SOUTHFIELD - Could you have made money this year wagering against the Lions?
You bet — and probably more ways than you thought possible.
This was the first complete NFL regular season for legalized wagering in Michigan. The Lions season (7-9 against the point spread) offered several juicy betting opportunities, according to Jason Logan, a senior marketing analyst for Covers.com, a website that provides free handicapping information.
Logan said a good betting opportunity appeared before the Lions season opener at home against Chicago. Sportsbooks offer a wager on win totals for the regular season for each of the NFL’s 32 teams. The Lions opened with a win total of 6.5 with the over at -150 (risk $150 to win $100) and the under at +130 (risk $100 to win $130). If you liked the over, you were betting on seven or more wins for the Lions. A bet on the under would be 6 or less.
A wave of optimistic wagers about the Lions season hit sportsbooks about a week before the season started, said Logan, who has more than 16 years tracking NFL betting trends. Eventually, sportsbooks moved the win total from 6.5 wins to 7. That meant if you wanted to bet the over you needed 8 or more wins. The under was still 6. Had the Lions finished with 7 wins, the bet would have been a tie and the original wager returned.
“There were certainly reasons to be optimistic about the team,” said Logan. “The Lions had drafted D’Andre Swift, a highly regarded college running back and then signed Adrian Peterson. Matt Patricia was coming back for a third season so there was more coaching experience there. And Matthew Stafford was back at quarterback. You have an experienced NFL quarterback going for the Lions.”
The Lions finished with five wins so the bettor who didn’t buy into the optimism won.
The Golladay effect
Kenny Golladay's season was cut short by injuries. He missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury. Golladay played in the next game and his impact was felt. He caught six passes and scored a touchdown as the Lions scored an upset victory in Arizona against the Cardinals. Golladay played three more complete games before suffering what proved to be a season-ending hip injury against the Colts. With Golladay in the lineup, the Lions were a reliable bet, going 3-2 against the point spread. However, more wagers could be won with Golladay out of the lineup. After the Colts game, Detroit went 3-6 against the point spread with Golladay not playing.
“Sportsbooks spend the most time and money coming up with the NFL betting lines because it’s the most popular sports bet,” said Logan. “Injuries to the skill players are the ones that affect the (betting) lines the most. Obviously with Golladay not in the lineup, the team struggled to win, especially in the game at Carolina where they didn’t score at all.”
Bad defense helps bettors get over
The Lions set new team defensive highs this season in yards allowed (6,716) and points (519). As the season progressed, it became apparent Detroit would need to outscore an opponent to win. That happened in Chicago against the Bears where the Lions came back to win, 34-30. Six teams scored 35 points or more this season against the Lions defense. In sportsbooks, one of the most popular wagers is the Over/Under. Bettors who take the over are wagering the point total for the game will exceed a number set by the sportsbooks. In 16 Lions games this season, the Over bet cashed 11 times against 5 losses for an astounding 69% win percentage.
“A smart bettor is always looking for good value,” said Logan. “The over was hitting regularly especially in the second half of the season.”
NFC North troubles
The Lions never threatened for a division title. Detroit finished last in the division with a record of 5-11. This was the third year in a row the Lions finished last in the NFC North. And Detroit was a good bet to lose against division opponents going 2-4 against the point spread.