A coin was flipped into the air, and when it landed, Robert Griffin III was smiling. A short time later, bettors on the Washington Redskins were lining up at the windows to cash.
Those on the other side had to grin and bear it with their hopes dashed. If any game can capture the spirit of the often cruel and random nature of NFL wagering, this was it. It was a coin-flip decision.
The first drive of overtime was the only drive. It took six minutes for Griffin to lead the Redskins down the field to a 30-24 victory over the San Diego Chargers, who landed on the wrong side of the luck factor on another bizarre Sunday.
“That’s a game you’ve got to win,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said, speaking of the Chargers.
It appeared San Diego had it won. Danny Woodhead reached for the pylon and knocked it down as he tumbled out of bounds with 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The official signaled for a touchdown, and the Chargers celebrated as Griffin frowned.
But the replay assistant wanted a second look, and eventually the call was reversed, somewhat mysteriously. The touchdown was taken off the board, and from inside the 1-yard line, San Diego had at least three shots to get the ball in the end zone. Woodhead was stuffed on a run up the middle before Philip Rivers flung two incomplete passes. The Chargers’ fourth shot was a short field goal that forced overtime.
The Redskins won the coin flip, and Griffin’s frown was turned upside down. That’s how a bet was won or lost, after three-plus hours of football, some strange officiating and a couple of questionable play calls.
“The wiseguys all landed on the Redskins right before kickoff,” said Rood, who closed Washington as a 1-point favorite after San Diego opened minus-1. “I really didn’t mind the position of needing the Chargers, and we had the public on the Chargers.”
Pick three NFL games. Go 2-1 and you look like a genius. Go 1-2 and you look like a jerk. It’s not always that clearly defined and simple, of course, but in the end, betting is a bottom-line business.
Not all decisions are coin flips. Of the 11 games Sunday, favorites covered six. There were seven clear-cut right sides — Carolina and New England as favorites and Cleveland, Minnesota, the New York Jets, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay as underdogs.
The Patriots rolled up 610 total yards, with Tom Brady passing for 432 and four touchdowns, in a 55-31 embarrassment of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 6-point ’dogs.
“The sharps were all over the Steelers,” Rood said, and the sharps were feeling smart when the score was tied at 24 late in the third quarter.
The Panthers, 7-point favorites, dominated the second half in a 34-10 victory over Atlanta. Cam Newton is back in the race in the NFC South and closing fast on Drew Brees.
“With the Saints going down,” Rood said, “there is an opportunity for the Panthers to put pressure on them.”
This might hurt the feelings of some too-sensitive guys, but let’s be honest, a bet on New Orleans was as square as it gets. The Saints were laying 6½ points on the road, where their offense usually gets slowed, and the Jets picked off Brees twice in a 26-20 win.
Seattle is another dominant home team that turns into a bad bet on the road. This time, the Seahawks were dead money at home as 16-point favorites in a 21-0 second-quarter hole. The winless Buccaneers found another way lose, 27-24 in overtime.
Tampa Bay at plus-1,000 on the money line was a bad beat, and so was Minnesota at plus-400. The Vikings covered as 9-point ’dogs, but they were stunned 27-23 in Dallas on Tony Romo’s 7-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds to go.
“We had a ton of money on Cowboys teasers and the money line. If we get it to end about two minutes sooner, it would have been the biggest game of the year for us,” Rood said. “We had guys trying to supplement their retirement with Cowboys money-line bets.”
In Oakland, the Raiders returned to familiar form, and as Rood said, “The Eagles looked like Oregon again.”
Nick Foles passed for seven touchdowns as Philadelphia, a 1-point underdog that had not scored an offensive touchdown in three weeks, rolled 49-20.
The Bills, 5-point ’dogs in Buffalo, unraveled in a 23-13 loss to the undefeated yet increasingly unimpressive Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans won a 28-21 decision in St. Louis that also could have gone either way.
After a bizarre day, the nightcap in Houston was the topper. The Texans led 24-6 late in the third quarter. The Indianapolis Colts, who closed as 1-point favorites after the line opened at 2½, stormed back to win and cover 27-24 with an Andrew Luck touchdown pass followed by a lucky circus catch on a 2-point conversion.
I was a genius on the Redskins and a jerk on the Texans.
The random nature of NFL wagering. About half the time, you flip a coin.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.