It was one of those Sundays when the NFL world was turned upside down. The New York Jets coasted to a win, led by error-free quarterback Josh McCown.
And that’s just the beginning of the bizarre story.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, playing in their second home of London, crushed an opponent before most people woke up for breakfast. Four other disrespected underdogs — Buffalo, Chicago, Indianapolis and New Orleans — lunched on wins at the same time as the Jets.
Tom Brady needed a last-minute drive on his home field to beat a team led by a rookie. Aaron Rodgers needed overtime on his home field to beat a winless team.
Case Keenum was a winning quarterback. Philadelphia won on a 61-yard field goal as time expired. The Seattle defense allowed 33 points in a loss.
At the conclusion of the day’s early games, underdogs were 9-1 against the spread. Only a controversial finish in Detroit prevented a clean sweep by the ‘dogs.
“I can’t remember if that’s ever happened,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, a Las Vegas bookmaker since the 1970s. “But if it did happen, you would remember. So it never happened.”
Including a San Francisco cover in a loss on Thursday, the ‘dogs started 10-1 ATS in Week 3. The lone loss was remarkable, too, because it initially was ruled a Lions win until a replay reversal forced fistfuls of dollars to change hands.
“Did you see the end of the Lions game?” Vaccaro said. “That was our biggest game. That was our worst game.”
The Lions, who have made a habit of fourth-quarter comebacks, were on the verge of another one with a first down at the 1-yard line with 19 seconds left. Matthew Stafford’s pass to Golden Tate was called a touchdown on the field. After a video review which seemed to still leave some ambiguity, the call was overturned and Tate was declared down just short of the goal line. The final seconds were run off the clock, and Atlanta, a 3-point favorite, escaped with a 30-26 win.
(Note: Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating and a rules analyst for Fox Sports, is scheduled to appear on the VSiN show “The Edge” at noon PT Monday.)
This also was bizarre: The Falcons won a day when Matt Ryan threw three interceptions and Stafford threw none.
The betting public cashed in on the Falcons, one of the few favorites to cover. The most popular favorite played Sunday night, but the Oakland Raiders’ flop topped it off. Laying 3½ points by kickoff, the Raiders got their butts kicked 27-10 at Washington.
Kirk Cousins had one of those games that will make some believe he’s a legitimate franchise quarterback. Cousins completed 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards a three touchdowns. Derek Carr was intercepted twice, the Raiders went a woeful 0-for-11 on third-down conversions and Marshawn Lynch’s dance music was turned off.
“We had a great weekend,” Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “All the underdogs and outright wins sums it up. The Redskins capped the day.”
The only result that really made sense Sunday came via the Los Angeles Chargers, who tend to find ways to lose and did so again, 24-10 to Kansas City, because Philip Rivers tossed three interceptions. Still, the so-called sharps bet the Chargers, a move that made little sense. The Chiefs closed as 2½-point favorites at the South Point.
The best results for bookmakers were upsets staged by the Bears and Bills. Jordan Howard’s 19-yard touchdown run in overtime lifted Chicago, a 7-point ‘dog, to a 23-17 victory over Pittsburgh. Buffalo, a 3½-point ‘dog, intercepted Trevor Siemian twice in the second half in a 26-16 victory over Denver.
The highest-scoring Thursday night game in league history — the L.A. Rams, as 3-point favorites, held off the 49ers 41-39 in a narrow point-spread decision — was a hint of what was coming.
A week after a dreadful performance, Blake Bortles passed for four touchdowns to lift the Jaguars to a 44-7 beatdown of Baltimore.
The Jets, who spent their summer hearing predictions of 0-16, put the critics to rest and picked up their first win by pounding the Miami Dolphins 20-6. McCown connected on 18 of 23 passes to easily outduel another journeyman, Jay Cutler.
Meanwhile, the team some thought could go 16-0 nearly lost for the second time. But Brady, who has been known to lead dramatic comebacks, hit Brandin Cooks for a winning 25-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining. New England, a 13½-point favorite and minus-1,400 on the moneyline, escaped 36-33. Brady’s heroics should not have happened because Houston safety Corey Moore dropped an interception on the final drive. It all overshadowed an outstanding showing by Texans rookie Deshaun Watson, who passed for 301 yards and two touchdowns.
In a true sign things had turned upside down, the Cleveland Browns were 1-point road favorites. The outcome in that scenario was not a big surprise. Patriots castoff Jacoby Brissett ran for two touchdowns and passed for one in the Colts’ 31-28 win.
Keenum, starting in place of Sam Bradford, guided Minnesota to a 34-17 victory over Tampa Bay by passing for 369 yards and three touchdowns. The game closed pick’em at some books and Buccaneers minus-1 at others, so it’s fair to grade the Vikings as underdogs.
There was no drama in Carolina as the Saints, 5½-point ‘dogs, punished the Panthers 34-13. Drew Brees threw for three touchdowns against the league’s top-ranked defense, and Cam Newton was picked off three times and sacked four times by the league’s worst defense.
In a wild game that needs about 1,000 words to accurately describe, Philadelphia stunned the New York Giants 27-24 on rookie Jake Elliott’s 61-yard walk-off kick. After three scoreless quarters, Eli Manning rallied with three TD passes in the fourth quarter. The Eagles, with help from the officiating crew, made a strange goal-line stand before the half. It will be another long week for Ben McAdoo, who was outcoached again.
An entertaining shootout in Nashville between Marcus Mariota and Russell Wilson ended with Tennessee, a 3-point favorite, on top of the Seahawks 33-27. The two quarterbacks combined for 81 pass attempts, six touchdowns, no interceptions and just one sack.
In Green Bay, Rodgers threw only the second pick-six of his career. The Cincinnati Bengals, who came in with no offensive touchdowns, led 21-7 at halftime. But Rodgers rallied and the Packers, 7-point favorites, prevailed 27-24 in overtime.
The action concludes Monday night with Dallas at Arizona. The Cowboys are 3-point favorites, and it has been a bad week to be favored.
“I’m just amazed at the number of tickets and amount of money being bet,” Vaccaro said. “It shows you the growth of everything and how crazy it’s getting.”
The NFL put us to sleep with two weeks of boring football. But this was a bizarre bounce-back week, for better or worse for the bettors.