The Broncos had a quarterback situation. To be more specific, they didn’t have any quarterbacks.
The Saints were around 6-point favorites when news began to trickle out that all the quarterbacks on Denver’s active roster were headed into quarantine and potentially out for Sunday’s game.
Chris Bennett, sportsbook manager at Las Vegas-based Circa Sports, had noticed other bookmakers taking the game off the board on his odds screen. Bennett pulled the game down at Circa at 4:40 p.m.
“We’re conditioned now,” Bennett said. “You see that happen, and you just assume there’s some COVID news out there.”
The guessing game between bookmakers and bettors began. What should the new point spread be? How much was the entire Denver quarterback rotation worth to the line?
Inside Circa’s trading room, the oddsmaking staff started tossing out potential new lines if the Broncos didn’t have a real quarterback available. The suggestions ranged from Saints -10.5 to -17.5.
At 6:12 p.m., ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that all the quarterbacks on the Broncos’ roster were ineligible to play against the Saints after being deemed high-risk. Third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
At 6:22 p.m., Circa put up the first new line on a game that now featured a team without a legitimate quarterback. Circa hung Saints -13.
“The number we hung originally was the average of seven or eight of us throwing numbers out there,” Bennett said. “I knew the spread was in double digits, but I wasn’t really sure what side of 14 it should be on.”
For about an hour, Circa’s line was the only one on the game in town, and it triggered a flurry of bets — every single one of them on New Orleans.
These weren’t max bets, but there were dozens of them. In the first 30 minutes after Circa reposted the line, more money was bet on the Saints-Broncos game than had been bet on Browns-Jaguars all week. (Granted Browns-Jaguars wasn’t exactly attracting massive betting interest in Las Vegas, but still.)
By 7:30 p.m., the line had grown to Saints -14.5, and the betting flurry subsided as more sportsbooks put the line back on the board.
New Orleans kicked off as a consensus 17-point favorite, the second-biggest spread of the season. The Saints won 31-3.
Bennett said the oddsmaker who made the Saints -17.5 had subsequently been promoted.
Here is this week’s edition of Notable Bets, our weekly look at the storylines coming out of the sports betting world:
• Leading up to the early kickoffs on Sunday, four teams had attracted greater than 80% of the money bet on the point spread of their games at William Hill U.S. sportsbooks around the nation: the Giants, Raiders, Dolphins and Cardinals. Only the Dolphins covered the spread on another rough day for the betting public.
• The Giants were one of the most heavily bet teams of the entire season at Cincinnati on Sunday. At William Hill books, 98% of the point-spread money was on the Giants in a game that attracted more money than any other early kickoff. The Giants won but failed to cover the 6.5-point spread in a 19-17 victory. Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen, stepping in for injured starter Joe Burrow, capped a seven-play, 72-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Tee Higgins with 2:33 left.
“The Giants game was a monster decision for us,” Tom Gable, sportsbook director at The Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J., told ESPN. “We had a lot of Giants money coming in all week, even as the point spread kept creeping up. The backdoor cover by the Bengals was huge.”
• BetMGM reported taking multiple six-figure bets on the Raiders, who were heavily backed and closed as 3.5-point favorites over the Falcons. Atlanta won 43-6.
• Jeff Stoneback, director of BetMGM sportsbooks in Nevada, said the only two early games his shops suffered losses on were the Bills covering the spread in a 27-17 win over the Chargers and the underdog Titans’ 45-26 win over the Colts.
“Real good morning,” Stoneback said as the late-afternoon games were finishing. “We’re probably going to give it all back [this afternoon].”
Stoneback didn’t give it all back though, thanks to the Buccaneers rallying for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to cover the 3.5-point spread in a 27-24 loss to the Chiefs.
• The Sunday games that attracted the most money at sportsbook PointsBet: Bears at Packers, Chiefs at Buccaneers, 49ers at Rams.
• “Morning was very good,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN. Murray pointed to the underdog Patriots’ 20-17 win over the Cardinals, in addition to the hometown Raiders losing at Atlanta, as the catalysts for the book’s successful early slate. “The afternoon wasn’t as good. We got beat up on the Saints, but we came out a nice winner overall for the day.”
• The total on the Saints-Broncos game dropped from around 43 to 36 after the quarterback news broke. PointsBet reported a surge of bets and money on the over at the new total. The Saints’ 31-3 win stayed under the total.
• Before kickoff of the prime-time game on Sunday, PointsBet reported that the point-spread bets were evenly distributed between Chicago and favored Green Bay, but the Bears had attracted four times as much money. “Our bigger players are on the Bears,” Patrick Eichner, PointsBet communications director, told ESPN.
