Michigan, Lions attracting big bets: ‘The public loves to back Michigan’

With the NFL season well past its midpoint, it’s no surprise that the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles are atop the heap in the AFC and NFC, respectively. That makes it all the better to see the NFL Week 11 odds board highlighted by Eagles at Chiefs.

But what’s perhaps surprising is that the AFC North is the most competitive division. All four teams have a shot. So don’t sleep on a strong Thursday night clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, nor Sunday’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns matchup, before the main course of Eagles-Chiefs on Monday night. 

With Thanksgiving looming, oddsmakers and sharp bettors serve up their insights on those matchups and more, as we dive into this week’s NFL and college football betting nuggets.

Wide-Open Race

Chris Fargis, senior director of trading risk at Fanatics Sportsbook, noted that there’s been a little back-and-forth in Bengals-Ravens betting this week. Baltimore, at 7-3 straight up (SU) and 6-4 against the spread (ATS), opened as a 2.5-point favorite and quickly got bet up to -4 Sunday night.

But Cincy +4 was seemingly attractive enough for Bengals bettors. Cincinnati (5-4 SU/4-4-1 ATS) and Baltimore are both coming off surprising home losses, to the Houston Texans and Browns, respectively.

“After the Ravens’ collapse against the Browns on Sunday, the AFC North feels wide open,” Fargis said. “Fanatics makes the Ravens a 3.5-point favorite at home, trying to re-assert the pole position. There’s no preference from customers here. Bets are coming in on both sides of the game.

Ravens host Bengals on TNF; who gets the win in Week 11?

Ravens host Bengals on TNF; who gets the win in Week 11?

Meanwhile, the Steelers-Browns game got a jolt Wednesday morning when Cleveland QB Deshaun Watson was announced out for the rest of the season to undergo shoulder surgery. That led to a huge line shift, with the spread going from Cleveland -4 all the way to Pittsburgh -1 within a few hours. Fanatics is now at pick ‘em.

Whenever we nudge it one way, people seem to bet the other side,” Fargis said Wednesday afternoon. “I expect this one stays very close to pick ‘em, and with a low total of only 33.5.”

Indeed, after the Watson news, the total plunged from 36 to 33.5, then Wednesday night dipped another notch to 33. And that was after opening at 37.5 and initially rising to 38.5. So the Steelers-Browns total is 4.5 points below the opening number and 5.5 off its peak.

The only other Week 11 NFL total in the same ZIP code is Commanders-Giants, at 36.5.

As for the massive Monday night Super Bowl rematch, Fanatics bounced between Chiefs -2.5 and -3 numerous times. Late Wednesday night, Kansas City stood at -3 (even).

“Huge Monday night matchup. Not a lot of betting on it early in the week, as people are focused on the games that are sooner,” Fargis said. “Fanatics customers who have weighed in on this one are picking the Birds and taking the points here.

Chiefs inevitable, Dolphins sleepers, Ravens over hated in Nick’s Tiers

Chiefs inevitable, Dolphins sleepers, Ravens over hated in Nick's Tiers

NFL Sharp Side

Professional bettor Randy McKay beat the big line move on Steelers-Browns, jumping on Pittsburgh +4 before the Watson news broke. The Steelers are 6-3 SU and ATS, coming off a 23-19 win as 3-point home favorites vs. Green Bay, despite being outgained on offense for the ninth time in nine games.

Cleveland (6-3 SU and ATS) was a 6-point road underdog against Baltimore in Week 10. The Browns rallied from a 31-17 fourth-quarter deficit to win 33-31. But Watson engineered that Week 10 comeback.

“I had a position on Pittsburgh +4, so I have a nice bet after that Watson news,” McKay said. “I still favor the Steelers in this matchup, especially with Cleveland starting rookie QB Dorian-Thompson Robinson.”

McKay is also on the New York Jets +7 at the Buffalo Bills. He’s seen enough of Josh Allen’s erratic ways.

