A pregame tweet from the Chicago Bears' public relations team sparked a 45-minute surge of bets on the New York Jets on Sunday but turned out to be inaccurate, causing angry bettors to temporarily call for refunds and investigations.
With the Bears and Jets facing potential quarterback changes, the game attracted heavy betting interest all week. The Jets began the week as 4.5-point favorites. The line held steady even after it was announced that Jets quarterback Zach Wilson would be benched.
Later in the week, as skepticism about the health of Bears quarterback Justin Fields began to grow, the point spread ticked up to Jets -7. By Sunday, twice as much money had been bet on Bears-Jets as any other game at Caesars Sportsbook, a robust handle that included a $330,000 bet on the Jets placed midweek.
Then, the infamous tweet took things up a notch.
At 12:11 p.m., 49 minutes prior to kickoff, the Bears tweeted that third-string quarterback Nathan Peterman would get the start against the Jets, instead of Trevor Siemian. Siemian, who was expected to start in place of the injured Fields, suffered an oblique injury during warm-ups and would be relegated to backup, according to the Bears' tweet.
"We all remember the game [Peterman] played when he threw all those picks," Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said Sunday night, recalling Peterman's five-interception game in 2017 with the Buffalo Bills. "When it came over that he was going to play, you're like, 'Oh, boy,' you know here comes the Jets money."
Sportsbooks reacted to the announcement by moving the line from Jets -7 to -7.5. Bettors reacted by hammering the Jets. Caesars said from the time of the Bears' tweet to kickoff, 82.8% of the money bet on the game's point spread was on the Jets, including a pair of $100,000 bets on New York -7.5 placed in Nevada shortly after the announcement. The Borgata, BetMGM and FanDuel also reported a surge of late action on the Jets. But there was a problem.
Five minutes prior to kickoff, the Bears told reporters that the starting quarterback was now a game-time decision, and Siemian eventually trotted out to take the opening snap. The bettors who took the Jets based on Peterman getting the start were not pleased and took to Twitter to express their concerns. Some called for all bets on the game to be refunded; others wanted the NFL to investigate and fine the Bears.
Alex Blasig, a sports bettor and host of the "Real Friends & Football" podcast, told ESPN he bet the Jets -7.5 as soon as he saw that Peterman was starting.
"I tried to get -7, but the line moved quickly," Blasig said. "[I] figured it would be a good bet due to the fact that Peterman was probably super limited in snaps."
Blasig said he wouldn't have made the bet if not for the news of Peterman starting in place of Siemian. When shown the tweet from the Bears' PR team, Blasig said, "Wild. They should get fined for that."
The outrage from bettors on Twitter escalated after Siemian threw a touchdown pass to Byron Pringle to give the Bears a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. The calls for refunds and investigations quieted down in the second half, as quarterback Mike White helped the Jets pull away to an easy 31-10 victory.
"I definitely would've been super upset if the Bears ended up covering," Blasig added.
Siemian told reporters he strained his oblique in pregame warm-ups and went back to the locker room for treatment. Bears coach Matt Eberflus added that Peterman was ready to go if needed.
Multiple sportsbooks said they suffered a small loss on the game, with the bulk of the money on the Jets. It's the latest pregame drama that has caused significant line movement and left bettors and bookmakers frustrated.
Ahead of a Week 3 game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers, a video board at SoFi Stadium showed a picture of backup Chase Daniel as the Chargers' starting quarterback. Justin Herbert ended up starting. And three weeks ago, Bills quarterback Josh Allen didn't appear in pregame warm-ups until late, before starting against the Minnesota Vikings.
"We're at the mercy of information like everyone else," Pullen said. "If the team says it, you have to think that it's legit. We've seen it happen quite a few times, and it's going to happen even more. Social media and all the other avenues of information that we have, it just takes one little thing and people act on that information. But if the team puts it out, how are you not supposed to believe that it's true?"
• The most common description of the Thanksgiving weekend from sportsbooks was "busy." On top of traditional NFL, college football and holiday college basketball tournaments, there was World Cup action.
"It felt like there was football from 2 a.m. to 12 a.m. [Thursday]," Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading for Caesars, said.
Mucklow said the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots-Minnesota Vikings games generated massive betting handle, with each ranking in the top 10 most heavily bet games of the season so far.
John Murray, executive director at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, echoed those sentiments. Murray said his sportsbook did more business on Giants-Cowboys and Patriots-Vikings than on any of the Sunday games. He described Sunday's NFL action as "very low energy."
