Last month a bettor at the MGM sportsbook at Mandelay Bay in Las Vegas plunked down $5,000 on the Cincinnati Bengals to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs this season, at 250-1 odds. That bet would pay out $1.25 million if rookie quarterback Joe Burrow leads the Bengals on an improbable run to the top of their conference.
Rarely do you see an NFL long shot attract a $5,000 bet, but the Bengals have done just that.
Typically the largest futures bets are placed on top-tier contenders -- like the $25,000 wager on the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, at 5-1 odds, placed at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas this offseason.
Bets on long shots, on the other hand, are normally much smaller -- in the $25 range, and often made more as a novelty or souvenir than a serious wager. A $25 bet on the Cleveland Browns to win the Super Bowl, for example, has made for a great gag gift for years.
But there is some more belief in the Bengals in the Midwest, too. In late August a bettor at the sportsbook at the Indiana Grand Casino in Shelbyville placed six bets on the Bengals totaling $9,000. According to sportsbook manager Austin Herdina, the Bengals bets included:
• $4,000 to go over their season-win total of 5.5 games (-140).
• $2,000 to make the playoffs (+650).
• $1,000 to win the AFC (45-1).
• $1,000 to win the AFC North (35-1).
• $500 to win the Super Bowl (100-1).
• $500 on Joe Mixon to lead the league in rushing (20-1).
"A large majority of the future bets we've taken are on the Colts of course, being less than 20 miles outside of Indianapolis," Herdina said, adding that he also had taken a $1,500 bet on the Bengals to win the Super Bowl. "Next would be Cincinnati, being just 90 miles away. It makes sense, because of sports betting not being legal in Ohio yet. The bettors here love supporting their local teams."
The Bengals last reached the playoffs in 2015, and have not won a postseason game since 1990. Cincinnati finished 2-14 last season under first-year coach Zac Taylor, but has rejuvenated expectations with the addition of Burrow, the No. 1 overall draft pick out of LSU. Burrow is the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he has attracted nearly 50% of the bets on the Rookie of the Year market at DraftKings. FanDuel reported seeing some betting interest on Burrow to win league MVP at 80-1.
When asked which team improved the most in his power ratings this offseason, Chris Bennett, oddsmaker for Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports, said, "It's got to be the Cincinnati Bengals."
A few people certainly hope so.