A desperation, multi-lateral play by the Browns as time expired resulted in a safety for the Ravens that covered the spread and swung millions of dollars in bets at sportsbooks around the nation.
The Ravens closed as consensus 3-point road favorites over the Browns. In a back-and-forth battle with major playoff implications, Baltimore’s Justin Tucker hit a 55-yard field goal that gave the Ravens a 45-42 lead with two seconds to play.
After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Cleveland had time for one play. It would prove fortuitous for gamblers who backed the Ravens and costly for those who sided with the underdog Browns.
Baker Mayfield completed a pass to Kareem Hunt on a short slant over the middle. Hunt lateraled back to Rashard Higgins, the first of seven laterals on the play. The ball ended up in the hands of Jarvis Landry, who was pushed out of bounds in the end zone for a safety, giving the Ravens a 47-42 win.
The Ravens opened as 1-point favorites early last week at most sportsbooks. The line grew throughout the week and was up to Baltimore -3 by Friday and even reached -3.5 at some sportsbooks in the hours leading up to Monday’s kickoff.
“In the last two hours, we took significant money on the Browns, when we went to 3.5,” Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM, told ESPN.
Despite the flurry of late money on Cleveland, Scott said his book ended up needing the Browns to cover the spread, primarily due to parlay liability on the Ravens.
“We wish it wouldn’t have happened,” Scott said of the safety on the final play. “We were a little worse on the Ravens, but it wasn’t significant.”
The betting action on the game was relatively balanced and produced mixed results for sportsbooks. Several sportsbooks ended up with slightly more money on Cleveland prior to kickoff, but there was plenty of support for the Ravens.
Bookmaker William Hill U.S. reported taking a $126,000 bet on Baltimore -3, which went from a push to a six-figure payday on the safety on the final play. FanDuel sportsbook director John Sheeran said that, including in-game wagering, the Ravens covering the spread was costly for his shop.
“Pretty big swing. I’d classify it in the seven-figure range,” Sheeran said. “Pretty expensive one, but I think bettors were due one given the way the season’s gone.”
The money at sportsbook PointsBet was more lopsided on the Browns, with 78% of the point-spread handle backing Cleveland. PointsBet communications director Patrick Eichner said the Ravens winning by five instead of three produced “one of the biggest swings of the season” in favor of the book.
The game featured five lead changes and three ties. The Browns rallied from a 14-point deficit to take the lead in a fourth quarter that saw 35 points scored. Ravens starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, after leaving the game due to cramps, returned in the fourth quarter to throw a touchdown pass to Marquise Brown on a fourth-down play that gave Baltimore the lead back. Jackson then led the Ravens on a last-minute drive to set up Tucker’s winning field goal.
The wild finish produced big swings in the live betting odds. The Browns’ odds to win the game shifted from +980, when they trailed by 14, to -420 after they took the lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“One of my colleagues who was trading [the live odds] said he felt like he was playing in the game rather than trading it. It was pretty exhausting,” FanDuel’s Sheeran said. “It was a very popular game overall, and the in-play boosted up the total handle. It was definitely our highest-bet game of the weekend by quite some way.”