A bettor at a BetMGM sportsbook in Nevada placed a $100,000 money-line bet on the underdog Bears at +320.
The Packers won 41-25.
• The Thanksgiving slate, which was reduced to two games between teams with losing records, attracted significant betting handle. DraftKings said more than three times as much money was bet on the Houston-Detroit and Washington-Dallas games this year compared to the three Thanksgiving games last year. Some of that increase can be attributed to DraftKings operating in a few more states than last year.
PointsBet compared the betting handle on Houston-Detroit and Washington-Dallas to how much is bet on a standalone Monday night game.
The handle would’ve been much greater if Baltimore-Pittsburgh hadn’t been rescheduled. William Hill said the prime-time games on Thanksgiving were the most heavily bet games of the regular season the previous two years.
• The Steelers were consensus 10-point favorites over the Ravens as of Sunday night. That game is scheduled to be played on Tuesday. The forecast in Pittsburgh calls for snow and winds in the 14 mph range. The total was sitting at 41.
• Alabama opened as a 25-point road favorite over LSU at Circa Sports, the first U.S. sportsbook to post weekly college football lines. In the past 40 seasons, no defending national champion has been as big an underdog as the Tigers this week against the Crimson Tide, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Auburn, in 2011, was the only other defending national champ to be a 20-point-plus underdog in a game.
Within an hour of posting Alabama -25, the line had been bet up to -28.
• Other notable opening lines via Circa Sports:
Clemson (-21, 63.5) at Virginia Tech
Ohio State (-24, 62.5) at Michigan State
Florida (-18, 62.5) at Tennessee
Syracuse at Notre Dame (-32, 52.5)
Texas A&M (-4, 56.5) at Auburn
• Updated odds to win the national championship via the SuperBook (as of Nov. 29):
Ohio State 7-2
Notre Dame 14-1
Texas A&M 40-1
Coastal Carolina 1,000-1
Odds and ends
• College basketball: San Francisco upset No. 4 Virginia, as a 15-point underdog, on Friday. At William Hill sportsbooks, 97% of the point-spread money was on the Cavaliers.
• Tyson-Jones: The betting handle on the bout between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. eclipsed seven figures at DraftKings, according to sportsbook director Johnny Avello.
DraftKings reported taking a $10,000 bet on Jake Paul to defeat Nate Robinson (Paul won), and a $2,500 bet on Tyson (fight was ruled a draw).
• The Match III: Avello compared the betting handle on the golf match featuring Charles Barkley and Phil Mickelson versus Peyton Manning and Stephen Curry to how much is bet on a NASCAR race. “It was no Masters, but it was decent,” Avello said.
Barkley and Mickelson, who were the underdogs, won.
Three questions with …
… Harris Poll CEO Will Johnson.
The Harris Poll recently surveyed 2,022 U.S. adults about the growing American regulated sports betting market. CEO Will Johnson participated in an email Q&A with ESPN about the results.
Q: What stood out or really surprised you from the poll results?
A: “How quickly COVID-19 is propelling sports betting into the mainstream. A third of all sports gamblers only began betting on pro sports since the pandemic hit last March. And half say they’re watching sports they didn’t watch before the coronavirus shut things down, though football is still their favorite.”
Q: The buzz word coming out of leagues and sports betting operators is “engagement.” Do the poll results reflect an increase in “engagement” from bettors?
A: “They’re smart to be buzzing about engagement. Two-thirds of all bettors say they watch more games or events since they started wagering on them, and three-quarters say they enjoy watching sports more when they’ve got money on the line. They also bet a lot. A third say they wager on sports at least once a day.”
Q: As sports betting expands across the nation, many people felt bookmakers would be inundated with action on the home teams week after week. What did the poll results reveal about America’s love of the home team?
A: “Winning a bet easily tops a win by your home team. Seventy percent of sports gamblers say they’d bet against a favorite team for a chance to win a bet. One other thing about bettors: Most of them think sports gambling is less risky because they’re skilled enough to beat the odds. For many, this is all about the money.”
NFL mandatory minicamps 2021 — Derek Carr’s stance, Julio Jones’ debut, Tua Tagovailoa’s rough day and more
From quarterback Derek Carr making a bold statement about his commitment to the Las Vegas Raiders to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throwing five interceptions in a heavy rainstorm to wide receiver Julio Jones taking the field in the Tennessee Titans‘ No. 2 uniform, some of the big names in the NFL made waves on Tuesday during NFL mandatory minicamps.