“If you think I’m picking on the Bills, I am,” McKay said, going against Buffalo for the second straight week. “This isn’t the same Bills team that started the season, and Buffalo shouldn’t be laying 7 points to anyone. The Bills fired their offensive coordinator (Ken Dorsey), which looks like a desperate move.

“The Jets still have a strong defense to contain Allen and Co.”

McKay also has a two-team 6-point teaser in play this week: Vikings +8.5 at Broncos/Eagles +8.5 at Chiefs.

“Those are two nice matchups on Sunday and Monday night. I see close games here,” McKay said.

College Football Rocks on FOX

Michigan will be involved in the FOX Big Noon Kickoff for the second consecutive week, this time on the Maryland campus. What’s not yet certain is whether Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh will be on the sideline for the noon ET start.

Michigan opened as a 20.5-point favorite in BetMGM’s college football Week 12 odds market. The Wolverines have been at -19.5 since Monday.

“As with most weeks, the public loves to back Michigan, with or without Harbaugh,” BetMGM senior trader Cameron Drucker said. “I would expect Maryland to be a big need on the spread, and it would definitely help if the Terrapins could pull off the miraculous upset.”

FOX also has the 8 p.m. ET contest between No. 7 Texas and unranked Iowa State. The home ‘dog Cyclones are definitely getting some interest, as DraftKings opened Texas -8 and dropped to -7 (-120) Sunday afternoon. At midweek, the Longhorns are at -7.5 (-105).

As of late Wednesday night, point-spread tickets are running 2/1 on Texas at DraftKings. But point-spread money is almost dead even, with 51% actually on Iowa State.

Elsewhere on the college football TV dial, No. 5 Washington travels to No. 11 Oregon State for a 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. It’s arguably the top matchup on the schedule. The Huskies aim to stay firmly in the College Football Playoff hunt, while the Beavers try to find a route to the Pac-12 title game.

Washington opened as a 1-point favorite Sunday night at BetMGM, but on Monday, the number jumped the fence to Oregon State -1, then -2. On Tuesday, the Beavers moved to -2.5 (-105).

“Tons of sharp money on Oregon State so far. However, it seems the public side is Washington,” Drucker said. “I would expect that to continue through kickoff, and we will most likely be rooting for the Beavers on Saturday.”

Drucker provided insights on a couple more Saturday tilts:

  • No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 18 Tennessee: The visiting Bulldogs opened -10 at BetMGM, went to -10.5 Monday and stood at -10.5 (-115) late Wednesday night. “Early sharp money on the road favorite here, and it seems that is the public side, as well. I would definitely expect to be rooting for Tennessee, both on the spread and moneyline, come Saturday.”
  • No. 21 Kansas State vs. No. 25 Kansas: The Wildcats opened -7.5 and are now -8.5 on the road, for a 7 p.m. ET game on FS1. “It’s tough to say what the need is here, as the public loves both teams. We haven’t seen much sharp action either way, so it will be interesting to see who we end up needing Saturday.”

Joel Klatt reacts to Week 12 CFP rankings

Joel Klatt reacts to Week 12 CFP rankings

On-Campus Sharp Side

College football betting expert Paul Stone has hit his last four plays in this space, including two from last week: Alabama -10.5 at Kentucky and Colorado +10.5 at home against Arizona.

This week, he’s on Oregon State, as part of that “tons of sharp money” that Drucker noted above.

Washington is 10-0 SU/5-4-1 ATS, while Oregon State is 8-2 SU/6-4 ATS. The Beavers are 2-point favorites, and Stone believes the oddsmakers have it right. Stone has a bet on Oregon State -2 to put the first blemish on Washington’s SU record.

“Oregon State is 17-1 SU at Reser Stadium since the start of the 2021 season, and Washington seems to have peaked in September,” Stone said. “Damien Martinez is unquestionably one of the best running backs in America and should have a big game against the Huskies.”

