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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Notable bets: Aaron Rodgers owns the Bears, and Chicago bettors know it

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6:59 AM ET

  • purdum david m

    David PurdumESPN Staff Writer

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    • Joined ESPN in 2014
    • Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008

It’s becoming a Windy City tradition: When Aaron Rodgers comes to town, Chicago bettors know what to do — load up on the Packers.

On Sunday, with the Packers in Chicago to take on the Bears, sportsbooks in Illinois were inundated with bets on Green Bay. In fact, there was a higher percentage of bets on the Packers at some Illinois sportsbooks than there was in other states:

• At Caesars Sportsbook in Illinois, 87% of the money backed the Packers to cover the 5.5-point spread. But across all Caesars Sportsbooks in all states, there were actually more bets — and more money — on the Bears plus the points than on the Packers.

• At BetRivers’ sportsbook in Illinois, 95% of the money was on the Packers to win straight-up. In other states, the Packers attracted only 75% of the money at BetRivers sportsbooks.

“Bears fans appear to have accepted their Rodgers fate and are trying to make a few bucks along the way,” BetRivers sportsbook manager Zach Schlouch said. Backing Rodgers and the Pack against the Bears has been a winning strategy for years. With Sunday’s 24-14 win, Rodgers improved to 22-5 straight-up and 20-7 against the spread versus the Bears. He’s 11-3 outright and against the spread at Soldier Field.

As he noted to the Chicago faithful Sunday, Rodgers indeed owns the Bears.

NFL Notables

• Veteran Las Vegas bookmaker Johnny Avello, now with DraftKings, summarized the Sunday’s NFL results for his shop in two words: “Pretty terrible.”

NFL favorites went (9-3) straight-up and (8-4) against the spread Sunday, and, for the second straight week, the betting public beat the books.

Avello added that “there’s always next week,” but that’s assuming the sportsbooks can afford to keep the lights on after Sunday’s beating …

• The Chiefs covering a touchdown spread in a 31-13 win over the Football Team was the worst decision of the morning for multiple sportsbooks. Kansas City was on a 3-13 run against the spread, but the betting public was undeterred and sided heavily with the favored Chiefs.

Bettors also did well on the Rams, who smashed the Giants 38-11 as 8-point favorites, and the aforementioned Packers.

“We won only one game in the morning out of the whole card. That was the Ravens beating the Chargers, and it really wasn’t that big of a win for us,” Jeff Stoneback, director of BetMGM sportsbooks in Nevada, said Sunday night. “When the favorites go 7-1 [in the morning games], it’s tough.”

• With the early run of success for favorites, parlay liability mounted for sportsbooks in the afternoon, a lot of it riding on the Cowboys against the Patriots.

Dallas, which closed as a consensus 4-point favorite, trailed the Patriots twice in a wild final seven minutes of the fourth quarter. The Cowboys managed to force overtime and then covered the spread on a Dak Prescott touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb in a 35-29 win.

Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, called the Cowboys’ comeback “the killer blow” and said that Dallas covering instead of losing outright caused an eight-figure swing against the house. It caused a seven-figure swing against the house at sportsbook PointsBet, which pointed to a heavy percentage of money-line parlays that were connected to the Cowboys.

• Caesars reported taking eight $500,000 NFL bets on Sunday. Seven of them won, with only the Football Team failing to deliver.

“Great day for our customers,” Mucklow said in a text message.

• The Cowboys improved to 6-0 against the spread, the best ATS start to a season since the 2018 Chiefs started 7-0.

• A bettor with Caesars in Michigan last week placed $50,000 bet on the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl last week at 14-1 odds. The bet would pay a net $700,000.

• The “Joe’s,” as the betting public is often referred to, also bested the pros on Sunday, a common occurrence when sportsbooks lose. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas reported taking bets from customers they’ve learned to respect on: Bears +6, Football Team +7, Colts -10, Vikings pick ’em, Bengals -3, Giants +10.5 and Broncos -4.

