Then the final 15 minutes happened. Chicago rallied with 17 fourth-quarter points to tie the game at 27-27, forcing Aaron Rodgers to perform his infamous last-second heroics, hitting Jordy Nelson with a 60-yard bomb to set up a game-winning field goal as time expired.
That’s all well and good for Rodgers and the Packers, but what about all those football bettors who had their wagers ruined by an inferior fourth quarter effort?
Take solace Green Bay bettors, you weren’t the only ones stunned by a flaccid final frame in Week 15. The Packers’ blown cover was one of six bets that burst in the closing 15 minutes last week. San Diego, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Kansas City and Los Angeles were also in line for ATS windfall heading into the fourth quarter of their respective Week 15 contests, only to shit the bed like a Cinco de Mayo sleepover.
With Christmas coming down the tracks like Mike Tolbert on first and goal, we’re making a list and checking it twice. We’re going to find out who’s been naughty and nice – to NFL bettors.
There’s nothing more naughty than pissing away a potential payday in the fourth quarter. And, on the opposite side of that, isn’t it nice when a team comes from behind to cover the spread in the closing frame? Here’s who’s on our list:
Los Angeles Rams – The Rams have blown four would-be ATS wins in the fourth quarter in their first season in Los Angeles. That’s not a great way to win over new fans. Their most recent money-burning fourth was last Thursday when L.A. finished three stanzas of football down 17-3 to Seattle as 15.5-point underdogs. The Rams couldn’t muster anything else on the scoreboard and lost the game 24-3, to the disappointment of all those grabbing points on the biggest spread of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs may be marching toward a playoff spot, but as far as football bettors are concerned, Kansas City is one of the worst bets in the league. The Chiefs botched a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s home tilt with Tennessee, losing 19-17 as 6-point home favorites. That was the third time this season KC has fallen apart for betting faithful in the fourth. It did the same in Week 9 versus Jacksonville and Week 7 against New Orleans.
Tennessee Titans – Despite that late-game effort above, the Titans are on the naughty list not just for the 2016 season – in which they’ve blown three ATS wins in the fourth quarter – but for a long and painful history of tanking in the closing 900 seconds. Tennessee has blown 15 fourth-quarter covers since 2011, which is the most of any NFL team. They infuriated bettors in Week 1, Week 6, and Week 12 this year.
Other naughty teams: Carolina (3 times), Chicago (3), San Diego (3), Buffalo 2 times, 15 times since 2011).
Oakland Raiders – Given the reputation of their painted-face faithful and the number of fist fights involving Raiders fans hitting YouTube every Monday morning, the Silver and Black are as comfortable on the nice list as Tony Romo is taking second-team snaps in practice. The truth is, no team has been nicer to their backers this season with four ATS wins when trailing the pointspread heading into the fourth quarter – none more recent than Week 15’s 19-16 win over San Diego as 2.5-point road faves. Oakland entered the fourth quarter down 16-13.
Denver Broncos – As nice goes, the Broncos are basically the NFL’s version of Fred Rogers – AKA Mr. Rogers. And not just for their work in 2016, in which they’ve ripped victory from the jaws of defeat three times for their loyal bettors. No, no. Denver has a legacy when it comes to fourth-quarter cash, with 15 ATS wins after failing to cover through three quarters since 2011.
Detroit Lions – If Denver is Mr. Rogers, than the Detroit Lions are Mother “Frickin” Teresa. We’ve all heard the crazy fourth-quarter stats coming out of this year’s Detroit squad (eight fourth-quarter comebacks), which has helped produce three ATS wins when all hope was lost heading into the final frame. However, the Lions have done that 16 times in the past six seasons, outscoring those opponents 144-44 in fourth quarter of those games.
Other nice teams: N.Y. Giants (3), New Orleans (3)
Home for the holidays
Like a sober uncle, the NFL makes a rare appearance on Christmas. There are nine games on Xmas Eve and a pair of contests on December 25, which will be the first time since 2011 that the NFL will share Christmas Day with, you know… Jesus.
Going back to 1989, when the Nintendo Game Boy was the hottest selling Christmas toy, there have been 15 NFL games on the holiday. And in that span, home teams – which you would expect to have the advantage during these dates – as they don’t have to be pulled out on the road away from family, friends and other commitments – are just 6-8-1 ATS (7-8 SU).
As for the total, however, games on Xmas Day have produced a nice gift for Over backers, going 10-5 Over/Under with an average of 43.2 points scored versus an average closing total of 43.9.
