NFL betting recap: Sportsbooks needed the Colts against the Chiefs, and they got it

If your betting strategy in the NFL is to fade the public, you were probably all over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday as a 4.5-point underdog against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Early last week, the Chiefs opened as a 7-point favorite on the road in Indianapolis. The Colts looked awful through their first two games against the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, posting an 0-1-1 record. Kansas City blew out Arizona in Week 1 and then knocked off the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 en route to a 2-0 start. Understandably, bettors were all over Kansas City in this one.

The Chiefs were the most popular bet of the week for the public. They had more bets and more money backing them than any team in the league on Sunday. Overall, 81% of the bets and 76% of the money was backing Kansas City.

Despite that, the line was dropping. By the middle of the week, Kansas City was just a 5.5-point favorite. As kickoff approached on Sunday, Kansas City dropped to a 4.5-point favorite. Money was coming in on Kansas City but the line was moving the other way.

Reverse line movement is when the betting line moves in the opposite direction of the betting action. Sometimes it's an indicator of sharper money backing the less popular side. Other times, it's the oddsmakers trusting their numbers and taking a stand, welcoming all money on the other side. On Sunday, it was clear the sportsbooks had no issue taking bets on Kansas City.

The Chiefs gifted the Colts an early touchdown when Skyy Moore muffed a punt inside the 5-yard line. Matt Ryan found Jelani Woods for a 7-0 lead. Kansas City answered with a Travis Kelce touchdown, but Matt Ammendola missed an extra point.

The Colts kicked a field goal to take a 10-6 lead, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire answered with a touchdown for the Chiefs late in the first half. A controversial two-point conversion from Travis Kelce was allowed to stand after a lengthy review, giving Kansas City a 14-10 lead. The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter. Kansas City had a lead, but they weren't covering.

In the fourth quarter, Kansas City had a chance to extend their lead and potentially cover the spread. However, Travis Kelce had a drop in the end zone, forcing the Chiefs to settle for a field goal. Unfortunately for Chiefs' bettors, Matt Ammendola missed a 34-yard field goal. At this point, a cover for Kansas City was looking unlikely.

Indianapolis wasn't happy with just covering the spread though, as the Colts embarked on a 16-play, 76-yard drive that took 8:20 off the clock. The drive included two fourth-down conversions and was capped off by a 12-yard touchdown to Woods. The score gave Indianapolis a 20-17 lead with 24 seconds left.

As we learned in the playoffs last year, that's plenty of time for Patrick Mahomes to get into field goal range. However, a tipped pass led to an interception for the Colts. Not only did Kansas City fail to cover the spread, they lost the game outright.

Oddsmakers were thrilled. Not only did the majority of bettors who took the Chiefs to cover the spread lose, but the outright loss for Kansas City certainly blew up tons of parlays. The books took a stance against the Chiefs, and it paid off for them. Fading the public doesn't always work, but it certainly did in this instance.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 25: Rodney McLeod #26 of the Indianapolis Colts makes the game saving interception against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Indianapolis beating Kansas City was a huge win for the sportsbooks in Week 3 of the NFL season. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Ravens win, but Bills lose

Bettors were in love with road favorites on Sunday, which is always a dangerous proposition.

The second most popular bet of the day was Baltimore to cover as a 2.5-point favorite against the New England Patriots in the Patriots' home opener. It was a bit hairy at times as New England surprisingly kept pace on offense, but the Ravens pulled away late thanks to four second-half turnovers by the Patriots.

Lamar Jackson continues to show why he deserves a big contract, as he had four passing touchdowns and then added 107 yards and a score on the ground. Jackson currently has the third-best MVP odds at BetMGM.

While backing Baltimore worked out for bettors, the same could not be said about their love for the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo was the third-most popular bet at BetMGM, with 77% of bets and 75% of the money backing the Bills to cover as 4.5-point favorites on the road against the Dolphins.