"I think people were wiped out from the holiday weekend," Murray said. "Between the World Cup, the college basketball tournaments, college football rivalry games and the NFL, I can't say I blame them."
• Two outright upsets in the early slate buoyed a winning Sunday for several sportsbooks.
"The two best results of the day for the book came in the two closes games, with the Bucs falling in OT to the Browns and the Jags overcoming the Ravens in exciting fashion at the death," Kevin Lawler, head of trading for PointsBet, said.
The Jaguars converted a go-ahead two-point conversion with 14 seconds left in a 28-27 win over the favored Baltimore Ravens. The last-minute victory produced one of the biggest swings of the day at sportsbook PointsBet, where 94% of the money that was wagered on the money line -- the odds to win the game straight up -- was on the Ravens.
• Caesars described Sunday's results as "decent." The best games for bettors were the Kansas City Chiefs covering the 15-point spread in 26-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers covering the 9-point spread in a 13-0 win over the New Orleans Saints.
"All the big favorites won, and all those teasers added up," Pullen said. "A lot of teaser money, especially here in Nevada, came in and got there pretty easily."
• Mike White started at quarterback for the Jets, in place of Zach Wilson, against the Bears. In a steady rain, White completed 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 31-10 win. At Mojo, a sports betting platform that allows customers to buy and sell shares based on career statistical performances, White's stock increased by 29%, from $3.01 to $3.89, on Sunday. Wilson's stock dropped 26%, from $29.68 to $21.96, over the past week.
• Week 13 opening lines [via Caesars Sportsbook]:
Bills -5.5, 45.5 at Patriots (Thursday)
Jets at Vikings -3, 42
Broncos at Ravens -6.5, 41.5
Steelers at Falcons -1, 42
Titans at Eagles -6.5, 45
Jaguars at Lions PK, 51
Commanders -1.5, 42.5 at Giants
Browns -5, 44 at Texans
Packers -2.5, 44 at Bears
Seahawks -3 (even) 43 at Rams
Dolphins at 49ers -4.5, 46
Chargers -3, 48.5 at Raiders
Chiefs -3, 51 at Bengals
Colts at Cowboys -9.5, 44.5
Saints at Buccaneers -6.5, 42 (Monday)
College football notables
• The betting action on Michigan-Ohio State was heavy and extremely balanced at most sportsbooks. A few hours prior to the noon kickoff at Caesars Sportsbook, the money wagered and the number of bets were practically dead even. The story was a little different at WynnBET, where a bettor in New Jersey on Friday placed what the book said was the largest college football bet of the season -- $735,535 on Ohio State to win the game straight up at -310 odds. That money will be staying with the house, as the underdog Wolverines rolled to a 45-23 upset.
Michigan now has the second-best national championship odds:
Ohio State +1,400
Alabama +2,500 [Caesars]
• Opening conference championship game lines [via Westgate SuperBook]
CUSA: North Texas at UTSA -8.5, 66.5
Pac-12: Utah vs. USC -1, 67
Big 12: Kansas State vs. TCU -2.5, 61.5
MAC: Toledo -3.5, 61 vs. Ohio
Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina vs. Troy -9.5, 47.5
AAC: Central Florida at Tulane -3, 57
MWC: Fresno State at Boise State -4.5, 50.5
SEC: LSU vs. Georgia -15, 50.5
ACC: Clemson -7.5, 60 vs. North Carolina
Big Ten: Purdue vs. Michigan -16.5, 50.5
• Regular-season betting stats:
Favorites went 630-200 straight up (.759).
Underdogs went 429-399-13 against the spread (.525).
There were 410 overs, 414 unders and 14 pushes.
[h/t ESPN Stats & Information researcher Jeremy Willis]
Odds & Ends
• College basketball: PointsBet on Wednesday reported taking a $20,000 money-line bet on American University to beat Georgetown at +850 odds. American won 74-70, and the bettor won a net $170,000.
• World Cup: More money was bet on Friday's U.S.-England match than any other World Cup match so far at multiple sportsbooks. The amount wagered on U.S.-England at Caesars Sportsbook was comparable to a "high-end NBA or college football game."
The U.S. is a small favorite over Iran in a must-win match Tuesday. The U.S. is listed as a -103 favorite to win, with Iran +300. The match ending in a draw is +230 at Caesars Sportsbook.