Tom Brady Turned Selection Sunday Into Resurrection Sunday

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 16, 2022
Tom Brady returned to the NFL and Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a brief 40 day retirement

Or, figuratively speaking, Insurrection Sunday for major sportsbooks.

Tom Brady’s abrupt end to his 40-day retirement did more than try to upstage the start of March Madness.

It vaulted Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into an overnight Super Bowl contender and had sportsbooks scrambling to catch up with the news.

Caesars moved Tampa Bay to +900 to win the Super Bowl, +400 to capture the NFC and -230 to claim the NFC South.

The book also placed Brady tied for third in the MVP race:

  • Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs leads the way at +700.
  • Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers opened at +800, second choice.
  • Brady is tied with Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills at +900 for third.
  • Joe Burrow, who led the Cincinnati Bengals into the Super Bowl, stands at +1300.

One New Jersey Caesars bettor feels like a genius. The Garden State gambler wagered $2,000 on Brady to win the MVP at +4500 for a potential win of $90,000 before the comeback was announced. That was quite a stab.

Caesars: Bucks on the Bucs

Tampa Bay opened at +1400 to win the Super Bowl, and its price shot up all the way to +2800 on March 8. 

The Buccaneers fell to +2000 on March 12. After the Brady news, another massive shift occurred, with Tampa Bay swinging to +1000.

Heading into the week, Brady was the most popular MVP wager at Caesars Sportsbook. 

As of now, he leads in both total number of tickets (12%) and total dollars wagered (30%) among all MVP wagers placed.

 Allen is second at 11% for tickets, followed by new Broncos signal-caller Russell Wilson (+1500) and 49ers dual-threat Trey Lance (+6000 or 60-1), each at 9%. Allen (11%), Wilson (10%) and Lance (10%) are the only other quarterbacks besides Brady to have nabbed a double-digit percentage for total dollars wagered.

DraftKings has a similar look:

  • Buffalo is favored to win the Super Bowl at +700
  • Kansas City is next at +800
  • Tampa Bay and Green Bay are tied at +850
  • Way down the list, the Philadelphia Eagles are +5000.

In the MVP race:

  • Brady is +1000, tied for fourth with Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers.
  • Allen, +700, Mahomes, +750 and Rodgers, +800, are the top three choices.

Brady causing a stir

As usual, with Brady, there had to be headlines.

The takeaway from this sudden shift may be that an abrupt retirement can cause a quick comeback.

In retrospect, there was little season-long whispering that Brady would make the past season his last.  It mushroomed before the Bucs lost in the playoffs to the Los Angeles Rams. Brady’s retirement speculation seeped out and his departure became official days later.

But the rumors did not precede the abrupt comeback, which is one reason why the books, and the public, were surprised.

Suddenly, boom, here he was.

Oddsmakers, were in fact, sacked.

At DraftKings, Brady went from +4000 to +850 in about one week, as speculation and then the announcement itself drove the number down. But some heavy action came in at the higher prices.

“Personally, I’m okay with the bets we took, we do have some exposure (vulnerability to a big payoff) and there is a long way to go for Brady to win the MVP or the Bucs to win the Super Bowl, but I don’t like the way it went down,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told PlayNJ.

“Where did the information come from?Did he tell a neighbor? Somebody knew he was going to play. We were taking Tampa Bay Super Bowl odds in the middle of last week, which was a little unusual (unlike in 2020, when a big price drop occurred AFTER Brady’s announcement to come to Tampa Bay).

“The other thing is that if you are on the fence of retiring, don’t retire. It’s better to wait until the end of spring and then make your decision. I don’t think you should do it the way he did.

“Look, he had a great run, he rallied his team in his last game, he went out a perfect way. There is no reason to come back.”

Avello said that Brady’s big name will create significant attention, but that the GOAT could have trouble winning it all next season. Now that DraftKings is stuck with a sizable anti-Brady, anti-Bucs position, he feels the book can dodge the Tampa Bay bullet.

“That team is so talented, they could win some games with me as the quarterback,” Avello said. “They are talented in all positions. But I don’t know if he’s the right guy for that team going forward.You have to be mobile now, he’s not a guy that is going to run the ball.”

Ironically, Brady nearly did DraftKings a monstrous favor in the Bucs’ final game. While Tampa Bay trailed 27-13 with just over four minutes to go _ and having turned the ball over, DraftKings took a bet for nearly $650,000 on the Rams moneyline. The bettor was leveraging a huge bankroll to try winning $40,000.

Brady led two late touchdown drives and the Bucs nearly pulled out a miracle. They didn’t, but Brady nearly brought more than half a million dollars into the DK coffers.

Brady’s return from retirement leaves Westgate head unhappy

One Las Vegas brick-and-mortar sportsbook operator offered a harsher assessment of the Brady bet timing.

Westgate Super Book vice president Jay Kornegay believes some sizable bets placed on Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl before Brady announced his return were made with inside information, according to Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 

Kornegay explained that one “sharp bettor” placed wagers on the Buccaneers to win the NFC at +3000 (30-1) and at +6000 (60-1) to win Super Bowl LVII on Thursday, when they had no proven franchise quarterback on their roster. Later, that person bet on the Buccaneers at +2500 (25-1) to win the Super Bowl.

A number of patrons apparently made multiple wagers at attractive betting odds.

Kornegay has called for an investigation into those wagers, which puts Westgate into six-figure liability.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind that they knew he was coming back when they placed those wagers on Thursday,” Kornegay said of the situation.  “And these were not casual bettors. They would be categorized as educated bettors.

“It wasn’t a guy with a Tom Brady jersey at the counter. It was a player that we would describe as sharp. With that type of play and the announcement we heard [Sunday] that he was un-retiring, there was information that was shared prior to his official announcement.

“There is no doubt in my mind that information leaked sometime in the middle of last week,” he added.  “This is concerning. I don’t think I’ve ever said the NFL really needs to investigate something. But this is something they need to look into and how it got out, because there are many books that took some sizable wagers in the middle of last week.”

It is doubtful the NFL would even care, or cooperate. The books won’t get public sympathy, but they likely have a point about inside information because big-money gamblers would not otherwise take such strong financial positions on a longshot, with multiple bets.

The books did not have to take the action, of course, but that posed the risk of letting big-money players wager with competitors. That’s bad too.

Before the MLB season, for example, multiple books took significant money on Shohei Ohtani to win the American League MVP, driving his odds from more than +6000 to about +1500. Wise-guy money was on that too, but Ohtani was not Brady and he couldn’t rapidly shift the odds with one announcement.

The books all took it in stride when Ohtani delivered at big odds with the MVP award several months later.

But this one felt different to them.

It’s rare that the bettors can surprise the books, but it did happen here. This will cause some policy adjustment going forward, perhaps limits on high-priced props.

With Brady, it’s never dull.

Photo by Steve Jacobson / Shutterstock
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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 others. He writes about all major sports in the booming legal New Jersey sports betting industry. Dave also hosts the Why Eagles Why podcast. Dave is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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