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Sportsbooks win Week 1

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After the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks trounced the Green Bay Packers 36-16 last Thursday to open the 2014 NFL season, there was no way of predicting what would happen next. Public money came in on the Packers, pushing the Seahawks from 5-point favorites to -4.5 at close, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook got an early win.

But Sunday’s Week 1 action made the SuperBook and other sportsbooks even bigger winners, with underdogs going 7-6 straight-up and 10-3 against the spread. Wins by the Miami Dolphins (33-20 vs. the New England Patriots), the Atlanta Falcons (37-34 in overtime vs. the New Orleans Saints) and Buffalo Bills (23-20 in OT at the Chicago Bears) as dogs set the tone for a great day, according to Jay Kornegay, the SuperBook’s Vice President of Race & Sports Operations.

“The upsets – not just the covers but the outright wins by some of the underdogs – certainly treated us well,” Kornegay said. “Our bigger decisions of the day were a lot of these short favorites that so many public bettors like to support. The Saints they love, the Patriots. The 49ers got there for them, but by that time the damage had been done.

“It’s always those short favorites that we see, teams that attract a lot of public play. In the morning games, the two biggest short public teams, road favorites, lost and those were two really big decisions for us. It seems like the old days. Home dogs kind of came through for us.”

One home favorite that helped sportsbooks a lot by losing on Sunday was the Bears, who opened at -6.5 and closed at -7. Chicago tends to be a very public team and busted many parlay and teaser cards.

“As far as underdogs winning and covering, I’d have to say the Bears and the defense,” Kornegay said. “The Bills never winning in Chicago and going in there and finally winning with all their struggles at quarterback. Their linebackers are just awful.

“I’d have to say that’s one of the bigger surprises and one of our better decisions. I think that was the last straw that kind of broke the camel’s back for a lot of the bettors out there. It was the teaser killer.”

While the public won some money back on San Francisco’s 28-17 road win against the Dallas Cowboys as 3.5-point favorites, many sportsbooks were able to come right back in the Sunday Night Football game when the Indianapolis Colts (+8.5) rallied back to cover the spread in a 31-24 road loss to the Denver Broncos. However, Kornegay said the SuperBook did not really need the Colts in that one.

“The Bronco game, a lot people thought we did really well,” Konegay sad. “But we actually had a few bigger bets on the Colts. We didn’t mind accepting those thinking that we could have a liability going to the Broncos no matter what happened. Well, we didn’t think that many underdogs were going to cover, which basically eliminated so many parlays. By the time we got to the late game, it was pretty well balanced.”

The biggest line move of Week 1 took place in an NFC South matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, who sat starting quarterback Cam Newton due to a rib injury. The Bucs opened as 2.5-point home underdogs and closed -4.5 at the SuperBook, with the line jumping from -3 when news broke that Carolina head coach Ron Rivera would likely make Newton inactive.

Johnny Avello, The Wynn’s Executive Director of Race & Sports Operations, had said late last week that the Panthers were still a good team regardless of Newton’s status, so he was not surprised by the result.

“I don’t know if they’re good or Tampa’s just not quite there yet,” Avello said. “Tampa’s probably got a long way to go. MCown’s not going to come in and be the answer and turn that team around in one year. They’ll be alright. They did fight back in the game.”

Like Kornegay, Avello said he was surprised by a few other teams that did disappoint bettors as favorites.

“The Bears losing at home was a surprise, the Patriots losing was a surprise, but I did expect big things from Miami this year,” Avello said. “The other game is probably Kansas City, the way they got beat at home because that’s usually a strong home field.”

The Chiefs looked like the same team that blew a 38-10 lead in a 45-44 loss to the Colts in the playoffs back in January, falling at home to the Tennessee Titans 26-10 as 3-point favorites. They seemed to pick up where they left off last season, just like the Bears, who some thought had fixed their defense.

“It was amazing though how we have these games up for four-and-a- half-months, all the analysis and the data and simulations and everything,” Kornegay said. “And there we are sitting at the end of day one, and a lot of us are scratching our heads. Wow, that’s not what I thought was going to happen in a lot of those games. Not all of them, but a lot of them.” Ironically, Kornegay said one of Sunday’s bigger stunners actually came courtesy of a double-digit favorite that trailed big early and not only came back to win but still managed to cover as well.

“The biggest surprise was probably the Eagles covered despite being down 17-0,” said Kornegay about Philadelphia, the biggest favorite in Week 1 at -10 who scored 34 points unanswered in a 34-17 victory.

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