Eighteen NFL teams opened their mandatory three-day minicamps this week. Ten held theirs last week, with four teams electing to cancel. Teams that opted out of mandatory minicamps this week are the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers. The Philadelphia Eagles were the first team to skip theirs when they did so a week ago.
While practices were underway for half the league, much of the talk of Tuesday’s camps included the players who haven’t stepped foot on the field because of ongoing contract negotiations. Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams were among the notable players absent from their respective team facilities.
Teams already have been going through organized team activities, but this marks the first time that many veterans will take the field since the end of the 2020 NFL season. That includes some players who joined new teams this offseason, including prized free agents and edge rushers Matt Judon (Patriots) and Yannick Ngakoue (Raiders).
Here are some snapshots, many from ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters who are on the scene at this week’s activities, from Tuesday’s minicamps:
Top news of the day
Carr says he has no desire to leave Raiders
Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr re-asserted his desire to remain with the team that drafted him in the second round in 2014. “I’d probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else,” Carr said.
Derek Carr explains why he has no interest in playing for a franchise other than the Raiders.
Howard not at Dolphins camp over ‘unique’ situation
Xavien Howard, who hasn’t shown up to any portion of the Dolphins’ voluntary offseason program this year, was not in attendance for minicamp meetings Tuesday, and he’s officially a holdout as he seeks a new contract. Coach Brian Flores noted the cornerback’s situation is “unique” in regard to his contract because Howard feels like he has outplayed the five-year, $75.25 million extension he signed in May 2019.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores discusses the team’s desire to keep Xavien Howard amid a contract dispute.
Packers’ Rodgers jokes about ‘quiet offseason’
Aaron Rodgers, who has dominated the NFL headlines this spring because of his dissatisfaction with Green Bay, showed his sense of humor during a promotional video in advance of the July 6 golf match featuring Rodgers and PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau against Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson.
Adam Schefter says Green Bay’s front office isn’t doing itself any favors when it comes to keeping Aaron Rodgers.
More NFL headlines:
Julio Jones footwork drill with WR coach Rob Moore. Nice grab at the end. pic.twitter.com/SnLSPThdT6
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) June 15, 2021
Cam Newton with a little hop in his step upon arrival. pic.twitter.com/y37cfPjGKr
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) June 15, 2021
Joe Burrow News Conference https://t.co/Ve1fqIbpv6
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) June 15, 2021
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) June 15, 2021
Day 1 of minicamp is in the books after this play by the first team in the red zone. Chad Beebe make a catch in the corner of the end zone; think Mackensie Alexander was supposed to be on him. pic.twitter.com/Q9HNDbyIjx
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) June 15, 2021
I got you!! 😂 https://t.co/jlh7Zwe7nb
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) June 15, 2021
we missed this pic.twitter.com/1q4J8FDpg4
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) June 15, 2021
Off & running at Day 1️⃣ of minicamp! pic.twitter.com/bcVONrlpsI
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) June 15, 2021
Day 1 of Dolphins mandatory minicamp. Tua Tagovailoa going through some warmup reps. pic.twitter.com/31nTB9DXY3
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) June 15, 2021
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) June 15, 2021
— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) June 15, 2021
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 15, 2021
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) June 15, 2021
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) June 15, 2021
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) June 15, 2021
Quotes of the day
“I played with Julio [Jones], Mohamed Sanu, since Day 1, those guys, I feel like I’ve been moving toward that way of I can do it by myself. Obviously I’m not by myself, we have other players who are really good, but I feel like I’ve been ready and I just needed an opportunity to get in those positions.”
Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley
“I was surprised. … You never like to see things like that.”
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on Le’Veon Bell’s comments about coach Andy Reid
“I wore 9 in college my senior and junior year. I’m one of 10 children, so I got 9 siblings – every time I go out there, I represent them. I like 9; that’s one of the reasons I rock it. And 99 was taken, so I chose to use the new rule.”
Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon on his jersey number
“You don’t feel like yourself, even when you pass the symptoms. There’s a certain level or feeling you have when you’re ready, and COVID made it a little harder to get to that good feeling.”
Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell has had no post-COVID issues the past couple of months
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) June 15, 2021
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) June 15, 2021
Here to 𝗛 𝗨 𝗦 𝗧 𝗟 𝗘. pic.twitter.com/2GuxKobTs3
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 15, 2021
Just the beginning 🔥 pic.twitter.com/FuwE7uoKBH
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers jokes about his ‘quiet offseason’ in interview for July 6 golf match
Through everything that has happened surrounding Aaron Rodgers this offseason, one thing is clear: He still understands sarcasm.
