The greatest comeback in NFL history — the Minnesota Vikings erasing a 33-0 deficit to beat the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday — produced some of the ugliest losing bets you’ll ever see.
Let’s start with the ugliest, which comes via PointsBet, an online sportsbook that tends to be more aggressive than other bookmakers with its in-game odds.
At halftime, with the Colts leading 33-0, PointsBet was offering Indianapolis at -20,000 odds to win the game. That means in order to win $1, you’d have to put up $200 — and some ambitious folks felt it was worth the risk.
PointsBet reported taking a $1,800 money-line bet on the Colts, which, at -20,000 odds, would have paid a net of $9. Yes, $1,800 for a shot at winning $9.
The book also took a $3,000 money-line bet on the Colts at -10,000 odds that would’ve paid a net of $30. Instead, the $4,800 from those two bets will be staying with the house.
These bets, where people risk a lot to win a little, happen more often than you might believe. For example, Caesars Sportsbook attracted a much larger money-line bet on the Colts around halftime: $50,000 at -5,000 odds, which would have paid a net $1,000. That money, too, will be staying with the house.
“We see it all the time,” said Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook. “Once a team gets up pretty big, people are willing to risk a lot to win a little. But you lose one of those and it takes a lot to get out of the hole. It looks like easy money, but there’s never such a thing as easy money in this business.”
It wasn’t all ugly for bettors. There were some believers in the Vikings as they began to mount their comeback.
PointsBet offered the Vikings at 90-1 when they trailed 33-0 at halftime. In comparison, DraftKings had the Vikings at 40-1, Caesars at 30-1, BetMGM at 17-1 and WynnBET at around 15-1. The difference in odds is a stark reminder for bettors to always shop for the best action.
“We don’t really cap those long shot money lines,” said Sam Garriock, sports trading manager for PointsBet. “And that’s why you see the difference between our book and some of the other ones out there.
“We’re happy to swallow wagers on those high prices,” he added. “It’s been pretty profitable for us at this point.”
PointsBet said it only took a couple of small bets on Minnesota at 90-1, the largest being $5, but action on the Vikings picked up as they mounted their comeback in the second half.
“It cranked itself up when it was getting into the fourth quarter,” Garriock said. “We took a bunch at 20-1, a bunch at 17-1. There was a lot of Vikings money line, so I think this one will probably end up stinging a bit.”
Despite winning the $50,000 halftime bet on the Colts, Caesars said in-game wagering cost the book practically everything it won off the action that was placed before kickoff, which was lopsided towards the Vikings.
The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas endured a similar experience.
“Let’s just say that in-progress did not go well for us,” said John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook. “I’m glad that was a regular-season game and a not a playoff game or worse. That could’ve been a lot uglier than it was. Like when Matt Ryan lost the Super Bowl with a 28-3 lead, for example .”
Some other notable bets on the greatest comeback in NFL history:
• Prior to kickoff, a bettor in North Carolina put $25,000 at Caesars on the Vikings to win the game outright at -190 odds and — if they didn’t throw away their ticket early — won just over $13,000.
• After Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins threw an interception with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Colts leading 36-21, a customer with New Jersey betting exchange Sporttrade placed nine bets on the Vikings for a total of just under $5,000 at average odds of around 5-1. The bets, which were placed in a nine-minute span, resulted in a profit of around $25,000, according to Sporttrade CEO and founder Alex Kane.
• PointsBet saw a flurry of in-game player prop bets on the under on passing yards for Cousins and on receptions for Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson. “There was some discussion in the office around whether we really wanted to be booking that stuff with a chance of them sitting in the fourth quarter.”
Cousins passed for over 400 yards in the second half and Jefferson finished with 12 catches for 123 yards.
• A Caesars bettor in New York grabbed the Vikings at 12-1 during the game and won a net $24,000 off their $2,000 bet.
• Underdogs covered the spread in each of the six early kickoffs Sunday, giving sportsbooks a big early lead on the betting public. Favorites and the public battled back in the afternoon, though.
“As good as the early games were, the late ones were just as bad,” Pullen said.
Favorites went 3-0-1 in the afternoon games, highlighted by the Cincinnati Bengals’ comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Las Vegas Raiders’ improbable win over the New England Patriots on the game’s final play.
“The Bengals were brutal, and the Raiders were a bad one,” Pullen added.
• Cincinnati is 11-1 against the spread in its past 12 games. The Buccaneers are 1-10-1 against the spread in their past 12 games.
• The Detroit Lions covered the spread as small underdogs in a 20-17 win over the New York Jets. The Lions have covered the spread in seven straight games.
• The Carolina Panthers lost as 3-point favorites to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. It’s the Panthers’ ninth consecutive loss as a favorite, tying Carolina with the Seattle Seahawks (1979 to 1981) for the longest such streak in the Super Bowl era.
• The largest reported NFL bets at Caesars Sportsbook were:
$240,000 on Broncos -2.5 vs. Cardinals (won)
$156,190 on Bengals -3.5 at Bucs (won)
$125,000 on Titans +3.5 at Chargers (won)
World Cup notables
• Argentina entered the World Cup as one of the betting favourites, but their run to the title was anything but smooth. They opened the tournament by losing to Saudi Arabia, a 25-1 underdog, in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. In knockout rounds, they twice surrendered two-goal leads, including in Sunday’s final against France, and had to advance by penalty kicks.
Against France, Argentina opened up a two-goal lead in the first half and seemed in complete control with 10 minutes in regulation. Near the 80th minute, PointsBet had Argentina at -10,000 to lift the trophy. A bettor placed a $500 bet on Argentina at that price. Shortly after the bet was placed, France scored twice in less than two minutes to force extra time. Both teams scored in extra time, sending the game to penalty kicks, where Argentina prevailed.
“Of the teams with a realistic chance to win, Argentina was our worst-case scenario in the futures book heading into the World Cup,” said Murray of the SuperBook. “And we took more money on them at 8-1 after they lost their opener in the group stage [to Saudi Arabia]. So we were well behind for the day before the NFL action even kicked off.”
Sportsbooks didn’t know what to expect from the betting interest on the World Cup, which, for the first time, took place in the fall and was up against the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football and basketball. Even so, Craig Mucklow, director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said the betting handle on the World Cup exceeded his expectations by the semi-finals.
“We were happy that the US advanced, although that win against Iran was painful,” Mucklow said. “I was happy, no complaints.”
Overall, though, the betting interest on soccer still lags way behind the NFL in the US, for example. Mucklow said the betting handle on the World Cup final might have come close to how much was bet on the Arizona Cardinals–Denver Broncos game, which was the lowest bet NFL game on the day.
Odds & Ends
• College Basketball: Louisville beat Western Kentucky on Wednesday as a 7.5-point underdog. It was the Cardinals’ first win of the season and ended an 0-9 streak against the spread to start the year. Louisville was the first team to start a season 0-9 against the spread in the past 30 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
• College football: The over/under total on the Dec. 31 Music City Bowl between Iowa duck Kentucky is 31.5, which would be the lowest of any bowl since 2000, per ESPN Stats & Information.