NFL Week 16 teased, pleased and appeased bettors at NJ sportsbooks, including:
From playoff jockeying to the sheer incredible, the gamblers had a roller-coaster ride.
The Tease: Washington Redskins and the late-game decision
Will the real Daniel “Danny Dimes” Jones please stand up?
With protection, a motivated Saquon Barkley behind him and one of his favorite defenses to throw against, the Washington Redskins, the New York Giants quarterback went off with 352 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-35 overtime triumph.
Barkley added 279 scrimmage yards and two scores. This is the same Jones who gave up direct touchdowns via turnovers in three straight games before he got hurt. The Giants provided their backers with a second straight win and third consecutive cover.
It also unlocked an angle about late-game decisions.
Big Blue, -1 at DraftKings, had been a -2 at different points of the week. And that brought into play an interesting decision by the Redskins at the end of regulation.
Through the eyes of NJ sports betting customers, one has to wonder if teams not competing for the playoffs will take a different track than the Redskins did Sunday. In a game filled with offense, the Redskins got the tying touchdown with 29 seconds remaining.
To go or not to go, that was the decision
Neither defense could stop anybody. But rather than go for the win, the ‘Skins kicked the extra point to make it 35-35, banking on overtime.
And that burned them.
Washington never saw the ball again. The Giants held the ball until the end of regulation and then won the overtime toss.
New York marched down the field and won the game with a touchdown. A low-scoring game might be one reason to play conservatively and try to win in overtime.
For Washington, though, the fear of not seeing the ball again may have made the two-point try worth it.
Bettors who had Washington +2 were praying they went for the two-point conversion. Ironically, the Redskins were involved in the other side of that equation early this year.
They were favored by 2.5 to 3.5 at most sportsbook apps in New Jersey against the also-winless Miami Dolphins in mid-October. The Dolphins scored with seconds to go, pulling within one point. Rather than risk overtime, the Dolphins went for the two-point conversion. They did not win but endeared themselves to their bettors who had them to cover.
The extra-point decision for Washington, which the game’s announcers picked up on, reflects the massive change the NFL has seen in recent years.
In the not-too-distant past, the Oakland Raiders went for two at the end of a season-opening game against New Orleans rather than give the Saints the ball with a tie game. It was viewed as extremely aggressive. Now it’s only mildly aggressive.
More teasing: Patriots compensating
The New England Patriots displayed good power running in their 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills.
In covering the William Hill spread of -6, New England showed it may try to compensate for the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski with a ground game.
The Pats will gain a first-round bye with a home win against Miami in Week 17. The defending Super Bowl champs don’t look super, but they are resilient.
The Please: Philadelphia Eagles gain monster victory
Something was in the wind at PlaySugarHouse.com on Sunday.
The Philadelphia Eagles, +2 against the Dallas Cowboys, went from 27% of the moneyline bets to 51%.
What did the gamblers sense? Probably a carryover from the emotional NFL week 15 victory against the Redskins and a belief that Dak Prescott’s shoulder injury might nag him, even if it did not keep him from the game.
The Eagles played with enormous passion, while Prescott floated passes and missed wide-open receivers. Philadelphia, which simply wanted it more, got the 17-9 win. Impressive considering that Dallas scored 44 points the week before against the Los Angeles Rams and had thumped the Eagles 37-10 in midseason.
Now, to secure the NFC East, the Eagles must defeat the Giants on the road next week. What a bumpy ride for this team. The season includes a three-game losing streak, a setback against Miami and now three straight victories.
One more win erases any bad memories.
The Appease: Miami Dolphins collapse
The Miami Dolphins, +1.5 at DraftKings against the Cincinnati Bengals after the game had opened as a pick when betting on the NFL began for the week, enraged and then assuaged its bettors.
In a monumental collapse, the Dolphins blew a 35-12 lead with 11 minutes left and a 35-19 cushion in the final 30 seconds. Dolphins backers had this game in their pocket and probably made other wagers based on this looming collection.
But their back pocket was almost picked. The Dolphins needed overtime to win 38-35.
How could that happen? The Bengals got not one, but two touchdowns with two-point conversions in the final 29 seconds. And in between, they recovered an onside kick.
That’s four scoring plays and only the eighth successful onside kick in the NFL this year. All in 29 seconds.
A Super Bowl team can’t do all that, let alone a club that is now 1-14. But it did. The Dolphins fell asleep for the last few minutes and even got burned on a Hail Mary on the final play of regulation.
In the end, it worked out for Miami and showed the wisdom of the books that had the game so close.