• The Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey, also reported sharp action on the Giants throughout the week.

“The ticket count was very lopsided in favor of the Rams,” Tom Gable, sportsbook director for The Borgata, said in an email to ESPN on Sunday evening, “but over 85% of the money was on the Giants here. We took respected money throughout the week on the Giants, and it just kept driving that number down to 7.5, where it closed.”

• The betting interest in Las Vegas on the Raiders was skyrocketing early in the season, when the team got off to a 3-0 start. The Raiders’ opening win over the Ravens on Monday Night Football produced one of the biggest losses on a single regular-season game some Nevada sportsbooks had ever suffered. But betting support for the hometown team simmered last week with the Raiders having lost two in a row and coach Jon Gruden resigning. Las Vegas responded with a 34-24 win at Denver.

“We actually did very well on the Raiders beating the Broncos,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, said Sunday night. “But with Dallas winning and somehow covering we are in a hole and we have all those parlays carrying to the Dodgers and Steelers tonight and — most of all — the Bills on Monday Night Football. It could get very ugly if we don’t get any of these dogs to win.”

The Bills are consensus 6-point road favorites over the Titans on Monday.

College football notables

• Clemson opened as a 2-point underdog to Pittsburgh at Circa Sports. The line grew to Pitt -4 on Sunday afternoon. If the line holds, it will be the first time Clemson is an underdog in an ACC game since 2016.

• Oklahoma freshman QB Caleb Williams is 25-1 to win the Heisman Trophy at Caesars Sportsbook.

• “I just wanted to score. That’s a quality defense. You don’t know how things are going to play out the rest of the year. We had an opportunity to score, so we did.” — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops on his decision to call timeout with seven seconds left and the Wildcats trailing Georgia 30-7.

Kentucky, a 22-point underdog, scored on its next play and covered the spread in a 30-13 loss to the top-ranked Bulldogs.

• Projected line: Alabama vs. Georgia -1 via Circa Sports college football oddsmaker Matt Metcalf.

Opening lines

[via Circa Sports, the first sportsbook to post weekly college football lines]


Illinois at No. 7 Penn State -17, 49.5


Northwestern at No. 5 Michigan -19, 53.5


No. 2 Cincinnati -24, 41.5 at Navy


Wisconsin -5, 41.5 at No. 25 Purdue


Clemson at No. 23 Pittsburgh -2, 50.5


No. 10 Oregon -2, 65.5 at UCLA


No. 8 Oklahoma State at Iowa State -7, 45.5


LSU at No. 12 Ole Miss -12, 75.5


Tennessee at No. 4 Alabama -29, 67.5


No. 5 Ohio State -19, 60.5 at Indiana


USC at No. 13 Notre Dame -4, 53.5

What were the odds?

-20,000 — Liberty’s money-line odds against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. UL-Monroe, which closed as a consensus 33-point underdog and 40-1 on the money-line, won 31-28. It’s the largest upset in a game involving two FBS opponents since 2012 — and it paid nicely for one bettor, who backed UL-Monroe at Caesars and won $17,910.90.

37.5 — The consensus closing total on Army-Wisconsin, the lowest of the season. Wisconsin won 20-14.

-8 — The Dallas Mavericks were 8-point favorites over the Charlotte Hornets in preseason action Wednesday. The Mavs won 127-59. NBA preseason games attract about 20% of the handle of regular-season games, according to PointsBet, where 66% of the money bet on Mavs-Hornets game was on the underdog Hornets, who lost by 68 points.

+2200 — The Chicago Sky’s odds to win the WNBA title entering the preseason. The Sky finished off the Phoenix Mercury in Game 4 on Sunday to win the championship.

+225 — Kevin Durant’s odds to average more than 30.1 points per game — Michael Jordan’s career average — this season at WynnBet. In recognition of the NBA’s 75th season, the sportsbook released several props matching today’s stars with all-time greats.

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