Super Bowl 53 looms ahead in Atlanta with the New England Patriots taking on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Feb. 3.
If it’s not clear, though, this article is not about looking forward to the Big Game. This is about adjusting the rearview mirror and reflecting on the NFL season as a whole, during the first year of legalized sports betting outside of Nevada.
And it seems only appropriate to turn to one of the rising juggernauts in the wagering landscape, DraftKings Sportsbook, whose New Jersey sports betting product has become the envy of competitors, particularly in the NJ sports betting app industry.
Most popular games of the season (so far)
No doubt, the Super Bowl will attract the most wagers of the year, as it so often has in years past. History has a way of repeating itself, after all.
Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for PlayUSA.com, estimated that New Jersey could accept $100 million in legal bets while the nationwide total could near $325 million.
That obviously has yet to be seen. However, to date, the top 10 most bet-on NFL games at DraftKings Sportsbook did occur during the postseason.
|Jan. 13||Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans||NFC Divisional Round|
|Jan. 20||New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs||AFC Championship|
|Jan. 13||LA Chargers at New England Patriots||AFC Divisional Round|
|Jan. 12||Dallas Cowboys at LA Rams||NFC Divisional Round|
|Jan. 12||Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs||AFC Divisional Round|
|Jan. 6||Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears||NFC Wild Card|
|Jan. 20||LA Rams at New Orleans Saints||NFC Championship|
|Jan. 6||LA Chargers at Baltimore Ravens||AFC Wild Card|
|Jan. 5||Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys||NFC Wild Card|
|Jan. 5||Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans||AFC Wild Card|
Most and least popular teams
The correlation between successful seasons and most wagered-on teams truly astounds.
Though it stands to reason: Those great squads are perceived as locks each week.
Of the 10 most bet-on teams of the NFL season at DraftKings, eight reached the playoffs. (Dry your tears, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans.)
On the flip side, nine of the 10 least wagered-on teams finished with sub-.500 records. (Why does everyone hate the Tennessee Titans so much?)
Anyway, to reiterate: The correlation between popularity and success is incredible… and hopefully only a coincidence. Yeah, it’s a coincidence.
|Rank||Most Popular||Record||Least Popular||Record|
|1||New England Patriots||11-5 (9-7 ATS)||San Francisco 49ers||4-12 (5-11 ATS)|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||12-4 (9-6-1 ATS)||Arizona Cardinals||3-13 (7-8-1 ATS)|
|3||Los Angeles Chargers||12-4 (9-7 ATS)||Buffalo Bills||6-10 (7-9 ATS)|
|4||New Orleans Saints||13-3 (10-6 ATS)||Oakland Raiders||4-12 (6-10 ATS)|
|5||Philadelphia Eagles||9-7 (7-9 ATS)||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-11 (7-7-2 ATS)|
|6||Los Angeles Rams||13-3 (7-8-1 ATS)||Miami Dolphins||7-9 (8-8 ATS)|
|7||Green Bay Packers||6-9-1 (6-9-1 ATS)||Tennessee Titans||9-7 (8-8 ATS)|
|8||Indianapolis Colts||10-6 (8-7-1 ATS)||Detroit Lions||6-10 (9-7 ATS)|
|9||Chicago Bears||12-4 (11-5 ATS)||Washington Redskins||7-9 (9-7 ATS)|
|10||Pittsburgh Steelers||9-6-1 (8-7-1 ATS)||Cincinnati Bengals||6-10 (9-7 ATS)|
NFL Futures? Not as popular
First and foremost: Obviously futures bets come into play, big time, with the NFL.
In the grand scheme of sports, however, the pigskin barely came up.
Three of the top five most popular futures involved predicting the World Series winner (No. 1, Yankees; No. 4, Red Sox; No. 5, Dodgers). The third-most wagered-on futures market stands as Duke to win the NCAA men’s basketball national championship. In at No. 2, though, the Rams to lift the Lombardi Trophy. (Still alive and well, to boot.)