The two teams looked like they were going to exchange haymakers all game long in the first half. It was 14-14 midway through the second quarter. However, the scoring slowed to a crawl. Tua Tagovailoa had to leave the game for a few plays after taking a hit to the head, but returned for the second half. The Bills were cramping in the Miami heat.

Anyone who had the Bills to cover 2.5 points in the first half must have been slightly annoyed. The Bills worked the ball into field goal range, but Josh Allen struggled with a snap. A spike would have resulted in intentional grounding since it wasn't a continuous motion, so instead, Allen ran a play to Stefon Diggs and the clock ran out. If Allen spiked the ball as intended, the Bills would have attempted a field goal to cover the first-half spread.

Over bettors knew their bet was shot in the third quarter when Buffalo embarked on a 20-play drive that took 9:28 off the clock but ultimately settled for a field goal. Tyler Bass made that kick, but then missed a 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. On the next drive for the Dolphins, Chase Edmonds gave Miami a 21-17 lead with a touchdown.

Buffalo went on another massive drive, taking 8:19 and 17 plays to go 73 yards. However, the Bills came out of it empty after Josh Allen missed Isaiah McKenzie in the end zone on fourth-and-2 from the 2-yard line. Miami took over with under two minutes left, but were forced to punt from their own end zone after the Bills burned through their timeouts. That's when we got the infamous butt fumble.

The safety actually ended up being a positive for Miami, as the ensuing free kick gave them more room and space. Buffalo moved the ball down the field, but McKenzie couldn't get out of bounds and then the clock ran out before Josh Allen could spike the ball. Not only did Miami cover as a 4.5-point underdog, it got the win as a +180 underdog on the moneyline. Between the Bills and Chiefs, a lot of moneyline parlays went up in smoke.

Lions, Dolphins, Falcons remain perfect ATS

With Miami's straight-up win as a 4.5-point underdog, it improved to 3-0 against the spread to begin the season. The Dolphins are one of just three teams to open the season 3-0 against the spread.

The Atlanta Falcons are also 3-0 against the spread to open the season after beating the Seattle Seahawks as a 1-point road underdog. Detroit also remained perfect against the spread, losing by four points to the Minnesota Vikings as a 6.5-point underdog.

The New York Giants have a chance to join this group on Monday night. They are currently 2-0 against the spread. New York is a 1-point home favorite against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday.

On the other side of the equation, three teams are yet to cover a spread this season.

New Orleans is 0-3 against the spread after losing to the Carolina Panthers as a 2-point road favorite on Sunday. The Las Vegas Raiders are also 0-3 against the spread. New England is 0-2-1, pushing as a 3-point favorite in Week 2 against Pittsburgh.

Three teams have seen all three of their games go over the total: Detroit, Cleveland and Atlanta. Meanwhile, five teams are 3-0 to the under: Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Denver, San Francisco and Indianapolis. The Giants and Cowboys are 2-0 to the under and have a chance to join the list tonight. The total is set at 39.5 points.

Underdogs continue rolling

If you're backing underdogs the last two weeks of the NFL season, you're up a pretty penny. On Sunday, underdogs went 9-4-1 against the spread. Eight of those underdogs won straight up. The only underdog to cover the spread but not win the game was Detroit, who had a lead until the final seconds against the Vikings.

After favorites and underdogs split Week 1, underdogs have taken over. Overall in the last two weeks, underdogs are 19-10-2 against the spread. More impressively, 15 of the 19 underdogs who have covered the spread have won the game outright.

If you've been blindly betting underdogs against the spread, you're winning 60% of your bets this season. That winning percentage is 65.5% over the last two weeks. A lot of the expected bad teams might not be as bad as we thought. Teams like Atlanta, Houston and Chicago have shown a surprising amount of fight.

This also shows if you like an underdog to cover a spread, you're doing yourself a disservice if you're not sprinkling some money on the moneyline as well.