A Sunday that featured a mix of favorites and underdogs winning -- and covering the spread -- came down to what some bookmakers called a "classic sharps versus squares game."
Patrick Mahomes had just rallied the Chiefs to another comeback win over the Cleveland Browns, and Lamar Jackson and the Ravens were getting ready to take on the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. Shortly after Jackson and the Ravens blew a big lead in a disappointing loss to the Raiders, the line on the Kansas City-Baltimore game would begin to grow across the betting market.
It reached Chiefs -4 by Tuesday, before settling back at -3.5. Money poured in on the Chiefs all week.
An hour before kickoff, sportsbooks began to report on the lopsided action that had been placed on the game: 89% of the money on the point spread was on the Chiefs at PointsBet, and 94% of dollars bet on the money line were on the Chiefs at BetRivers sportsbooks.
Multiple sportsbooks were able to attract money on the Ravens from larger bettors by moving the line to +4, so they somewhat could control the size of their decision. Parlays, though, were another story.
"We've got a decent amount of parlay and teaser liability tied to the Chiefs, along with the straight bets," Chris Bennett, sportsbook director for Circa Sports in Las Vegas, told ESPN. "So we need the Ravens for quite a bit. We did get several sharp bets on the Ravens, which will make the losing less painful [if the Chiefs cover]."
On Thursday, there were 35 times more bets on the Chiefs than the Ravens at the SuperBook in Las Vegas. The margin tightened to 28 times more bets on the Chiefs on Friday and was down to 3-1 at kickoff. But the SuperBook still needed the Ravens to cover the spread to avoid a rare losing Sunday.
"Sunday wasn't our best day. [It's] shaping up to be a break-even or small winning day if we get the Ravens or a fairly big loser if we don't," John Murray, executive director at the SuperBook in Las Vegas, told ESPN ahead of the Sunday night contest that would come down to the wire.
The Ravens capitalized on a late Chiefs fumble to secure a 36-35 win, saving sportsbooks from a losing day at the squares' expense.
NFL notable bets
In its biggest decisions of the early slate, BetRivers needed the Dolphins and Bengals. The Dolphins did not cover the spread as 3-point underdogs in a 35-0 loss to the Bills, and the Bengals lost to the Bears 20-17, failing to cover a spread that dropped from -3 to -1.5 late in the week when the majority of bets were placed.
Somewhat oddly, at BetRivers' Illinois sportsbook, 66% of the money bet on the game at Soldier Field was on the visiting Bengals.
PointsBet and the SuperBook also pointed to the Bills' rout of the Dolphins as their biggest losses in the early kickoffs. The largest bet the SuperBook took Sunday was $66,000 on the Bills -3.
The most popular bet of the day at multiple sportsbooks was the Buccaneers on the money line against the Falcons. The money line on the heavily favored Buccaneers closed around -800. Bettors were undeterred by the expensive price on Tampa Bay, including one customer with Caesars Sportsbook in Las Vegas who put up $40,000 on the Bucs to win $5,000. The Tampa Bay money line was included on more parlays than any other bet at Caesars Sportsbook. It was also the most popular bet at BetRivers.
The Buccaneers led by only three entering the fourth quarter but scored the game's final 20 points to cruise to a 48-25 win.
Trailing the Seahawks 24-9 on the road in the third quarter, the Titans were as long as 9-1 to come back and win at Caesars Sportsbook. They rallied late and won in overtime 33-30.
The games that attracted the most money bet at PointsBet on Sunday:
The best game of the early kickoffs for DraftKings was the 49ers covering the spread in a 17-11 win over the Eagles. DraftKings opened San Francisco as a 4-point favorite, but the line got bet down to -2.5 by kickoff.
"We had all kinds of Eagles money-line money," DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello said.
The worst game for DraftKings was the Raiders' upset of the Steelers. Nearly 60% of the money bet on the money line in the Las Vegas-Pittsburgh game was on the Raiders at around +235 odds.
Overall, Avello said the betting action the first two weeks of the NFL season at DraftKings has been bigger than ever. "Another monumental handle day," he added.
The underdog Raiders' outright win helped their hometown sportsbooks, though, knocking out a bunch of money line and parlays that included the Steelers at the SuperBook.
"If the Raiders keep winning, our days of needing them in just about any game will end," Murray said. "They have a great chance to start 3-0 with a win next week, and the public in Nevada will get behind them in a hurry."
A bettor with DraftKings hit a $200,000 two-team money-line parlay on the Patriots (-255) and the Broncos (-280) that won a net $178,000, according to Avello. The Patriots handled the Jets 25-6, and the Broncos improved to 2-0 by knocking off the Jaguars 23-13.
The largest reported bet of the day was from the sportsbook at The Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey: $440,000 on the Colts +3 in the first half against the Rams. The Rams led 10-6 at halftime.
Caesars Sportsbook in Nevada reported taking eight bets of $250,000 or larger this week in Nevada, including a $330,000 bet on under 24 (-120) on the first half of the Rams-Colts game that won comfortably.
Other big bets at Caesars included:
$300,000 on Bengals +3 (-120) -- push
$300,000 on Panthers +140 money line -- win
$300,000 on Bills -3 -- win
$300,000 on Browns -12.5 -- loss
$295,000 on Saints -3.5 -- loss
$250,000 on Cowboys +3.5 -- win
$250,000 on under 55.5 for Cowboys-Chargers -- win
Favorites went 6-8 against the spread on Sunday. There were eight unders and six overs.
Keep an eye on the weather for Monday's game in Green Bay between the double-digit underdog Lions and the Packers. Forecasts were calling for a stiff wind in the 13-15 mph range. Entering Monday, the Packers were consensus 11.5-point favorites, with the total at 48.5.
Odds & Ends
College football: Notable opening lines via Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports:
Notre Dame at Wisconsin -6.5, 47.6
Southern Miss at Alabama -46, 61.5
Georgia -31, 55.5 at Vanderbilt
West Virginia at Oklahoma -17, 61.5
Tennessee at Florida -22, 67.5
Clemson -12, 48.5 at North Carolina State
Rutgers at Michigan -19, 49.5
MLB: The San Francisco Giants have exceeded all expectations this season. Entering Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves, the Giants had 97 wins, 23.5 more than their opening season-win total at Caesars of 74.5. That's tied with the 2012 Baltimore Orioles for the most wins over a preseason win total since the 1994-95 strike season, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. The 2001 Seattle Mariners eclipsed their season-win total by 34.5 games by winning 116 games.
Money: New Jersey sportsbooks won a net $52.0 million off of $664.7 million bet in August. On the year, $6.13 billion has been bet with New Jersey sportsbooks, making the Garden State by far the largest regulated sports betting market in the United States. In comparison, Nevada sportsbooks have handled just $3.73 billion through July.
Golf: The United States is a -187 favorite over Europe to lift the Ryder Cup, which tees off Friday at Wisconsin's Whistling Straits.