The reigning MVP, who has dominated the NFL headlines this spring because of his dissatisfaction with the Green Bay Packers, showed his sense of humor Tuesday during a promotional video in advance of the July 6 golf match featuring Rodgers and PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau against Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson.
TNT’s Brian Anderson, who hosted the video conference, set up Rodgers with this: “You’ve really kept a low profile this offseason, I’ve hardly seen your name at all and you haven’t hosted any TV shows or been involved in any kind of controversy or anything. It’s been a nice, peaceful offseason for you, it sounds like.”
Rodgers’ reply was both deadpan and dripping with irony.
“It’s been one of those quiet offseasons you dream about, where you can kind of just go through your process on your own, quietly,” Rodgers said. “And that’s all you can ask for as an older player in the league and someone who’s been around for a long time and just enjoys that time to yourself, just relax, to not be bothered, to not have any obligations or anything going on.
“I think that’s what this offseason has been about. It’s been about really enjoying my time and spending it where I want to spend it, not feeling like I have to go anywhere but still be an NFL player at the same time. It’s been great.”
Rodgers skipped his only actual obligation, the Packers’ mandatory minicamp last week, and is subject to fines of $93,085. He also missed the entire offseason program, thereby forfeiting his $500,000 workout bonus.
The Packers have publicly maintained their desire to have Rodgers back for “2021 and beyond,” as team president Mark Murphy put it earlier this offseason, but it’s unclear whether Rodgers will report for training camp next month or will hold out and try to force a trade. Since the news of Rodgers’ unhappiness with the Packers broke on the afternoon of this year’s draft, the Packers have insisted they will not trade him.
Earlier this month, Murphy wrote that the situation has divided the Packers’ fan base and added that the less said publicly about the situation, the better. However, Murphy didn’t heed his own advice last week when, during a speaking engagement, he referred to Rodgers as “a complicated fella,” saying he was echoing how former Packers general manager Ted Thompson once described him.
It’s unclear whether the T-shirt Rodgers wore for Tuesday’s videoconference, which read “I’m offended,” was in response to Murphy’s comment.
Carolina Panthers WR Robby Anderson says he sees new ‘glow’ in QB Sam Darnold
“When I walked in the building I could see a new energy out of him, like a glow, charisma that I didn’t really see in New York,” said Anderson, who played with Darnold in 2018-19. “I can definitely see the difference in him so far.”
Anderson was the only Carolina player not seen by media for any of the voluntary portions of on-the-field offseason workouts.
So Tuesday, the first of a three-day mandatory camp, was the first time Anderson had a chance to work with Darnold since the Jets’ 2019 finale against Buffalo when they connected three times for 18 yards.
“You know when a person can see like a glow, energy, their aura?” Anderson said. “I could kind of see that when I walked in the building.”
Anderson was Darnold’s favorite target with the Jets. He had 102 catches for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns during their time together.
Stopping short of making a prediction, Anderson expects better things for them in Joe Brady’s system at Carolina, where in 2020 Anderson had a career-best 95 catches for 1,096 yards and three touchdowns.
“The New York system was a little more complex, had a lot of nuances that was more difficult for everybody, not just him, not just me,” Anderson said. “This system is a little more graspable.”
New Carolina edge rusher Haason Reddick hasn’t played with Darnold before, but he likes what he has seen.
“Sam’s completing passes,” said Reddick, an offseason free-agent signing from Arizona. “It looks like he’s playing intelligent football.”
Coach Matt Rhule just wants Darnold, who struggled with consistency with the Jets, completing only 59.8% of his passes and going 13-25 as the starter, to continue playing “good” football in practice.
“I don’t want him to have great days right now … just steady progress to make good days roll into great days,” he said of the quarterback Carolina traded for before the draft.
Anderson, who should help Darnold’s growth because of their past chemistry, didn’t go into detail on why he stayed in South Florida throughout the voluntary portions of OTAs.
“I’m to the point of my career where I know how to get myself ready,” he said. “So it wasn’t nothing against the team or nothing like that. I feel I capitalized on this time. The work I was putting in with my trainer, I was on a good program.
“I didn’t want to step away from that.”
Rhule said it was great to have Anderson back even though Anderson wasn’t in all the team drills.
“Robby is a guy that brings energy to the practice field,” he said. “He’s in great shape. You can tell he’s been working hard. We had a goal of like three to four reps in a team drills. I’m not going to over-rep anybody.”
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