Stone noted that Martinez, a sophomore, has more than 2,000 yards rushing in the first 23 games of his collegiate career. That includes 1,024 yards on 155 carries this season, a robust average of 6.6 yards per carry.

The Texas-Iowa State game is also on Stone’s ledger. Texas, like Washington, is in the thick of the College Football Playoff chase, sitting at 9-1 SU and ranked seventh. But the Longhorns are just 4-6 ATS, including 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games.

Texas is a 7.5-point favorite, and Stone likes Iowa State (6-4 SU and ATS) to keep it close, playing the Cyclones +7.5. Stone pointed to Iowa State’s 11-5 ATS mark as a home ‘dog under coach Matt Campbell. Plus, the Cyclones have beaten Texas outright in three of the last four meetings.

“Playing in Ames has been tricky for Texas in the past, and the temperature is projected to dip into the 30s Saturday night,” Stone said of the 8 p.m. ET kickoff on FOX. “The Longhorns haven’t been able to land the knockout punch in recent weeks, so I’m expecting another close one.”


As noted all season long in this space, the Detroit Lions are a public darling. And who can blame the public/casual betting crowd, with the Lions a stout 15-4 SU/16-3 ATS in their last 19 games, dating well into last season.

Fanatics Sportsbook’s line bounced between Detroit -9/9.5 vs. the Chicago Bears shortly after opening. The number touched Detroit -10.5 a couple of times on Monday before reversing course to -9.5.

“We saw some Lions bets at -9 here, with upward pressure on this one [toward] the key number of 10,” Fargis said. “I would expect customers to be interested in the Bears if it does get to 10 again.”

Fargis was commenting on Wednesday afternoon for this 1 p.m. ET Sunday contest on FOX. By Wednesday evening, there was a notable shift toward the Bears. Detroit dipped from 9.5 to -9, then to -8 at Fanatics. That’s due in part to news that Bears QB Justin Fields is set to return from a thumb injury, after missing four games.

Still, the public is definitely on Detroit, even on the moneyline at a heavy price of -425.

“Ninety-two percent of moneyline bets are on the Lions, and [Detroit moneyline] is a very popular leg in parlays,” Fargis said.

At 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX, the Los Angeles Chargers – playoff participants last season – hope to get their derailed season back on track at the Green Bay Packers. Early bettors like L.A.

“We make the Chargers a 3-point favorite on the road, and so far, customers like that Chargers side, both on the spread and moneyline,” Fargis said.

I Like Big Bets and I Cannot Lie

I’m not exactly sure what’s in the water down in Florida. But ever since legal, regulated sports betting resumed there earlier this month, there have been some absolutely eye-popping bets placed in the Sunshine State.

Hard Rock Sportsbook is the only game in town at the moment for Florida bettors. So Hard Rock is getting all the action, including these two whoppers on Monday night:

  • $1 million Bills first half alternate spread -1.5 vs. Broncos
  • $1 million Bills first half -4.5

Buffalo trailed 15-8 at halftime. That’s a $2 million donation to the house.

More leftovers from Broncos-Bills:

  • $115,000 Bills -7.5 (-115) at Caesars
  • $102,000 Bills moneyline -350 at BetMGM
  • $110,000 Under 47.5 at BetMGM. That ticket cashes, barely, as the Broncos win 24-22. Bettor profits $100,000 for a $210,000 total payout.
  • $55,000 Under 47.5 at BetMGM. Bettor profits $50,000 for a $105,000 total payout.

One Caesars customer is brimming with optimism on rookie QB C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans. After an 0-2 start, Houston has gone 5-2 to climb above .500. The bettor put $10,000 on the Texans to win the Super Bowl at +7000.

If the seemingly unthinkable happens, the bettor would profit $700,000. That’s life-changing money for you and me. Or, as at least one Hard Rock Florida bettor would call it, pocket change.

Which is a good reminder to keep it reasonable. Never bet more than you can afford to lose. Enjoy the college football and NFL betting weekend.

Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.

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