Betting bullets: Aaron Rodgers report causes stir at sportsbooks

NFL

For the second straight offseason, bookmakers find themselves tracking the potential relocation of a marquee, odds-impacting NFL quarterback. Last year, it was Tom Brady. This year, it’s Aaron Rodgers.

Just hours ahead of the start of NFL draft on Thursday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, did not want to return to the Green Bay Packers. The bombshell report caused sportsbooks to halt betting on the Packers’ odds to win the NFC North and their season win total and adjust the Super Bowl odds on his potential landing spot.

In this week’s Betting Bullets, ESPN’s David Purdum and Doug Kezirian dive into the impact the Rodgers’ news had on the betting market, how sportsbooks fared on the NFL draft and more.


NFL

• Here were the Packers’ odds on various markets prior to the Rodgers’ news at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill:

Super Bowl: 11-1 (the third favorite, behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers); NFC: 5-1; NFC North: -250; Season win total: 11 (-125 under); To make playoffs: Yes -750 / No +500

• William Hill and other sportsbooks took the Packers off the board in several of the markets Thursday. The Packers’ odds on the NFC North, season win total and to make the playoffs remained down as of Sunday afternoon at William Hill.

• Since Thursday, when the Rodgers’ news broke, more bets have been placed on the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl than have been bet on any other team at William Hill sportsbooks.

The Broncos’ odds to win the Super Bowl were 60-1 prior to the Rodgers’ news and got as short as 13-1 shortly before the draft began and eventually settled at 20-1 at William Hill.

• As the Rodgers’ news was breaking Thursday, John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said his shop took a bet on the San Francisco 49ers to win the NFC at 9-1 from a customer whose action is respected.

“We had people making some small bets on Denver [to win the Super Bowl] at 60-1,” Murray said. “We moved Denver down to 20-1 and 10-1 for the conference, and we raised up a few other teams and sort of waited from there.”

Draft notes

• Thomas Gable, sportsbook director at The Borgata, said betting handle on the draft surpassed how much is wagered on a typical regular-season NFL game, but just short of how much is bet on a playoff game.

“We were a small winner overall on the draft, which is about as good as you can hope to do on it,” Gable told ESPN. “The main positive is the draft handle continues to grow each year. In New Jersey, we have only been able to book the draft for three years now, and last year all the retail books were closed in the state due to COVID, so everything was online. But the amount of offerings has increased dramatically from what we offered in 2019.”

• The SuperBook in Las Vegas reported taking a small loss on the draft. Murray pointed to linebacker Micah Parsons out of Penn State, cornerback Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech and running back Najee Harris out of Alabama being selected earlier than he expected were among the props that bettors did well on.

• Sportsbook PointsBet said bettors had success during the first round, including on the odds to be the No. 3 pick.

“Many of the same bettors who took Mac Jones to go No. 3 earlier in the week got out of their position [Thursday] by backing Jones’s draft position over 3.5 as [Trey] Lance to the Niners started to firm in the market,” Jay Croucher, sportsbook director for PointsBet, said. “Bettors profited from the ‘Bears to draft a quarterback’ market after Chicago traded up to get Justin Fields, and the clients who viewed Kyle Pitts as a lock to go No. 4 were also rewarded.”

• Most draft picks impacted a prop bet result. However, the most notable ones were fun to monitor. Heiman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was a 33/1 longshot at Circa Sportsbook.

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond saw his Circa prop open at 170.5 and close at 77.5. That’s a huge move and the four-year starter still cashed the under. With the 66th pick, the Minnesota Vikings drafted Kirk Cousins’ backup.

The less notable players saw significant movements. USC wide receiver Amon-ra St. Brown opened 150.5 and closed 89.5, before being taken by the Detroit Lions with the 112th pick.

Offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz of Wisconsin-Whitewater opened 122.5 and closed 59.5. He was drafted 98th overall by the Denver Broncos. Division III did not play any games in 2020 but the 320-pounder still managed to shine in the Senior Bowl, also earning the nickname, “The Gut”. His outdoor workout videos featured curls with gallon water jugs, footwork drills in the forest and barbaric exercises carrying tree trunks. They fostered memories of Rocky IV training scenes and the World’s Strongest Man competitions.

• Sportsbooks often struggle with booking the NFL Draft because oddsmakers are typically not as knowledgeable as those betting it and each year is so unique and unknown. For example, a common prop bet was the total number of ACC players drafted in the first round. Every book posted 5.5 as the prop. However, some books included Notre Dame players, given the school joined the conference for the condensed 2020 season. Other books did not specify, likely forgetting that potential variable. The over ultimately cashed without needing any Fighting Irish players but it’s just one example of the draft confusion and occasional sloppiness.


Odds & ends

• The sportsbook at The Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey placed a $250,000 on the Detroit Tigers to beat the New York Yankees on Friday at +280 odds. The bet is among the largest reported this season. The Yankees won 10-0.

• Nevada sportsbooks won a net $39.3 million in March off $640.7 million wagered, according to revenue numbers released last week by the state’s gaming control board. Both the amount won and the amount wagers are all-time records for March.

Rising Suns: The Phoenix Suns have surged to a tie with the Utah Jazz for the NBA’s best record. They may end up with home-court advantage throughout the entire playoffs yet they are only the consensus seventh championship favorite. Bookmakers have shared that Phoenix has not drawn much interest from the betting public.

“I am unsure about all those teams in the range of 8-1 to 14-1. I don’t know who is better between the Jazz, Bucks, Sixers and Suns. No one really bets any of those teams,” Circa Sportsbook director Matt Metcalf told ESPN, sharing that the yes/no betting options draw the most interest. “The Nets, Clippers and Lakers two-way options represent about 90% of what we write on the futures.”

Many fans are unaware of divisions races but Phoenix began the season as 24-1 longshots to win the Pacific at Caesars William Hill. Their odds stood at 25-1 as recently as early February. But Chris Paul and the Suns have made a late push, while the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers each have had to deal with injuries to their superstars. Phoenix currently leads the Clippers by 3.5 games and is a -900 favorite at BetMGM. The Clips are +500.

Trouble in Tinseltown: It’s not often a -10,000 moneyline loses but there is actually a path for the Lakers to miss the playoffs. That was the opening price on the “yes” playoffs prop bet at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (“no” was 20-1). James missed 20 straight games and left last night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors in the fourth quarter. The team officially called it “ankle soreness”, and it’s presumably connected to the high right ankle sprain that cost him the longest injury stint of his 18-year career.

The Lakers have now lost six of seven games and are currently tied with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trailblazers for fifth, sixth and seventh seeds. The Lake Show may be relegated to a play-in scenario and need to win one or two games against the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. When asked last night about the new play-in format, James said, “Whoever came up with that s— needs to be fired.”

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