Normal people had gone to bed early because the game was out of hand, but anyone with a keen interest in NFL betting odds or skin in the game was sticking around for the tail end of the Monday night’s Seahawks-Eagles tilt. Endings like these are what give sports betting its own narrative.
The Point Spread
Along with a bunch of the other games for the week, the sportsbook hung a line for this game way back on the previous Sunday night. The Seattle Seahawks opened in that vague place between field goal and touchdown, -5½.
For the previous couple of weeks, sharps played the Philadelphia Eagles reasoning the return of a number of their injured starters were about to pay dividends. After losing both those games and failing to cover either, it didn’t seem there would be much appetite for Philly in the betting market this time around. All week long, the line floated between -5 and -5½.
By Friday, final injury reports and coaches’ pressers were due, and the Eagles had run out of players to return. Add to that, Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson blurted aloud the rumor the team had been seeding all week — that rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts was preparing to take an expanded role in the offense.
Punditry ran wild with the idea, wondering how many series Hurts could reasonably play. Money poured in on the Seahawks and by Friday night the line moved to -5½ -115. Then to -120, before Sunday morning when game-day bettors might not have noticed it at the bottom of the NFL betting lines, Seattle -6.
By Sunday night, even before they could fire the mercy gun on the Packers’ clubbing of the Bears, the Seattle point spread quietly climbed to -6½, where it would close. Anyone who laid the points with Seattle on Monday (based on solid injury information and sound reasoning) did so giving six and the hook.
Seahawks’ backers felt awful after the team gave up the ball on the Eagles’ two-yard line after their 14-play, 52-yard opening drive. And even worse when they did it again on the next drive at the Philly 37, as though to spite the previous failure. Russell Wilson didn’t cook, but neither did the Eagles who opened with five punts, a shaken-looking Carson Wentz and a grand total of two (2) Jalen Hurts plays. (Three if you count the false start when they introduced him after the second-quarter timeout.)
Seattle soon broke through, putting up two touchdowns and handing the Eagles the ball back with just over five minutes left in the half. Wentz played like he’d been reading his press clippings and on more than one occasion threw himself into harm’s way to sustain the 15-play drive, which ended on a three-yard touchdown pitch to Dallas Goedert. When Jake Elliott shanked the extra point wide right, anyone holding a Seattle -6½ ticket shuddered. Halftime score: 14-6.
Wentz took the halftime break to read more opinion pieces about how much he sucks and then opened the second half with a nearly six-minute drive that put the Eagles into the red zone. But a Jamal Adams’ sack enticed the Eagles to settle for a field goal, giving Philadephila the cover for a few minutes at least. (Wentz would ultimately be sacked six times.)
The Eagles’ defense fought valiantly, holding the ‘Hawks to field goals instead of touchdowns on subsequent drives. But their offense sputtered, giving up an interception and two possessions on fourth down in their own territory — one, an unconscionable 4th-and-31 pass attempt — while Seattle kept making hay with field goals. The third Jason Myers score put the Seahawks up 23-9, with 1:13 on the clock. Philadelphia had already spent its timeouts saving what clock it could on the front end of the two-minute warning.
Eagles convert the Hail Mary with 12 seconds left. #FlyEaglesFly
— NFL (@NFL) December 1, 2020
Boston Scott fielded the return kick at the two and scrambled 40 yards to put the Eagles in a position that made Seattle bettors anxious when the Seahawks lined up in a prevent defense. The clock rolled on at Seattle gave Wentz easy completions to Scott for 8 and 17 yards. With the ball spotted at the Seahawks’ 33, Wentz spiked it leaving 0:21 on the clock.
The Eagles lined up in a three-wide set, and Wentz launched a 45-yard arc into a convergence of about seven players in the end zone. The pass dropped into the grasp of Travis Fulgham but Jamal Adams’ jammed the ball from his hands from behind. As a result, it fell slowly enough toward the ground as well-placed tight end Richard Rogers lunged to scoop it up with his right paw about a foot before it touched. He rolled under it, ball in his grasp for a touchdown. (Only his second of the year.)
As much as any of Pederson’s previous decisions made any sense, down eight, the Eagles lined up to go for two. Seattle iced the attempt, so their bettors could enjoy a few more moments of nausea.
After a handoff, Miles Sanders strolled untouched into the end zone. Ok, Poona Ford reached out and got some fingers on him, but the safeties had already checked out and Sanders was never tackled. Eagles cover by six. A failed onside kick attempt and a kneel later — and those laying -6½ have a bad-beat story for the next day.
Everyone gets burned by the hook, but it’s a good example of why it’s valuable to get the best of the number when you can. Though it’s hard if not impossible to know which way a point spread might move throughout the week, looking early gives you a greater opportunity to find better odds. Anyone playing Seattle before game day, at worst, pushed or possibly cashed. (The most clever people were sitting on -5½ and +6½ bets, but that’s a story for another time.)
NFL point spreads change frequently and not always in one direction, so attention and patience can be rewarded with the best of the number, and getting to watch others get gored by the hook.