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No team in the NFL has been a double-digit underdog this season more than the Houston Texans.
Entering Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Texans had already been an underdog of at least 10 points seven times. The Texans covered the spread in three of those and even won one — a 22-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans as 10-point underdogs on Nov. 21.
Sunday’s game — where the Chargers were 13.5-point road favorites at BetMGM — made eight. And it resulted in one of the biggest upsets of the season as the Texans pulled off a 41-29 stunner.
With the Chargers fighting for a playoff spot, bettors were quick to side with Los Angeles. According to BetMGM, 78% of the bets and 84% of the money on Sunday’s game came on the Chargers. And yet it was the Texans — a team that had lost 11 of their past 12 games entering last week — who pulled off a massive upset.
While the Houston defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions thrown by Justin Herbert, rookie quarterback Davis Mills completed 21 of his 27 attempts for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, veteran running back Rex Burkhead went off for 149 yards and two scores of his own on 22 carries. Burkhead did that after previously having just 207 yards and a touchdown on 72 carries for the season.
Only the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL's worst team, pulled off a bigger outright upset this season. The Jaguars were 16-point underdogs when they shocked the Buffalo Bills 9-6 back on Nov. 7.
There was also the Detroit Lions’ 30-12 upset of the Arizona Cardinals as 13-point underdogs last week, but the Texans topped that with their performance on Sunday.
It was one of the biggest winners of the day for the sportsbook at BetMGM, Jeff Stoneback, the Director of Trading for BetMGM, told Yahoo Sports.
Another big upset: Bears over Seahawks
There was one other significant underdog that won outright on Sunday.
That was the Chicago Bears, who knocked off the Seattle Seahawks 25-24 as seven-point road underdogs. The Bears were down to Nick Foles, their third-string quarterback. Foles, who won Super Bowl MVP during his time with the Eagles, is no ordinary third-stringer, but he hadn’t seen significant action in more than a year.
Nonetheless, Foles managed to lead the Bears on a come-from-behind victory. The Seahawks led 17-7 at halftime and 24-14 entering the fourth, but the Bears scored the game’s final 11 points. Foles found Jimmy Graham for a 15-yard touchdown with 1:01 to go and then connected with Damiere Byrd for the game-winning two-point conversion.
The Bears have been one of the NFL’s worst ATS teams, yet received 52% of the money at BetMGM in this one. The Bears are now 5-10 ATS on the season. Seattle is 7-8 ATS overall but just 3-5 as a favorite. The Seahawks have now lost three of the four games where they were favorites at home.
Lions cover again, Jags blow late chance
Even without Jared Goff, the Detroit Lions covered the spread again. Goff was in COVID-19 protocols this week, but the Lions managed to play a really close game against the Atlanta Falcons with Tim Boyle at quarterback.
The Lions closed as 7.5-point underdogs but had a chance to win the game in the final minutes. Trailing 20-16 with under a minute to play, the Lions faced a first-and-goal from the 9 when Doyle was intercepted. That allowed the Falcons to hang on for the win, but the Lions covered yet again. They are now 2-12-1 straight up but 10-5 ATS on the year.
A team that has been even worse than the Lions, the Jacksonville Jaguars, was on the verge of getting their third win of the year on Sunday against the New York Jets. The Jaguars, 2.5-point road underdogs, were down 26-21 with under two minutes to play.
Trevor Lawrence drove the Jags to the 5-yard line but they couldn’t punch it in. The first-down pass fell incomplete. The second-down pass was completed to the 1-yard line. On third down, with the clock still running because the Jags had no timeouts, Lawrence wasted a down by spiking the ball to stop the clock. And then on fourth down, Lawrence’s pass fell incomplete and the Jets held on for the win and the cover.
The Jets and Lions covering were both wins for the house, Stoneback told Yahoo Sports.
Browns spoil popular bet
The Green Bay Packers have been one of the NFL’s best at covering the spread this season. Entering Saturday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns, the Packers had an 11-3 ATS record and were a very popular bet in Week 16.
The Packers, who closed as 7.5-point favorites, received 82% of the bets and 74% of the bets at BetMGM. And for a while, it looked like the Packers would cover again. Green Bay’s lead was 24-12 midway through the third quarter and then 24-15 entering the fourth quarter.
With Baker Mayfield struggling, the Browns couldn’t get much going on offense until late in the fourth quarter. Mayfield led a 76-yard touchdown drive to cut Green Bay’s lead to 24-22 with 4:31 to go. Soon after, the Browns actually had a chance to go ahead but Mayfield threw his fourth interception of the game and the Packers held on.
The Browns, though, were able to cover the spread. As a result, the Packers (11-4) now have the second-best ATS record in the NFL behind the Cowboys (12-3). Conversely, Jacksonville has the worst ATS mark in the NFL at 4-11.
Big favorites cover with ease
Though the Chargers couldn’t cover, there were four other double-digit favorites who covered with relative ease on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fresh off of being shut out by the New Orleans Saints, blew out the Carolina Panthers 32-6 as 10.5-point favorites, the Philadelphia Eagles cruised past the New York Giants 34-10 as 10.5-point favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs blew out the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-10 as 10.5-point favorites and the Dallas Cowboys crushed the Washington Football Team 56-14 as 10-point favorites.
Three other favorites — the Los Angeles Rams (-3 vs. Vikings), Las Vegas Raiders (-1.5 vs. Broncos) and Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5 vs. Ravens) — were the biggest winners for the public on Sunday, Stoneback said.