Hail Mary helps Packers, Steelers bettors beat books

For the second straight NFL Sunday, a Hail Mary touchdown pass helped bettors cash Packers-and-over parlay tickets at Las Vegas sports books to close out a wild-card playoff weekend that saw all four home favorites win and cover the spread.

While the weekend wasn’t disastrous for sports books, it continued a surprising late-season hot streak for NFL bettors.

“I’ve never seen it run this bad against the house for this many weeks in my entire career. This is uncharted territory, for sure,” MGM Mirage sports book director Jay Rood said. “Sometimes players win for three weeks in a row, but this is six weeks now. The whole month of December was a rough month for the NFL.

“It’s a struggle to be profitable.”

After Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin with 13 seconds left in the regular-season finale to push the number over the total in Green Bay’s 31-24 triumph, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers worked his Hail Mary magic for the third time in two seasons in a 38-13 playoff win over the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.

After a slow start, Rodgers threw for two touchdowns in the final 2:20 of the first half capped by a 42-yard heave to Randall Cobb, who caught it in the back of the end zone behind a trio of Giants defenders with no time left to put the Packers ahead 14-6 and cover the first-half line (minus-2½ or 3).

“That was actually a pretty significant swing for the first-half line. We went from a small win on that to losing,” Rood said. “You usually don’t see those things. But it’s been that type of year.”

Cobb had two more touchdown catches in the second half as Green Bay easily covered the 5-point spread and the game went over the total of 45.

Rood said professional sports bettors sided with the public in backing the Packers and Steelers, who whipped the Dolphins 30-12 in the Sunday morning game to cover the 12-point spread.

“The sharps were on the public plays (Sunday) as well,” he said. “When that happens, there’s not much you can do.”

The public also won big on the Texans, who closed as 4½-point favorites in Saturday’s 27-14 win over the Raiders. All the money was on Houston, which picked off third-string quarterback Connor Cook three times in a dominant defensive effort.

“Once Oakland was down to its rookie quarterback making his first start, it was nearly impossible to stop the money from coming in on the Houston Texans,” Rood said. “That was, by far, the most lopsided-bet game of the weekend.”

The Seahawks did the books a favor by returning to form Saturday night and covering the 9-point spread in a 26-6 win over the Lions as most of the money was on Detroit, which lost its ninth straight playoff game.

CG Technology sports book director Jason Simbal said he took a $50,000 straight bet on the Lions, along with a winning $5,000, three-team parlay on the Texans, Steelers and Packers that paid $30,000.

The Packers-Giants game drew nearly double the action of the other games, said Simbal, a native New Yorker whose book won on Green Bay.

“We took so much action on the Giants money-line (plus-170 to 200) that we were actually in position to need a Packers cover,” he said. “I’m a Giants fan but at least the book made money.”

The bettors beat his book on the Steelers.

“We lost more to the Steelers (Sunday) than we did to the Texans (Saturday),” Simbal said. “The Steelers were the worst game of the weekend.”

Pittsburgh’s “Big Three” of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell delivered in their first playoff game together against the Dolphins, who committed three consecutive turnovers in the middle of the game.

Rood said there was a little early action on Kansas City as a 1½-point favorite over the Steelers in Sunday’s divisional playoff game “just because Roethlisberger showed up at the (news) conference in a (walking) boot.”

PATRIOTS DAY

An early large play on the Patriots in Saturday’s game against the Texans pushed the line from 16 to 17 points at the MGM Mirage. As of Sunday night, Simbal said his book had taken $19,000 in wagers on New England and only $196 on Houston, quickly moving the line from 15 to 16.

In the NFC, the Falcons opened as 4-point favorites over the Seahawks in Saturday’s game and the Cowboys opened as 4-point favorites over the Packers in Sunday’s game.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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