Aaron Rodgers put on a show last night in the snow, and bettors took note.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback carved up the Tennessee Titans Defense during a wintry edition of Sunday Night Football, throwing as many touchdowns (4) as incompletions while powering his squad to a 40-14 win at home. The Packers are now 12-3 and in position to secure the top seed in the NFC, but it's Rodgers specifically whose stock has soared in the hours since he left Lambeau Field.
Rodgers was listed at +600 at PointsBet Sportsbook to win NFL MVP honors earlier this month, viewed as the primary challenger to Kansas City star Patrick Mahomes but hardly a significant threat. Mahomes' odds topped out at -527, and entering Week 16 he was still a prohibitive favorite, listed at -500 with Rodgers sitting at +350.
But Rodgers' primetime performance combined with a shaky showing from Mahomes in a low-scoring nail biter over the Falcons has turned the MVP market on its head. When PointsBet released updated odds Monday morning, Rodgers was installed as a narrow -150 favorite. But action on the Green Bay slinger has only increased, with Rodgers now priced at -295 and Mahomes at +250 heading into the final week of the regular season.
"Once that flip happened, I think everybody was convinced and the consensus is forming around Rodgers now," PointsBet senior sports analyst Andrew Mannino told NBC Sports. "I thought there would be more folks hanging onto the dream of Patrick Mahomes that has seemed like all but a foregone conclusion all year. But once bettors saw Rodgers in the negative (price), and especially I think after the performance he put on last night, people are convinced he's the guy to do it."
Rodgers has two MVP awards under his belt, having won in 2011 and 2014, but at age 37 he's now leading the league this season in passer rating among starting quarterbacks and is putting up some of the best numbers of what's sure to be a Hall-of-Fame career. Adding this latest chapter in front of a national audience across the snowy landscape of Lambeau may have helped seal a third trophy.
"When you look at the numbers he's put up this year, career-best in touchdowns, tied for his career low in interceptions, a career-best completion percentage, I think people are getting on board," Mannino said. "Last night was really a statement game for Rodgers, and I think a lot of people took notice."
League's worst teams help produce big wins for the house
It was a good weekend for the house, thanks in no small part to the effort put forth by two of the league's worst teams.
The New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals entered the week with a combined record of 4-23-1, but both pulled off upsets that led to big losses for the public during a week when the book got the better of the NFL action. The Jets upended the shorthanded Cleveland Browns, 23-16, winning outright as 6.5-point underdogs in what was the biggest win of the weekend for the house. The Bengals were catching 7.5 points against the Texans but, like the Jets, managed to win their second game in a row after wallowing for much of the season.
Add in the 4-11 Atlanta Falcons keeping pace with the Chiefs (and keeping the total well below the Over/Under of 53), and it was weekend where books profited off public perception - or lack thereof - about some of the league's bottom dwellers.
"I think people are comfortable at this point with what they believe they know about teams, and how they're going to play out," Mannino said. "If you look at the Chiefs game specifically (a 17-14 Kansas City win), people are so used to them putting up points that it seems a no-brainer to hit the over. And when they're kept in a low-scoring game, that ends up really good for us."
Public bettors won big with covers by the Bears and Ravens over the Jaguars and Giants, respectively, as well as the Bengals-Texans game sailing over the posted total of 44.5. But it wasn't enough to make up for losses elsewhere in what turned out to be a strong weekend for the book.
The Browns-Jets game, specifically, saw tumultuous line movement after Cleveland lost several offensive players to COVID-19 quarantine protocols. After trading around -10 for much of the week, they still received significant support as touchdown road favorites both against the spread and on the moneyline.
"That was one of the more hectic COVID interruptions we've seen from a team," Mannino said. "Lots of bets had already been placed by the time that situation started to become clear, and even after it was established that the Browns were going to be significantly weakened, I think people still didn't think the Jets were going to do it two weeks in a row, despite their performance just last week."
Wild ride continues for Cowboys' NFC East odds
Few teams have experienced the ups and downs of divisional pricing quite like the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.
Installed as -125 favorites before the season began, the Cowboys got as high as -270 to win the league's worst division after getting off to an underwhelming 1-2 start. But a subsequent season-ending injury to quarterback Dak Prescott sent their price tumbling, and just two weeks ago the Cowboys were 4-9 and listed at +5500 to win the East.
But a win over San Francisco shortened those odds sizeably, and a victory Sunday over the Eagles has Dallas tied with Washington atop the division at 6-9 and riding a three-game win streak. While Washington is still a +100 favorite to win the division given they hold the tiebreaker over Dallas, the Cowboys are down to +210 heading into a road tilt with the 5-10 Giants where, improbably, both teams are still alive for the division crown.
The Cowboys represent a "pretty significant liability" for oddsmakers at PointsBet, both in terms of divisional odds and Super Bowl futures. While a few smaller bets were placed two weeks ago on the Cowboys to win the NFC East at +5000, more significant action came in last week when they were down to +1500 after beating the 49ers.
"It's been a crazy division for it all to come down to Week 17," Mannino said.
'Lopsided' MNF action on Bills
The house will have a clear rooting interest tonight in the final game of Week 16, as bettors have overwhelmingly backed the Buffalo Bills against the New England Patriots.
PointsBet opened the Bills as 7-point road favorites but that number had been bet up to -7.5 as of Monday afternoon. About 87 percent of the bets and 88 percent of the money is backing the Bills, who clinched the AFC East last week.
"It's still pretty lopsided," Mannino said. "Even that extra half a point isn't bringing too many folks to New England. I think a Pats cover is enough to get us in decent shape."
The total for the game opened at 45 but has been bet up to 47, with temperatures expected in the upper 30s for tonight's game.
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