll be even."
According to ESPN's Football Power Index, which gives each team's expected draft slot, the Jets have the highest probability of ending up with next year's No. 1 overall pick.