Specifically, the books have the Cincinnati Bengals, the Carolina Panthers, and lo and behold, the Cleveland Browns to thank for the early windfall.
It’s rare that on a day where the favorites went 9-4-1, the biggest results on the books’ side came at the expense of huge public backing on the faves. Cincinnati, for one, went on the field as 3-point underdogs to the heavily backed Green Bay Packers. Starting 14-0, it seemed the Bengals were going to ride an easy cover and straight up win. But Green Bay reeled in 30 straight points only to see Cincinnati hold its own comeback, ultimately winning outright, 34-30, to give sportsbooks a huge result.
One late game that saw heavy action on side was the New York Giants versus the Carolina Panthers. The public, and a bunch of sharps, all rode the Giants to cover the -2.5 spread after two straight disappointing losses to start their 2013 campaign. What everybody didn’t see coming was how bad Big Blue was in the game, getting completely wiped out by an average Panthers team, 38-0, giving Tom Coughlin his worst loss as coach of the Giants.
But the biggest result for the books came at the expense of the Minnesota Vikings, who everybody backed to cover a spread that began at -3.5 and hit as high as -7 after Cleveland dealt running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts only days before the actual game. It seemed like one of those easy covers for the Vikings – a 2012 playoff team, by the way – against a team that was starting a third string quarterback in Brian Hoyer whose biggest claim to fame was washing Tom Brady’s cleats after practices.
But like a cruel joke that only the gambling gods would understand, Hoyer suddenly turned into Brett Favre, guns blazing and leading the Browns to a stunning 31-27 win against the Vikes, easily covering the spread and rendering a whole lot of Vikings backers completely catatonic.
It was that kind of day in the NFL and even some games that didn’t see a whole lot of action netted some surprising results. The San Francisco 49ers got walloped by the Indianapolis Colts, 27-7, despite the latter being heavy underdogs. The Miami Dolphins, -1 favorites against one of the supposed best teams in the NFC, also scored a huge win, coming back from behind to stun the Atlanta Falcons on a late Ryan Tannehill touchdown pass.
About the only saving grace for the players came during the Sunday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The former were short favorites to win on the road against a depleted Steelers team and with the public firmly backing the Bears to get to 3-0, the team’s 40-23 romp of the team-formerly-known-as-the-Pittsburgh-Steelers spelled a decent consolation on what was an otherwise disappointing day for the public.
Not so for the sportsbooks, though, a lot of whom are probably planning a Brian Hoyer Appreciation Day soon.