Sportsbooks Win Big Thanks to Packers, Texans Wild Card Upsets in NFL Playoffs

Grant Mitchell
By:
Grant Mitchell
01/16/2024
Industry
Football Team Is Ready to Play

Highlights

  • Sportsbooks had a “great month” in one day once the Packers won
  • Dallas received overwhelming support during the pre-game build-up
  • All favorites are getting early love on the spread in the divisional round

The NFL Wild Card was a huge win for legal sportsbooks thanks to a couple of wacky upsets. 

As is the case every year, sportsbooks noticed an uptick in bettor turnout during the first round of NFL betting over Wild Card weekend.

The expectation is that the increase in bets will continue through the Super Bowl, which the American Gaming Association estimated last year produced over $16 billion in bets from 50 million Americans. If future results match last weekend’s, it will be a profitable year for the books.

Big wins from the Wild Card 

The largest sportsbook win of the weekend came in the Green Bay Packers’ blowout win over the Dallas Cowboys. Most sportsbooks had the Cowboys at -7 to -7.5 before kick-off as they looked to win their 17th straight home game and continue a trend of second seeds never losing to seventh seeds. 

Dallas, the most popular team in the NFL, is often a betting darling because of its fanbase. As a result, sports traders knew entering the game they needed the Packers to show up.

"We'd take a Green Bay cover,” SuperBook at Westgate Sportsbook executive director John Murray said before kick-off. “But if we can get Dallas or Buffalo to lose outright, we'd really clean up.”

Despite the line, the Packers found themselves up by 32 points with six minutes remaining en route to annihilating the Cowboys 48-32. Jordan Love finished his playoff debut with 272 yards and three touchdowns, and Aaron Jones ran for 118 yards and another three scores.

"It's the best playoff result I've seen outside of a Super Bowl.” TwinSpires director of retail sports, Zachary Lucas, said after the final whistle.

"We needed Green Bay," said BetMGM trader Christian Cipollini. "The teasers and moneyline parlays on Dallas were monstrous. It knocked out a lot of that stuff. It's a huge result." 

The Houston Texans’ upset victory against the Cleveland Browns also marked a huge win for Vegas. 

The Browns, who were -2 or -2.5 at most books, stood no hope against rookie C.J. Stroud and co. as Houston went on to win 45-14. 

"That was huge,” said Cipollini. “We had nothing but Browns bets. It was a great start to the playoffs.”

Bettors’ biggest wins came in the Kansas City Chiefs-Miami Dolphins matchup. Lots of money was on the Chiefs’ spread and the total under, which both hit.

Looking at the Divisional Round 

Betting lines for the NFL Divisional Playoffs are relatively lopsided considering there are only eight teams left competing for the Super Bowl.

While the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens dominate Super Bowl betting, there are plenty of chances for sportsbooks to take huge losses—or wins—this weekend.

According to early numbers from FanDuel Sportsbook, 62% of spread money is on the Ravens to cover a 9.5 line against the red-hot Texans. Baltimore had the best defense in the NFL and the presumptive MVP, Lamar Jackson, leading its line, but Stroud’s Texans are fresh off an upset and have continually been one of the most clutch teams in the league. 

Also from FanDuel’s website, 67% of spread money as of Tuesday afternoon is on the 49ers at -9.5 against the Packers. Green Bay too already did the unthinkable, not only covering, but beating Dallas last weekend. Jordan Love is one of the hottest players in the league and has 22 total touchdowns and just one interception in his nine games and will be a great test for an excellent Niners defense.

79% of spread money is on the Lions at -6.5 against the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay also pulled an outright upset against the Philadelphia Eagles, -3/-2.5 in most spots, on Monday Night Football.

56% of spread money is on the Buffalo Bills to knock off the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in the final game of the weekend despite KC being 2-0 in head-to-head matchups during the Josh Allen-Patrick Mahomes era. That means that, at the time of writing, all of the favorites are receiving more love on the spread than the underdogs.

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.