NFL games on Christmas Eve have leaned decisively toward the road team in the past 10 years, with visitors posted a 17-10 ATS mark (13-14 SU) – a 63 percent winner – since 2006. Those road teams playing on December 24 in that span, lost by an average score of 21.8-20.3 versus an average closing pointspread of +3.3.
Going back further, NFL road teams still have the advantage on Christmas Eve, with a 46-40 ATS count (53 percent) a far back as 1989. Those games have posted a 48-37-1 Over/Under record, topping the total at a 56 percent clip.
Cincinnati. The Bengals take on the Texans in the Christmas Eve matchup and, according to CG Technology in Las Vegas, a steady stream of respected action has forced books to trim that spread from Houston -2.5 to -1.5.
“Nothing really huge, but more an accumulation of smaller bets,” says Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology. “Right now, that’s our second-biggest liability. I’m guessing it all stems from the quarterback situation in Houston.”
Arizona at Seattle. The Seahawks opened as 9-point home favorites hosting the rival Cardinals and to books surprise, action has shown up on the road dog for this Saturday NFC West matchup. The line has dropped to Seattle -8 at CG Technology books.
“Kind of the same action as the Houston game but much more surprising that they’re betting Arizona in this game,” says Simbal.
New York at New England. The Patriots have found themselves in this section most weeks, and Week 16 is no exception. One-sided money on New England has bumped this spread from -15.5 to -16.5 and will likely continue through to the weekend, with plenty of parlays tied to the Pats.
“Obviously, we’re going to need the Jets here and I think if the Patriots cover there’s not going to be much of a chance to make up that money since there are just three late afternoon games and one of them (49ers at Rams) no one is going to bet.”
Baltimore at Pittsburgh. This AFC North rivalry kicks off Christmas Day, with the Steelers opening at -4 and jumping to -5. The Steelers have been a thorn in the side of bookies in recent weeks, and could be again in Week 16.
“Baltimore is going to be a big one for us,” says Simbal. “The Steelers have been a super popular selection and our biggest decision the past two weeks, and they covered both times. I think that will continue. We’re going to need the Ravens to make sure we’re not in a horrible spot Sunday night.”
Injury to watch
William Gholston, DE Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The short week isn’t doing the Bucs any favors, with defensive lineman Will Gholston sidelined after dislocating his elbow in last Sunday’s loss to Dallas. Tampa Bay’s defensive line has been tremendous since getting all their bodies back, but taking Gholston out of the equation is a huge loss – especially going up against the Saints’ high-powered attack. The versatile Michigan State product has 3.5 sacks and leads the line in tackles (49) and tackles for a loss (9).
We know how to pick’em
As we do in this section each week, we size up the game with the pick’em spread (or the tightest line) and turn off the side of our brain that handicaps sports, instead leaving the decision making to other more primal instincts. Like which team you think has the better cheerleaders: Cincinnati or Houston? Holiday edition!
Sunday happens to be Christmas Day, which means my mother in-law will start cooking dinner at 8:30 a.m. My in-laws are from Newfoundland, Canada which means along with all the traditional Xmas dinner “accoutrements”, there will also be a steaming slab of salt beef.
I know turkey is the quarterback of Xmas dinner but I’ll be damned if that salty pile of chewy red flesh isn’t a game-changing corner with pick-six potential. Game changer. Yum.
Easy (money) like Sunday morning
Why haven’t I just been betting on the Patriots each week? If I was ever visited by the “Ghost of football bets Past”, I hope this is the revelation I come to when I wake up Christmas morning. I went with Brady and the boys as road faves in Denver, and picked up a much-needed win that bumped me to 3-8 on the year.
I’m jumping back on New England in Week 16, gladly giving 16.5 points to the New York Jets – which as it stands it the biggest spread this season. And it’s not so much the Pats’ dominating play that’s convinced me. It’s that the Jets don’t care.
You saw it last week, when New York defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson shared his thoughts across social media about the Jets Saturday night tilt with the Dolphins. This team has quit. And when you toss in a road game in New England on Christmas Eve with the forecast calling for rain and wind, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets start a new Facebook group called “F#ck this game”.
Pick: New England -16.5
Song For Sunday
Calling back to our earlier topic of teams pulling out ATS winners in the fourth quarter, I’m sure it will happen again at some point between Thursday’s game and the Monday nighter. And when it does, cue this tune, dance around the Christmas tree, and count your blessings – and money.
Follow Covers’ Senior Managing Editor Jason Logan on Twitter @CoversJLo. Check out JLo’s Covers archive for his latest features and columns.