It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
Winston Churchill’s famous quote from World War II — later paraphrased by actor Joe Pesci in the movie “JFK” — can also apply to betting on the NFL.
How else do you explain the Dolphins’ stunning 27-24 win over the Patriots on Sunday as 17-point road underdogs in a game New England needed to clinch the AFC’s No. 2 seed?
It was the biggest upset of a season that saw the Patriots maul Miami 43-0 in Week 2 and had Las Vegas sportsbooks post props on whether New England would finish 16-0 and the Dolphins would finish 0-16.
The victory by Miami (5-11) cost an MGM Resorts bettor two $100,000 five-team money line parlays that would’ve paid a total of $200,000. The gambler won the other four legs on LSU, the Chiefs, Saints and Packers — who rallied from a 17-3 deficit in a 23-20 win at Detroit as 13½-point favorites.
“That was really the story of the morning for us,” The Mirage sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback said.
But the Patriots’ loss wasn’t a gain for all books. In fact, it was the Westgate’s largest loss of the day as one bettor won $120,000 on a $15,000 money line bet placed Thursday on the Dolphins at 8-1 and another won $70,000 on a $10,000 money line bet placed Sunday on Miami at 7-1.
“What’s really disappointing, if you’re a Patriots fan, is to give up 27 points to the Dolphins at home in a meaningful game,” Westgate sportsbook vice president Jay Kornegay said. “It’s the NFL. Sometimes you just can’t explain it.”
The Chiefs capitalized on New England’s loss, earning the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye by virtue of their 31-21 win over the Chargers after closing as 10-point favorites.
Wild Card openers
Here are the Westgate’s opening lines for the Wild Card playoff games:
On Saturday, the Texans are 3-point home favorites over the Bills and the total is 39½; the Patriots are 5½-point home favorites over the Titans (41½).
On Sunday, the Eagles are 1-point home favorites over the Seahawks (45½); the Saints are 8-point home favorites over the Vikings (46).
There were several dramatic line moves in Week 17, none more so than in the Titans-Texans game. Tennessee, needing a win to clinch a playoff spot, opened as a 4½-point favorite. The line fluctuated during the week before soaring to 10 after reports that Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson and other starters would sit out.
The Titans rolled to a 35-14 rout and easy cover in one of the best games for bettors, including one at William Hill who won $100,000 on a straight bet (-6½).
Tennessee heads to New England having won and covered seven of 10 games behind QB Ryan Tannehill, who’s familiar with the Patriots from his days with the Dolphins.
“The Patriots are playing against arguably one of the hottest teams in the league right now,” Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “You could make a case that Tennessee could win a road game in the playoffs. They run the ball, they have a big-play wideout in A.J. Brown and Tannehill is playing phenomenal.”
Underdogs went 8-6-2 ATS with five outright wins by the Dolphins, Jaguars (+5½, 38-20 over Colts), Bengals (+2½, 33-23 over Browns), Falcons (+1½, 28-22 over Buccaneers in overtime) and Ravens (+2, 28-10 over Steelers).
The Bears closed as 5-point favorites over the Vikings (who rested QB Kirk Cousins) but didn’t cover in a 21-19 win.
The 49ers closed as 3½-point favorites over the Seahawks on Sunday night and held on for a 26-21 win, cover and the NFC’s No. 1 seed when they stopped Jacob Hollister just shy of the goal line in the final seconds.
Bettors won on the Ravens, the Cowboys (-12, 47-16 over Redskins) and the Saints (-14½, 42-10 over Panthers).
The Raiders covered as 5-point underdogs in a 16-15 loss at Denver, but went 0-4 on the four-team money line parlay they needed to hit to make the playoffs as the Colts, Texans and Steelers also lost.
$1 million contest winners
A bettor using the alias It Ain’t Breezy went 3-2 ATS to win the Westgate SuperContest and a $1.46 million first prize with a 58-25-2 mark (69.9 percent), topping a record field of 3,328 entries who paid $1,500 apiece.
Booty Blockers went 3-2 and finished 57-25-3 to win the $1,000-entry Circa Sports Million Pro Football Contest and its $1 million first prize.
A bettor with the alias Walter Payton went 4-1 to finish 53-31-1 and win the $5,000-entry, winner-take-all SuperContest Gold and $585,000.
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