Many Detroit Lions Bettors Didn’t Benefit From Incredible Backdoor Cover Vs. 49ers

Written By Matt Schoch on September 13, 2021

In a season that’s not expected to produce many real wins, it’s easy to call Sunday’s late surge to beat the spread by the Detroit Lions against the San Francisco 49ers a moral victory. And for some partaking in Michigan sports betting, it was an unexpected, backdoor score.

The Lions scored 16 points in less than 4 minutes to turn what was a 28-point deficit into a 41-33 loss to San Francisco in a game that likely woke you up from your mid-game nap. Jared Goff looked good late, the Lions recovered an onside kick of the helmet of George Kittle, and also converted a pair of two-point conversions.

But for many — and probably most — Lions bettors, it was just another tease and another L from a franchise used to disappointing on Sundays. (Editor’s note: We wrote last week about the past 20 years of the Lions’ record against the spread.)

Detroit Lions only back-door covered for bettors who got in late

We talked before the avalanche of NFL odds arrived about the importance of watching key numbers when placing a bet on football games. Although 8 isn’t nearly as key as 3 or 7 in this context, clearly every little bit can help.

Who you place your bet with, and when, is sometimes even more important that who you bet on. Sunday was a perfect example.

Operators started releasing NFL game lines back in May for a hungry betting public.

At the time, the Lions were mostly a 7.5-point underdog to the 49ers, at times even dipping to 7 on the spread at some operators.

The 7.5-point spread mostly carried through training camp and into game week, until late movement pushed the spread all the way up to 9.5 at most books by game time. That was the biggest kickoff number on the Week 1 board.

The results are simple: If you took the Lions at +7 or +7.5, you lost. Bettors pushed at +8, but anyone who got in higher sweated out a spectacular back-door cover.

Operator information largely incomplete on when money comes in

Leading up to football Sundays and throughout the day, sports betting operators send information to reporters and other gambling influencers to get their brand names out there.

They’ll usually report the percentage of action on each side of a point spread, moneyline or total, along with the current odds.

This is often good info and we usually pass much of it along when we can put it in the proper context. But of course, it misses an important piece: how much of the money came in at a specific line.

It’d be a lot of info to gather and digest, and it usually ends up irrelevant. But in a case like Sunday with the Lions, it was the whole story.

We reached out to several sportsbooks for that next level of info after Sunday’s game and generally came up empty.

But one operator told a story that is likely the norm across the board: Most Lions bettors still lost.

BetMGM says most Lions bettors still lost, anyways

BetMGM Sportsbook was the most forthcoming on the information from Sunday’s game.

According to a spokesperson, 70% of the money that came in on the Lions vs. 49ers spread was at the 7.5-point number, even though the game closed at 9 points there.

So, most Lions spread bettors lost.

Earlier in the day, BetMGM reported that 75% of the spread handle came in on San Francisco. Luckily for many of those bettors, an early bet for 49ers -7.5 was a win.

That’s also good news for many in Michigan, too, as the operator reported early Sunday that 49ers bets were the highest handle percentage of any game on Sunday’s board for Michigan bettors. Heading into Monday, Lions-49ers was also the third most-bet NFL game of the weekend at the book nationwide, including the spread and other methods of betting.

The takeaway: Lions fans have learned their lesson over the years, even when betting wasn’t legal here.

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Most Lions-49ers spread money was on SF, though that info is also incomplete

As for the other operators, we have some information on overall betting numbers, though they didn’t divulge when money came in and at what number.

Since the line didn’t move up until game week, and even more so after the Taylor Decker injury news late in the week, it’s safe logic to infer most of the Lions bets were losers across the board.

  • Caesars Sportsbook: The spread opened at 7.5 but moved to 9.5 before kickoff “with a lot of action coming in on the 49ers late,” according to a spokesperson. Late money at that number for SF also loses, and the books won those late bets, too.
  • DraftKings Sportsbook: The line opened at -7.5 for San Fran and closed at 9.5, though no betting breakdown was available. This was the most common spread shift.
  • FanDuel Sportsbook: FanDuel reported 77% of spread handle was on San Francisco and 23% came for Detroit.
  • PointsBet Sportsbook: 79% of spread action was on San Francisco, though no further breakdown was available.
  • WynnBET Sportsbook: A ridiculous 96% of spread bets were on the 49ers on Sunday morning, with only 4% on Detroit. The book was reporting an 8.5-point line at the time, so we don’t know how many were winners or how many were losers.

Nick’s Story: A bad beat, blow by blow

Those are just numbers, but you probably know the bad beat story yourself.

In case you don’t, here’s a look at a Michigan sports fan’s Twitter timeline to show a bad beat in real time.

Here’s NBA podcaster/personality/video guy/content maker Nick Henkel, an overall fun fellow and follow, especially for Detroit Pistons fans.

At 9:05 a.m. EST on Sunday, Nick was like many Michiganders, placing bets on the day. He posted a screenshot of a Same Game Parlay wagered with bonus cash at FanDuel.

(We also appreciate Nick’s “emotional hedging” strategy: Bet against your team and, in theory, you might win either way with your heart or your wallet. The “I can literally never lose” line in his tweet is an all-timer, in retrospect.)

The 4-leg parlay cost $10 and would win $791.46 in the unlikely event it hits. The legs were:

  • 49ers -9.5
  • D’Andre Swift, touchdown anytime
  • T.J. Hockenson, 80-plus receiving yards
  • Deebo Samuel, touchdown anytime

You already know where this is going.

You hate to see it, and you feel bad for laughing, but Nick gives us a rare blow-by-blow look at a bad beat as the legs continue to tick off until it appears almost certain that Nick will cash for nearly $800.

Then, the back-door cover takes away the young man’s win. Nick also didn’t indicate that he hedged the spread result, which is something to consider on any down-to-the-wire parlay.

We live and we learn, hopefully.

And if we keep it fun and entertaining, we probably come back and bet another day.

Photo by Lon Horwedel/AP
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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