Sports betting winners and losers: How high will the spread need to go for the Jets to actually cover?

Frank Schwab
·7 mins read

The 2020 New York Jets were actually favored in a game this season. Against an actual NFL team. Weird but true.

In Week 4, the Jets were 1-point favorites against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos had Brett Rypien making his first NFL start at quarterback. The Jets gave up 37 points and lost 37-28.

Week 5 was much easier for anyone fading the Jets. The Jets were 6.5-point underdogs to the Arizona Cardinals and lost 30-10.

A lot of serious bettors like to take contrarian angles. They’ll back some of the worst teams in the league while the public fades them. The Jacksonville Jaguars were a favorite team among these bettors for years.

Sometimes the public is right. The Jets are awful and have yet to cover a spread this season. Last week that was one of two big losing games for BetMGM in an otherwise profitable week for the book.

“That’s like a broken record with the Jets every week — we’re on the losing side,” MGM Resorts director of trading Jeff Stoneback told Yahoo Sports.

When there’s a bad team in college football, you’ll see lines skyrocket. We’ve all seen 30- or 40-point spreads in that sport. In the NFL, the books will rarely even reach 20 points on a spread.

The Jets play at the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. They’re eight-point underdogs at BetMGM. That’s still not an enormous spread, considering the Dolphins did just blow out the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and the Jets have lost by double digits in four of five games, and by nine points in the other game. The Jets are one of three teams in the NFL to not cover the spread yet, with the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans, who are 3-0 straight up and 0-5 against the spread.

The Jets are the worst team in the NFL and it’s not particularly close. The eight-point spread is unlikely to dissuade many bettors who are blindly fading the Jets until they lose. If the Jets can’t cover this week against a 2-3 Dolphins team, oddsmakers might face a conundrum: Adjust the lines for Jets games way up, or keep losing on the worst team in the league.

New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine, lower left, is tackled by a group of Arizona Cardinals defenders. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine is tackled by a group of Arizona Cardinals defenders. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Here are the winners and losers from the past week in the sports betting world:

WINNERS

Tuesday Night Football: Maybe there is an older fan who had heavy action on the New York Giants-Boston Yanks NFL season opener in 1946, but it’s probably fair to call Tuesday’s Buffalo Bills-Tennessee Titans game the second opportunity in our lives to bet the NFL on a Tuesday.

The Giants-Yanks game in 1946 was the last Tuesday game in the NFL until 2010, when a Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Vikings game was moved due to a blizzard. The Bills-Titans game will be the second. The game was moved due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Titans, but the Titans had no more positive tests Tuesday and it appears the game is a go.

It’s a good game between two undefeated teams. The Bills are 3.5-point favorites at BetMGM. This year has been a bummer in so many ways, but having an NFL game on a Tuesday night is a nice reprieve.

Los Angeles Lakers futures: A lot of people rode the chalk to an NBA Finals payoff.

The Lakers, who were co-favorites with the Milwaukee Bucks to win the title before the playoffs started, had the most action in the NBA futures market. They had the most bets and money on them at BetMGM. Among all future bets on the NBA championship, a little less than 52 percent of the money was on the Lakers.

The Lakers are a popular team, and they paid off. So did LeBron James, whose odds to win NBA Finals MVP were a manageable -143 before the series began.

There were a couple of big bets on the Lakers to win it all — $200,000 to win $121,212 on the Lakers at -165 and $50,000 to win $65,000 when the Lakers were +130 — so the result wasn’t ideal for the books. But because the Lakers had short odds all season, it wasn’t the worst-case scenario in the playoffs.

“We had significant liability on the Lakers, so L.A. winning wasn’t the best outcome for the sportsbook but we feel lucky that the Clippers didn’t win as they were our largest liability,” Jason Scott, the vice president of trading at BetMGM, said.

New NBA futures: Since we saw an NBA champion crowned for the first time in October, that also means it won’t be that long until a new season starts. And of course, there are already odds on who will win the next championship.

To nobody’s surprise, the Lakers are favorites again. They’re +400 at BetMGM. Only six teams are getting less than 10-to-1 odds:

Lakers: +400
Clippers: +500
Bucks: +500
Warriors: +800
Nets: +900
Heat: +900

The new World Series favorite (who hardly anyone bet on): Even though the Rays went 40-20 in the regular season, less than 4% of the World Series future bets were made on Tampa Bay.

As of Tuesday morning, the Rays were the favorites to win it all at BetMGM, at +140. They were up 2-0 on the Houston Astros in their ALCS matchup, and -1000 to win that series.

The Rays don’t draw the same attention as the Dodgers or Yankees because they don’t have an enormous fan base and don’t have a lot of recognizable stars, but it’s a solid team that does everything well. For those bettors who grabbed the Rays at good odds earlier this year when everyone else was betting the brand-name favorites, it was a nice investment.

The Tampa Bay Rays woke up Tuesday morning as the favorite to win the World Series. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Rays woke up Tuesday morning as the favorite to win the World Series. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

LOSERS

New York Yankees futures: BetMGM had two teams they needed to lose in the MLB playoffs, and neither should be a surprise: The Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

One down. The Yankees lost Game 5 of the ALDS to the Tampa Bay Rays and were eliminated when Mike Brousseau hit an eighth-inning home run off Aroldis Chapman. Talk about a long shot.

The Yankees had the highest percentage of bets to win the World Series at BetMGM and most bettors backed the Yankees in Game 5, so the Rays win was big for the book.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers finally lost in the playoffs, and it was a costly one.

The Atlanta Braves were hot in September, with a lineup that can hurt you from top to bottom. Their bats got to Blake Treinen in a four-run ninth inning in Game 1 to take a 1-0 NLCS lead.

The Dodgers have been favored all year, until now. They were favored in Game 1 too and bettors liked them, as 64.3% of tickets and 57.5% of the handle was on L.A. to win. The Dodgers took in 36.9% of the money in the World Series futures market, and they’re the biggest remaining liability for BetMGM. The Lakers’ win cost the house some money, but they’re hoping L.A.’s other big team gets upset by a very good Braves team. The Braves were -105 to win the series on Tuesday morning, with the Dodgers slightly ahead at -115. If you still believe in the Dodgers, they’re +225 to win the World Series at BetMGM (the Braves are +250 and the Houston Astros are +1100).

Dak Prescott futures: Individual player future bets are a relatively new market, and there’s an obvious risk on betting the over for them: injuries.

Prescott was an enticing option before the season. He had the fourth-most bets in the MVP market, at 14-1. His totals of 4,329.5 yards, 26.5 touchdown passes and 314.5 fantasy points at BetMGM were looking great to go over. He was on pace for more than 6,500 yards after four games.

Then his season abruptly ended with a ghastly ankle injury. It’s ghoulish to complain about a bad beat on futures bets when a player suffers an injury like Prescott did, but it is a reminder that if you’re going to dabble in player future bets, don’t forget the risk of injury when taking the over.

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