Sportsbooks Suffer During Divisional Round Despite Bad Beats and Close Losses

Grant Mitchell
By:
Grant Mitchell
01/22/2024
Industry
American Football Player Runs With The Ball

Highlights

  • The underdog Chiefs were a big hit at positive-odds on the moneyline 
  • The Detroit Lions covered and improved to 13-6 ATS on the year
  • James Cook bettors suffered one of the worst bad beats of the year

Despite bad beats and a missed mega-parlay, the public dominated in NFL betting during the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, and San Francisco 49ers all booked their tickets into the next round and will compete in their respective conference championship games this weekend. But while those four won big, legal sportsbooks found themselves on the losing side of most markets.

There are only two weekends of NFL betting remaining—the coming one and the second weekend of February, capped off by Super Bowl LVIII.

Public wins the major markets 

The first game of the divisional round featured the Ravens as 9.5-point favorites against the Houston Texans.  

Sportsbooks noted an unprecedented amount of support coming in for the Texans because of their hot hand and because of Lamar Jackson’s playoff shortcomings and struggles to cover large spreads (1-9 ATS since 2020 as a 7+ point favorite). Certain books even boosted the Ravens’ spread to positive odds to encourage bettors to bet them and help offset their liability.

Despite the public riding with the Texans, Vegas got off to a nice start as Baltimore dominated and won 34-10. That was the end of the sportsbooks’ time on top, however.

The Green Bay Packers, the only seventh seed to ever win a playoff game, covered a 9.5-point line on the road against the San Francisco 49ers and helped pay public bettors in a major way. Brock Purdy struggled mightily all night and even gave the Packers a chance to win, but Jordan Love’s interception on the final drive ensured the Niners moved on. 

The early game on Sunday pitted the highly-backed Detroit Lions against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tampa, a 6.5-point underdog, lost 31-23 and blew numerous opportunities to cover the spread. They dropped an interception in their end zone which led to the Lions kicking a field goal, missed a 50-yard field goal of their own shortly before halftime, and then failed a two-point conversion with 4:37 remaining.

If any of those events swung in the other direction, the Bucs likely would have covered the spread. Instead, the publicly-supported Lions earned another cover, bringing them to a league-best 13-6 ATS on the year.

The final game of the weekend saw the Chiefs upset the Buffalo Bills in Patrick Mahomes’ first road playoff game. 

Although the Bills received a large share of the spread handle, the Chiefs’ moneyline, valued at positive odds, was also extremely popular and proved to be costly as KC won 27-24.

Painful losses and missed bets 

The public may have made out like bandits over the weekend, but a select bunch of bettors fell victim to bad beats.

James Cook prop bettors were one of the most unlucky groups of the weekend. Cook, a first-time Pro-Bowler who finished fourth in regular-season rushing yards, had 67 yards at the end of the third quarter and a line of 61.5 rushing yards. Seems like a guaranteed win, right?

To the horror of over bettors, Cook received four carries in the fourth quarter. Those carries went for -4, -3, 0, and 1 yards, giving him -6 for the quarter and 61 for the game, thereby cashing the under.

Also in the Chiefs-Bills game, one bettor found themselves right on the doorstep of turning a $10 two-leg parlay into more than $122k in winnings.

The parlay featured two exacta legs in which the bettor predicted the exact final scores of both the Bucs-Lions and Chiefs-Bills matchups . They correctly guessed the former would end 31-23 for +12000 odds and needed the Bills to win 30-27 to cash the parlay.

With 1:47 remaining and the Chiefs leading 27-24, the Bills lined up for a 44-yard field goal. A made kick and a defensive stand would either set the Bills up for the chance to kick a game-winning field goal or head into overtime, where they could have another chance to cash the bet.

The FanDuel bettor was tragically deprived of that chance as kicker Tyler Bass pushed his field goal wide right and the Chiefs ran the clock out, leaving the parlay painstakingly close to cashing.

Betting odds are out for the AFC and NFC Championship Games. The Ravens are favored by 3.5 favorites over the Chiefs at most online sportsbooks, while the 49ers are either 6.5 or seven-point favorites over the Lions.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.