The irony is that Cincinnati now gets the first pick in the 2020 draft by virtue of being the worst team in football. And this is after the Bengals scored 23 points in one quarter.
More appeasing: Jets rock Steelers
The New York Jets, +3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FanDuel, only received about 25% of the betting tickets at that site. But they bottled up a flat Pittsburgh team that revealed its problems at quarterback.
Devlin Hodges started, was yanked from the game after playing poorly and then had to replace his replacement, Mason Rudolph, who was hurt during the contest.
The Jets, who won their sixth game, have rebounded enough to keep their faithful optimistic in the offseason. They won five home matchups, defeated good teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Steelers, won the battle of New York against the Giants and turned a 1-7 nightmare into 6-9.
A good barometer to see where this team is at will be the season finale in Buffalo. The Jets should be motivated to avenge a 17-16 season-opening loss in which they blew a 16-0 second-half lead.
Speaking of Buffalo, the Bills offense cracked when the game was on the line against New England on Saturday.
Although the defense gave up a field goal, touchdown, and a two-point conversion late in the game, it was the offense with two three-and-outs after the Bills had the ball and a 17-13 lead that changed the momentum of the contest.
Buffalo showed it may not have the personnel to get key first downs in the fourth quarter and will have a hard time getting over the hump in the playoffs.
Around the league: Show me the money
The moneyline was divine in the Sunday afternoon games.
At +360 at DraftKings, the Arizona Cardinals delivered a sweet return to its backers with a 27-13 triumph against the Seattle Seahawks.
For the second straight week, the Seahawks were vulnerable to the run, as Kenyan Drake scalded them for 166 yards and two touchdowns. To make matters worse, Seattle stud running back Chris Carson sustained a hip injury and left the game in the second quarter. Seattle is sputtering at the worst possible time.
And then the Oakland Raiders prevailed at +290 and as a 7.5-point underdog against the Los Angeles Chargers, playing their last “home”. They will play in a new, real stadium next year.
We outlined last week how sharp bettors don’t like the Chargers as a home favorite. Not only did the Chargers fail to win or cover, but they also needed a silent count to offset the noise in their own stadium coming from Raiders fans.
It’ll be hard to forget the Titans
Because of deep, complicated NFL tiebreaking procedures, the Tennessee Titans did what would appear impossible.
They vaulted ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers into the final playoff spot, even as both teams lost. Tennessee was beaten by the New Orleans Saints 38-28, while the Steelers laid an egg in a 16-10 setback against the New York Jets.
Tennessee gains an enviable position as it visits the Houston Texans in the final week because the Texans already wrapped up the AFC South and are locked into hosting a first-round playoff game. For the Texans, this is almost a preseason game.
Pittsburgh visits the Baltimore Ravens, who clinched home-field edge throughout the playoffs by beating the Cleveland Browns 31-15 and may rest most of its players, at least for a half.
Lamar Jackson made a play only he can make in breaking the Browns’ backs at the end of the first half. He ducked away from a sack that would have ended the half with Baltimore leading 7-6. And then he threw a touchdown pass to make it 14-6 and Cleveland was never the same.
Baltimore, outplayed for the first 26 minutes as a 9.5-point favorite at William Hill, looked the part of an elite team.
NFL Week 17: What to watch for
The New England Patriots: Can clinch the first-round bye by defeating the Miami Dolphins
Kansas City Chiefs: Can steal that first-round bye from New England by defeating the Chargers and getting a miracle win from Miami.
Tennessee Titans: Can gain the final playoff spot by winning against the Houston Texans on the road. The Texans, who clinched the AFC South in Week 16, have little to play for. They are hosting a first-round playoff game and can’t get a bye.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Must defeat the Ravens, who have won 11 straight but have nothing to play for, and have Houston, which has little to play for, defeat the Titans.
Oakland Raiders: Must beat the Denver Broncos and have four other teams win games. That’s what 7-8 means in a playoff scenario. Still, a win over Denver gets them to .500 for the year. Not bad to build on. The Raiders needed four things to happen to stay alive in Week 16. They got the four. Can they do it again?
Philadelphia Eagles: Just Win Baby, against the New York Giants and all contingencies, are off. They will win the NFC East with a victory.
Dallas Cowboys: Beat the Washington Redskins, hope the Giants beat the Eagles and wonder about a coaching change.
Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers: The winner gets the NFC West division. San Francisco will either get home-field edge throughout the playoffs or play on the road in its first playoff game. Seattle may be locked into a high seed, but no bye.
New Orleans Saints: A win and any Packer loss in the last two games gets them a valued first-round bye.
Green Bay Packers: Play the Lions in their final game, and have a strong chance to be second or third playoff seed.