Bettor’s Playbook: The NJ Sports Betting X-Factor

Written By Dave Bontempo on December 18, 2019

It’s the wild card, the gadget, a potpourri of craziness and a string of events that can’t be handicapped.

It’s the gambling X-factor. It emerged like a tsunami in NFL Week 15, leaving a wake of frustration and glee for bettors, depending upon where one sat.

Gamblers dancing in the aisles or bemoaning bad beats can attribute some NFL betting chaos in Week 15 to good or bad luck.

Which side of the scoop-and-score were you on when the Philadelphia Eagles, -7 at FanDuel Sportsbook, stole a cover with a fumble return on the final play of the game against the Washington Redskins to win 37-27?

Did you receive a gift or suffer a theft in the over/under 49 total for the San Francisco 49ersAtlanta Falcons game at SugarHouse Sportsbook?

It was won by Atlanta 29-22 with two touchdowns in the final two seconds. The final tally was the tack-on backward lateral on the kickoff as the 49ers were trying to make something happen. They did, for anyone playing the over.

It almost happened a third time, believe it or not.

The Chicago Bears, +4.5 at William Hill Sportsbook, against the Green Bay Packers, engaged in several laterals and runs toward the goal line before the runner was downed at the Green Bay two on the final play.

Had the Bears reached the end zone, it would likely have been the first time in NFL history that three touchdowns occurred in one week on final-play-of-the-game laterals.

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The X-factor wipes out handicapping

Bettors have a hard time relating to this. The X-factor wipes out handicapping, analysis, hunches and leaps of faith. It basically reduces the outcome of random events. Given the enormous volume of NFL contests on NJ sports betting apps, it is inevitable for this to happen.

Bad beats are part of the business, theoretically designed to balance with fortuitous breaks over a lifetime of gambling.  That doesn’t reduce the sting of a tough break, however, when money is on the line.

FanDuel even provides Good Karma payouts for an excruciating setback, and the Eagles-Redskins would qualify as one for Redskins’ backers.

The Dwayne Haskins lateral picked up by Nigel Bradham and ran in for 47 yards, prompted social-media outcries of why Bradham didn’t simply fall on the ball to end the game. In most situations, that’s what happens. But not this time. Haskins pitched the ball backward to avoid a sack, and Bradham saw nothing but an open field and an end zone once he scooped up the ball.

The bad beat in San Francisco would concern parlay cards more than individual bets because the Niners were a prohibitive 10.5-point favorite. There’s nothing to be made laying odds on the moneyline, but the Niners were undoubtedly woven into multi-leg parlay tickets that were burned.

What frustrated 49ers bettors is that the go-ahead touchdown scored by Julio Jones with two seconds left was initially called a defensive stop. It took a booth review to determine that Jones broke the plane by an inch or two. That space is what may have cost some players thousands of dollars.

On the flip side

But imagine the glee of Philadelphia Eagles fans who obtained a gift cover 10 days before Christmas. Their perception will not be that this was a lucky break, but instead payback from an earlier tough break they had suffered.

Or, take the NJ sports betting fan who had the San Francisco-Atlanta game at over 49, only to be holding a losing play for nearly 60 minutes, frustrated because the Niners were flat in the aftermath of their emotional win last week against the New Orleans Saints. So, who bails this ticketholder out?  The visiting Falcons.

With five seconds to go, San Francisco led 22-17, and this over was a loser.

When Atlanta scored with two seconds left, making it 23-22, that was great news for bettors who received +350 on the moneyline. But still, the over was dead. And if that bet is in the thousands, consider the frustration.

Until the ensuing kickoff when the Niners tried the crazy lateral play trying to free someone for a run upfield. The ball went backward, the Falcons jumped on it and took it to the end zone. Final? 29-22. Divine intervention for the over.

A gift from the heavens for bettors who held 70% of the action on this PlaySugarHouse wager.

G-men bust out

So, what were the New York Giants doing getting 29 second-half points to topple the Miami Dolphins 36-20 on Sunday? That was the best half of football they played all year, and the 3-11 Giants might have something to say about the NFC East race, hosting Philadelphia the final week.

On Sunday, the Eagles salvaged their season and the Dallas Cowboys reclaimed theirs. Dallas thumped the Los Angeles Rams 44-21 in a pick’em game at DraftKings Sportsbook to snap a three-game losing streak, setting up the battle of 7-7 NFC East frontrunners this week in Philadelphia.


Kudos to those who saw the letdown San Francisco could have after its victory in New Orleans. The Atlanta Falcons are the most puzzling 5-9 team in many years. They have beaten New Orleans, San Francisco and Carolina on the road and now have won four of six.

Houston parlays big play

No momentum shift in the Houston TexansTennessee Titans contest was bigger than the 14-point swing when the game was scoreless.  The Titans, a 3-point pick at DraftKings, had a ball lifted away from the receiver near the goal line. It was returned almost for a touchdown.

The Texans did score moments later and led, rather than trailing, 7-0. They never played from behind in the game and have taken control of the AFC South at 9-5.

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NJ sports betting scenarios

San Francisco will be fired up to avenge this defeat when it hosts the Los Angeles Rams.

The Seattle Seahawks can’t afford to be tripped up by the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16.  If both teams win, it sets up a winner-take-all match for the NFC West title in Seattle in Week 17. That could be the difference between a first-round bye and a first-round road game.

In the NFC East, Dallas or Philadelphia wins the division by winning the next two games.

Do the Buffalo Bills belong with the elite? They are in the playoffs after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night and are unbeaten on the road against the spread this year. They try to wrap up the road season perfect in visiting New England on Saturday.

You never can tell

Another strange element of Week 15 was the games that NJ sportsbooks predicted to be close were utter blowouts.

Besides the Cowboys throttling the Rams, the Minnesota Vikings were giving 2.5 points to the Los Angeles Chargers early in the week at DraftKings. By Sunday, it was bet down to Minnesota -1. Chargers’ fans had jumped all over this action. It should have been a nail-biter, based on the books. 

So, how does one explain Minnesota thumping Los Angeles 39-10? Which happened right after the Chargers pounded Jacksonville 45-10 last week? Is this the same Jacksonville team who came back and defeated the Los Angeles Raiders on Sunday?

That’s life in the NFL. Just when gamblers think they’ve mastered it, reality sets in.

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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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