Notable Bets: Josh Allen injury causes dramatic line movement, puts sportsbooks in precarious position

Josh Allen's status leading up to Sunday had a major influence on the line. Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

Sportsbooks have to reach certain risk thresholds before the big bosses are brought into the loop. On Sunday at Caesars Sportsbook, those thresholds were met, and the big bosses were alerted to some potentially expensive outcomes on the Minnesota Vikings-Buffalo Bills game.

Thanks to some up-and-down point spread movement throughout the week, the Bills winning by 4, 5 or 6 would've caused Caesars -- and other sportsbooks -- to lose on both sides of a lot of bets.

"The bosses were aware that 4, 5 or 6 were not pretty," Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said.

Those potential outcomes were troubling for the book, because uncertainty about Bills quarterback Josh Allen had caused the point spread to move dramatically throughout the week. The line went from Buffalo -8.5 on Monday to -3 by Saturday morning, as Allen missed the majority of practices leading up to Sunday's game. The line started to tick back up toward the Bills on Saturday afternoon, after it was reported that Allen would be active and was expected to start. By Sunday morning, the line had grown back to Buffalo -6.5. The roller-coaster ride for bookmakers and bettors wasn't over yet.

Roughly an hour before kickoff, Allen wasn't on the field during warm-ups, and the line dropped back to Bills -5. Allen eventually joined his teammates on the field, and the line shot back up to Buffalo -6.5 by kickoff.

"These things happen all the time," John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN. "[It's] the battle between the bettors and the book to have the information first. Obviously, when you have a player as great as Josh Allen, it's that much more important to be on top of the news. But considering what we had to deal with last bowl season between COVID, the transfer portal, and players sitting out for the NFL draft, this was nothing. And it's something that happens literally every day during the NBA regular season."

The pregame drama reminded Adam Pullen, vice president of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, of Los Angeles Chargers backup quarterback Chase Daniel being shown as the starter instead of Justin Herbert ahead of a Week 3 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"The picture of [Daniel] on the scoreboard set off a wave of bets off [on the Jaguars]," Pullen recalled. "That's just how it is now. Every little tweet, every little report, everyone is trying to determine what to do with that piece of information."

Pullen added that a "rash" of money came in on the Vikings after the reports of Allen not being on the field to start warm-ups.

With 40 seconds left, the Bills led 27-23 and had the ball. A worst-case scenario for the sportsbooks seemed likely. But Allen would fumble a snap on the Buffalo 1-yard line, and Minnesota recovered for a go-ahead touchdown. The Vikings would go on to prevail 33-30 in overtime.

A professional bettor in New York told ESPN he received a tip about how things would play out with Allen in pregame warmups and placed bets on both sides of the game accordingly, giving him a chance to win big if Buffalo won by four.

"That Buffalo fumble was a killer," the bettor told ESPN in a direct message on social media. "Buffalo by four got me everything, had middles all over the place."

Mucklow reported taking a pair of $25,000 money-line bets on the Vikings to win the game outright early in the week from a sharp bettor, but said overall, "We broke even on the game. Sometimes just not losing is a win."

NFL notables

• Favorites have yet to have an overall winning week against the spread this season, as underdogs continued their winning ways Sunday, paving the way for another successful week for sportsbooks.

• Caesars Sportsbook was "up a little" after the afternoon action and needed the underdog Chargers to cover the spread against the San Francisco 49ers in the primetime game, according to Pullen. The 49ers failed to cover the 6.5-point spread in a 22-16 win over the Chargers.

Pullen said upsets wins by the Arizona Cardinals over the Los Angeles Rams and the Detroit Lions over the Chicago Bears were the best games for the house on Sunday. The Miami Dolphins and New York Giants covering the spread in victories were the best game for bettors, according to Pullen.

• Murray said Sunday was positive for the SuperBook as well. "Certainly better than the last two weeks," Murray told ESPN. "We had some positive results in the morning, with the Lions somehow winning that game, and the Titans beating the Broncos. We did get clobbered on the Bucs this morning and the Dolphins game wasn't good, but we had better volume and better results than the last couple Sundays, so no complaints from me."

• Tampa Bay covered the spread for the first time in eight weeks with a 21-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Germany. The Buccaneers are 1-6-1 against the spread in their past eight games.

• The Tennessee Titans, on the other hand, covered the spread for a seventh straight week, the longest active covering streak in the league. The Titans are 7-2 against the spread on the season, tied with the New York Giants for the best ATS record.

• A pair of big bets on the odds to win the NFL MVP were among the most eyebrow-raising wagers of the week. Caesars reported taking a $20,000 bet on Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady at 100-1 and a $5,000 bet on Tyreek Hill at 100-1 from a customer in Nevada. The bet on Brady would pay a net $2 million.

"No worries on our end for taking a bet like that," Pullen said of the Brady wager.

• The Dallas Cowboys have been installed as 2-point road favorites over the Vikings in Week 11's marquee matchup.

College football notables

Notable opening lines via Circa Sportsbook

Illinois at Michigan (-17, 44.5)
TCU (-2, 56.5) at Baylor
Ohio State (-25, 65.5) at Maryland
Tennessee (-19, 67.5) at South Carolina

USC (-4, 82.5) at UCLA

• Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud remains the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, listed at -150 at Caesars Sportsbook. Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is next at +375, followed by Michigan running back Blake Corum at +550.

• More money has been bet on Tennessee to win the national championship than any other team at BetMGM sportsbooks, where the Volunteers are 14-1. Tennessee has attracted nearly three times as much money as Georgia, the odds-on favorite. Busy time for sportsbooks.

With the college basketball season revving up, sportsbooks are experiencing their busiest stretches of the year.

Kevin Lawler, head of trading for sportsbook PointsBet, called last week "the busiest week of the year at the book."

"Interestingly, Monday was probably the busiest day with every team in the NBA playing, along with close to 200 college basketball games to manage and trade," Lawler told ESPN.

DraftKings said it offered betting on 1,416 events across all sports Saturday. Johnny Avello, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker, now with DraftKings, recalled being swamped in the past when college basketball season would tip off and he had to do a lot more of the odds-making and bookmaking manually. He said even though the process is much more automated today, the expanded betting menus make it just as busy.

"We have better and more technology now than we did in the past," Avello said, "but we're also offering so many more markets. On weeks like this, we were buried back then, and we're buried now. And the World Cup is just getting ready to start."

Approximately half of adult sports fans are planning to bet on the World Cup, according to a survey conducted by social media platform BettorOff. The survey of 1,500 adults who live in jurisdictions with legal online betting markets found that 18% of those planning to bet on the World Cup would be making their first soccer bets.