It might have seemed like a rather meaningless kick to the untrained eye. But when Nick Folk lined up to try a 55-yard field goal Sunday, every bettor and bookmaker with an interest in the point-spread result watched with an intense focus.
Sweating out NFL point-spread decisions is a weekly routine on both sides of the counter. The biggest decision of Week 7 was all up to Folk.
With 23 seconds remaining, the New York Jets trailed the New England Patriots 30-20. The Jets needed two scores, so it made sense to go for a field goal before hoping to recover an onside kick and get a miracle Hail Mary.
Folk set up for a 50-yard attempt, but the Jets were penalized for a false start. The kicker waved his arms and looked to the sideline, unsure if he would be left on the field for a longer try.
“I thought we had a shot when the Jets took that penalty,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “I thought they might take two more shots and throw the ball.”
Jets coach Todd Bowles made the smart call by leaving Folk on the field, and he split the uprights with a kick that rewarded underdog players. The Jets, who opened as high as plus-9½ and closed at plus-7 in a 30-23 defeat, were the sharp side and attracted most of the money in the game.
How much was the seemingly meaningless kick worth to Las Vegas sports books? It meant an estimated loss of around $2 million.
Jason Simbal, vice president of CG Technology, said the Jets’ cover resulted in a loss of more than $500,000 for his books.
“That was one of the rare instances where we needed the favorite,” Simbal said. “We had a bunch of guys take 8 and 8½ for big dollars. Just on the spread, it was half-a-million swing on the one field goal.”
Rood said MGM Resorts’ loss was “in about that same range.” Not every bookmaker got kicked where it hurt, but some others said the Jets’ cover resulted in a significant loss. If two books took a combined hit of around $1 million, doubling that amount for the city is a reasonable estimate.
“It was a big deal to us,” Rood said. “We took a ton of money at plus-9½ and all the way down. We needed the Jets to win outright or the Patriots to cover.”
The books paid off some teaser tickers with the Patriots and collected on some parlays with New England, but Rood said the wagering volume was light in Week 7, so the parlay win did not nearly cover the point-spread loss.
“In general, we’re kind of riding the same wave,” Westgate book director Jay Kornegay said. “It wasn’t really a make-or-break play for us, but I know it wasn’t a good result for some other books.”
The Jets led 20-16 midway through the fourth quarter and were covering until Patriots quarterback Tom Brady beat a blitz and hit a wide-open Rob Gronkowski for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:13 to go.
Suddenly down 10 points, underdog bettors were sweating it out until Ryan Fitzpatrick drove the Jets into field-goal range.
“You can say it’s a bad beat (with the Patriots), but if you think about it, in theory the Jets really were the right side for almost the whole game,” Simbal said.
The Jets recovered the onside kick, too, but Fitzpatrick never got off a Hail Mary because of another penalty. Time expired, and money changed hands. Folk’s kick meant big money.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247