Down two touchdowns — and laying one — at halftime against the league’s No. 1 defense? Not a problem for the resilient Roethlisberger, who has overcome a motorcycle crash, legal problems and countless injury issues.
“I thought the Steelers might make a comeback,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said.
Roethlisberger led another remarkable comeback, and that was part of the reason bettors put a Black Sunday-type beating on Las Vegas bookmakers. With its explosive offense, Pittsburgh is the definition of a public favorite. And it was a big day for favorites.
“The Steelers’ game was ugly,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “People were betting Pittsburgh on teasers, the money line, over the total. That was one wild, weird game.”
Favored by 6½ points for most of the week, the Steelers were laying 7 at MGM Resorts and 7½ at most other books at kickoff of their game against Denver. At halftime, the Broncos led 27-13. After a wild and weird second half, Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to a 34-27 win. Most bettors, the smartest ones, got the cover, too.
The favorites swept the five afternoon games, with Cincinnati, Green Bay, San Diego and Seattle also winning and covering.
“The real killer is the public hitting when all the favorites clicked in,” Rood said. “You can start to see it snowballing.”
A perfect storm was forming when the nightcap kicked off, with Arizona closing as a 4-point road favorite over Philadelphia.
“It’s a bad day. Lots of favorites,” Rood said. “It’s got the potential to be the worst Sunday of the season for us.”
Rood was preparing to drive home to watch the Cardinals-Eagles game and mentioned he might need a drink.
“If Arizona covers, it’s the worst weekend of the year,” Bogdanovich said. “The sharps love the ‘dog in that game, but the masses are on Arizona. We need Philly to avoid devastation. It’s absolutely scary. It’s ugly.”
The Cardinals cashed for the masses in a 40-17 victory over the Eagles, who were blown out in the second half along with the bookmakers.
It’s difficult to estimate dollar figures in these cases, but one industry source estimated Las Vegas books lost around $4 million Sunday. That is also why NFL wagering is so popular. The betting public does win sometimes, and when things snowball on one those crazy Sundays, the public can crush the bookmakers.
Here’s how this perfect storm, which started forming in New England, developed:
— The Patriots, 14½-point favorites, beat Tennessee 33-16 and covered on Stephen Gostkowski’s 32-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining.
— The Seahawks, also laying 14½, crushed Cleveland 30-13 and covered on Steven Hauschka’s 30-yard field goal with 3:34 to go.
— The Packers, who closed as 4-point favorites, overcame a third-quarter deficit with an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass and defeated Oakland 30-20.
— The Chargers, 1-point favorites in what could be their final game in San Diego, went out in style by whipping Miami 30-14 on the strength of Philip Rivers’ three touchdown passes.
And, of course, the Steelers stormed back to finish off the Broncos in the afternoon, and the Cardinals crushed the Eagles to call it a night.
“It’s a miracle we won the Carolina game,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s the only game we won all day. We won one.”
The wildest scene unfolded in New York. The Panthers, 5-point favorites, blew a 28-point lead but got by the Giants 38-35 on the last play of the game. Cam Newton passed for five touchdowns, Eli Manning threw one of his typical head-scratching interceptions in the end zone, and Odell Beckham Jr. made the tying touchdown catch after spending most of the day making a fool of himself.
But Carolina, 14-0 with games remaining against Atlanta and Tampa, still is not a public favorite on the Super Bowl futures board.
“The Panthers are really kind of overlooked,” Rood said. “The Packers have five times more tickets written on them than the Panthers. The Steelers have double the tickets of the Panthers.”
“I think the Steelers are a dangerous team with the way they move the ball on offense.”
Roethlisberger put the ball in the air 55 times, throwing for 380 yards and three touchdowns. Antonio Brown had 16 receptions for 189 yards, and his second touchdown was the winning 23-yard catch with 3:24 remaining. That’s why the public loves to bet on Pittsburgh.
Roethlisberger also threw a head-scratching interception with two minutes to go, but the Broncos blew a shot to tie and get the backdoor cover.
It was one of those wild and weird Sundays, and an early Christmas bonus for bettors.
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