Sportsbooks have been dominating the betting public this NFL season, thanks largely in part to the multitude of upsets during the first half of the season, or at least games we all thought were upsets at the time. As it turns out, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers are not good, and teams like the Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles (the only undefeated team remaining), and even the New York Jets are much better than expected, to varying degrees.
Bettors got some payback – literally – this past Sunday, though, as not only did the favorites go 7-5 against the spread, but Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry absolutely went off, carrying almost every bettor on his shoulders.
As ESPN’s David Purdum explained, Tennessee’s game against the lowly Houston Texans was an interesting one for sportsbooks. The Titans’ starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, was ruled out because of an illness, so rookie Malik Willis was elevated to the starting spot.
Now, normally this would mean bettors throwing money on the other team before the sportsbooks could make adjustments to the line. The issue here, however, is that Houston is god awful, arguably the worst team in the league. Thus, it was still likely that Tennessee would win and cover (they did both).
Bettors did flock to the game, though, but it wasn’t necessarily to bet on either team, but to pound Derrick Henry prop bets. With the starting QB out, Tennessee was guaranteed to hand the ball to the best running back in the league over and over and over again, especially against the NFL’s worst rush defense.
According to Purdum, Caesars moved the over/under on Henry’s rushing yards from 96.5 to 104.5, yet nearly 99% of the money bet on Henry was on the over. At PointsBet, more than three times as much money was put on Henry to score at least two touchdowns than was put on anyone else in any game on Sunday.
And guess what? He ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a whopping 6.8 yards per carry. Hell, teammate Dontrell Hilliard went for 83 yards on the ground.
Craig Mucklow, director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, told Purdum that it is difficult to keep track of every bit of player news to make sure player props are adjusted quickly. “It hurts, especially if you take your eye off the ball, miss any injury. The ticker fills up within 30 seconds of 200 bets, and always max bets when it’s something like that,” he said.
Henry’s day, plus the favorites finally coming through, made it the sportsbooks’ worst Sunday of the current NFL season. Fortunately, for them, the rest of the season has been very profitable.