The final five in the ranking: Alabama to win the College Football Playoff National Championship (oh, well), the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series, the Toronto Raptors to be NBA champs, Notre Dame to win the Cotton Bowl, and the Milwaukee Bucks to reign supreme in the NBA.
The baddest beats of the NFL season
Even sure-things come back to bite you in the keister. (Although, one DraftKings Sportsbook customer turned a 10-cent four-leg parlay in $363 via player props on Oct. 28. For the not-so-math-whizzes: That parlay carried 3,630-1 odds. Good on ya.)
Yet those bad beats are what haunt bettors — and, as Jane Austen once said, “gives us pleasure in the remembrance of the past.”
Here are the baddest of the bad beats — and the sweet to our Caroline.
Week 3: New York Giants at Houston Texans
Houston entered this early-season matchup as a six-point favorite against the visiting G-Men. That’s not the number that comes into question, though.
The over/under at DraftKings closed at 43 points. For under bettors, that total seemed far-fetched.
Until the final eight minutes of the game, during which the two teams combined for three touchdowns, including a meaningless Houston score with ONE SECOND LEFT. Pre-touchdown score: 27-15 (total 42 points). Post-touchdown final: 27-22 (total 49 points).
Week 4: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Oh, good. The Texans are back. Fortunately, though, they are not the villains in this tale.
The Colts, as one-point favorites, needed a touchdown pass from QB Andrew Luck with 45 seconds left to force this game into overtime. Indianapolis then opened the scoring of the extra stanza with a field goal to go up 34-31.
All Indy backers needed was a stop. Indy failed. Houston kicked a game-tying field goal.
A push seemed likely, as, with the game tied and 24 seconds away from a tie, the Colts faced fourth down on their own side of the field. Punt the ball away, a tie is a near-lock.
Instead, Indy went for it. And came up short. One play later, the Texans booted a walk-off field goal to win 37-34.
Week 6: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
The combination of the high-scoring Buccaneers and a floundering Falcons team added up to a shoo-in for a Tampa Bay upset.
If only DeSean Jackson had surer hands.
A 3.5-point dog, Tampa scored a TD but failed to convert the ensuing 2-point conversion to trail 31-29 with less than four minutes to go. The Falcons extended their lead with a 57-yard field goal. Yet, somehow, despite trailing by 15 points at one time, the Bucs had a shot.
As time expired, QB Jameis Winston went off on a sprint. As he was wrapped up and brought down to the turf, he lateraled. The ball rolled around on the ground. A Tampa player picked it up. Then dropped it. A teammate picked it up and saw Jackson around the 5-yard line, the end zone in sight and a sure miracle about to be completed.
Week 8: Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Rams
Ah, yes. The Gurley Game.
At DraftKings, the Rams came in as 9.5-point favorites. Woof. A late touchdown run by LA RB Todd Gurley would not have made a difference there. (Although, at other NJ sportsbooks, the Rams closed at nine. Bummer.)
The consensus among all online sports betting platforms, though, was the over/under total of 56.5 points.
With just over a minute left, Gurley had an opportunity to send over backers celebrating.
Yet the running back, with nobody in front of him, held up. He went down, inside the 5-yard line, allowing LA to run out the rest of the clock and seal a 29-27 Rams win. That score potentially pushes LA’s lead to 36-27 for a total of 63 points.
Gurley doesn’t care. (Particularly about that point spread.)
Week 12: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Carolina closed as 3-point favorites at home. And the Panthers had the win in the bag.
Yet their 27-20 lead late in the fourth quarter could not hold up. Even with Seattle facing a fourth down.
It was then that QB Russell Wilson connected with WR David Moore for a 35-yard touchdown that allowed the Seahawks to even the score.
Carolina had a chance, but its 52-yard field goal try sailed wide. Seattle drove right downfield, and the ageless wonder Sebastian Janikowski booted a 31-yard field goal to give the Hawks a 30-27 win and lead Carolina backers to hurling their TVs out their eighth-story windows.