There are winners and losers in every sports competition, but few things are worse than losing after winning. That’s what happened in several of the NFL’s Wild Card games over the weekend, leading to big losses for teams and sports bettors.
Out of all the upsets, the L.A. Chargers-Jacksonville Jaguars game will be one of the biggest of the season. Not because the Jags don’t have what it takes this year to be a championship team, but because the Chargers gave them the win.
The Saturday AFC game started well for the Chargers as they took a 27-7 first-half lead. Perhaps they should have played a tighter game, because they apparently relaxed too much. At least one sports bettor – and plenty of fans – will never forgive them.
Games Gone Wild
Wild Card Weekend is an appropriate title for the NFL’s games on Saturday and Sunday. Insane comebacks, crazy clock mismanagement and referees looking the other way marked the games.
However, the Chargers had a real shot at taking down the Jags after jumping out in front. One bettor was so confident at that point that he put up $1.4 million with DraftKings on L.A. to win. Instead of picking up $11,200, he lost everything when Jacksonville rebounded to win 31-30.
Trevor Lawrence didn’t do his Jags any favors. The QB threw four interceptions as he tried to find his footing, but was able to find his composure in the second half. 13 points in the third quarter and 11 unanswered points in the fourth – all while keeping the Chargers to just a field goal in both – showed sheer determination.
QB Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey are proving to be hugely successful pieces of the San Francisco 49ers offense. The Niners had some initial trouble against the Seattle Seahawks, but regained control and walked away with a 41-23 victory.
The Niners were trailing, although only by a point, at halftime on Saturday. They pushed the chains on their opening drive of the second half, which appeared to frustrate Seahawks defensive back Johnathan Abram.
He took out his anger on San Fran wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s leg, apparently twisting it during a tackle. It didn’t draw a flag, with the refs preoccupied over potential salary disputes, but it drew the 49ers’ ire. From that point, the game belonged to San Francisco.
Some will say that the odds were always against the Seahawks. They have been targets of bad refs this season, with even an NFL executive saying the Seahawks-L.A. Rams game was the “worst officiated game” of the season.
The Hits Keep Coming
The 49ers were heavy favorites to win at all sportsbooks, but oddsmakers had a difficult time choosing between the Jags and the Chargers. For the New York Giants-Minnesota Vikings game, they also ran into some difficulty.
Minnesota was in front at around -150 to +125 or so. But, the Giants continue to prove that they are hungry. They played steady, methodic ball throughout the game on the way to a 31-24 victory. Fortunately for the Giants, the refs’ erratic flag-throwing didn’t cost them the game.
For a team that has repeatedly been at the top of the list for Super Bowl contention, the Buffalo Bills didn’t look like a championship team against the Miami Dolphins. In fact, it’s very possible the Fins would have won if it hadn’t been for sheer irresponsibility late in the game.
This game had the largest spread in NFL Wild Card history, at 14 points. Bettors liked their odds, and didn’t waste time backing the Bills. However, despite jumping out to a 17-0 start, they almost lost.
Down by just three points, the Dolphins had a chance to tie things up – or take the lead – if they just worked smartly. They didn’t. Instead, with rookie QB Skylar Thompson trying to hold things together, Miami fell apart on fourth and inches, losing all hope of overcoming the 34-31 deficit. So much for the spread.
Did Devin Singletary get the first down?
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 15, 2023
The Fins had one more shot when the Bills were stopped on fourth down with a minute and a half left. That’s what the video seems to show, at least, although the refs decided the Bills deserved a gift.
Ravens Come Up Short
The Baltimore Ravens were inches away from pulling off the biggest upset of the year. They were tied with the Cincinnati Bengals, the huge favorites in the game, and only needed to cross the goal line as the fourth quarter began to unfold.
It wouldn’t happen, though. Instead, the Bengals stole the ball and returned it 98 yards for a TD. That would be the only score of the fourth quarter, but it was enough to give Cincinnati a 24-17 win.
Sam Hubbard takes the fumble 98 yards for the TD
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2023
Baltimore played smart ball behind backup QB Tyler Huntley, who proved more than once that he’s capable of leading the team. However, even amid miscues and broken (as well as dirty) plays, the Ravens couldn’t muster what they needed to pull off an upset.
Next up, on January 21, the Jags face the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC semifinals. The Giants and Philadelphia Eagles face each other in the NFC race the same day.
The following day, the Bengals and Bills for the other AFC game, while the second NFC game will see the Niners take on the winner of tonight’s Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchup. It will be interesting to see how often the refs go after Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.
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