Sunday featured the largest upset of the season so far, a slew of games that were lower scoring than expected and a trifecta of $300,000 bets that were unsuccessful. Indeed, it was a good day to be the house.
Four NFL underdogs won outright in the early Sunday slate of games, highlighted by the Pittsburgh Steelers upending Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as 9.5-point favorites. The Steelers hadn't been that big of a home underdog since 1970.
At sportsbook PointsBet, 96% of the dollars bet on the game's money line was on Tampa Bay, and at Caesars, the Buccaneers' money line (-455) was included in more parlays than any other wager.
"People thought it was a free bingo space," Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said. "Throw it on there and it can't lose."
The Steelers won 20-18.
The New York Jets upset Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers as 7.5-point underdogs in the third-biggest upset of the season. Sunday marked the 32nd time Brady and Rodgers had been favored by at least a touchdown in the same week. Sunday was the first time they both lost on the same day in that situation, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"It was a very good [Sunday]," Johnny Avello, DraftKings sportsbook director, said.
A bettor in Nevada with Caesars Sportsbook placed three $300,000-plus bets:
• $390,000 on Jaguars +3 (-130)
• $330,000 on Buccaneers -8
• $330,000 on Browns -2.5
All three lost for a total of $1.05 million.
"He's pretty sharp," Craig Mucklow, director of trading for Caesars, said of the big bettor. "We move the number considerably on his action. We respect his action. He went 2-0 on Saturday."
• Nine of 13 games have gone under this week. Entering Monday Night Football, 60% of games this season have gone under the total.
• The biggest decision on the game for several sportsbooks, though, was on the over/under total (54). At PointsBet, 95% of the money bet on the Bills-Chiefs total was on the over, making it the most lopsided betting on total all season for the sportsbook.
• The Jets and Falcons are the only two teams that have been underdogs in each of their opening six games.
The Falcons improved to 6-0 against the spread with their 28-14 upset of the 49ers. Atlanta is the third team this decade to cover the spread the first six games of the season, joining the 2021 Cowboys and 2018 Chiefs.
The Jets improved to 4-2 straight up after upsetting the Packers on Sunday. The Jets are the second team in the Super Bowl era to have a winning record through six games despite being an underdog in every game, joining the 2001 Browns.
One of the first bets Caesars Sportsbook took in January after opening betting on this year's Super Bowl was $5,000 on the Jets at 200-1 odds. If the Jets were to win the Super Bowl, the bet would pay a net $1 million.
• "The Jets and Steelers were our biggest wins," Andy Morrissey, trader for sportsbook operator WynnBET, said. "However, our two biggest decisions were the Bengals and Vikings, which both did not go our way. The Bills and Chiefs surprisingly wasn't even the top-bet game in terms of handle this weekend for us. We will be rooting for the Cowboys in the Sunday night game."
The Eagles covered the 6.5-point spread in a 26-17 win over the Cowboys.
• More money was bet on the Cowboys-Eagles game at the sportsbook at The Borgata than was bet on any other NFL game this season.
Mattress Mack has sportsbook in a pickle
Caesars Sportsbook is staring at a multimillion-dollar liability on the Houston Astros winning the World Series but isn't planning to take any drastic measures to mitigate its exposure.
The liability stems primarily from a $3 million bet on the Astros to win the World Series at 10-1 that Caesars took in May from Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, the Houston furniture store owner who regularly places giant wagers to hedge the risk from promotional giveaways he runs at Gallery Furniture.
This year, McIngvale offered customers who spent $3,000 double their money back if the Astros won the World Series. To help minimize the risk, he placed approximately $10 million in bets on the Astros to win the World Series at multiple sportsbooks. The odds ranged from 10-1 to 5-1. He stands to win more than $70 million if the Astros win it all.
Houston will face the either the New York Yankees or Cleveland Guardians in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees and Guardians will play Game 5 of their divisional series Monday in New York. Once the matchup is set, Caesars Sportsbook isn't planning to boost the odds on the Astros' opponent in an attempt to encourage bets.
"With that amount, there's really nothing you can do to get off something like that," Pullen told ESPN on Sunday. "If you try, you're just going to make yourself a loser no matter who wins. Basically, we just have to sit and hope."
Mucklow, director of trading for Caesars, said they might consider trying to attract money on the Astros' AL Division Series opponent with some alternate markets like the exact series results, but mostly planned going to book the rest of the MLB playoffs as they normally would despite the big liability.
"If they win, they win; congratulations," Mucklow said. "We were happy to take the bet when we offered it. If you didn't want to be in that position, don't take it."
Asked if they believed there were in a pickle because of Mattress Mack's bet, Pullen said, "Yes, a big jar of pickles."
The Astros are now the favorites to win the World Series at +135.
College football notables
• Underdogs went 34-11 against the spread Saturday, pulling 15 outright upsets. The 15 outright upsets tied Oct. 1 for the most straight-up wins on a day this season.
• As of Friday, more money was bet on the Alabama-Tennessee game than any other football game on the board, including Bills-Chiefs or Cowboys-Eagles, at Caesars Sportsbook. However, by Sunday, the handle on Bills-Chiefs was more than double what was bet on Alabama-Tennessee.
The Volunteers beat Alabama 52-49 as 9-point underdogs in what was a big win for the betting public. Tennessee was a very popular public dog," John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said. "Funny to finally get Alabama to lose a game and we actually lose ourselves. Everyone was on the Vols and they were right."
"We did OK on Saturday," Murray added. "We gave a lot back at night. USC plus the points [vs. Utah] was a very public side, and we had a house player with a big parlay tied to Utah money line. That was not a good final score for us."
Utah won but failed to cover the 3.5-point spread in a 43-42 victory over the Trojans.
• Mojo, a sports betting platform that allows customers to buy and sell shares of individual career statistical performances in the NFL, opened prices on several college quarterbacks who are considered pro prospects. Tennessee's Hendon Hooker saw his stock grow more than 12%, from $12.86 to $14.52, after leading the Volunteers to an upset of No. 1 Alabama. Despite the loss, Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young remained the highest-priced collegiate player offered at $32.79.