What is a Backdoor Cover in Sports Betting?

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Understanding the spread, totals, and how the lines move can be confusing enough when trying to place a bet. Unfortunately, understanding a Backdoor cover doesn’t make it any easier, considering it occurs when sports bettors least expect it.

Backdoor covers are either exhilarating or heartbreaking – depending on which side you stand.

What is a Backdoor Cover?

A backdoor cover is when a team losing by a wide margin late in the game rallies to make the score close but ultimately falls short. Sports bettors with the leading team covering the spread cross their fingers until the final seconds, only to see their ticket lose most times.

Wagers on the underdog, on the other hand, albeit run at a solemn pace until the final moment when Lady Luck smiles their way on the eleventh hour. 

Take last year’s Super Bowl match between the Chiefs and the Buccaneers. Kansas City was on fire the entire second half of the season, an 8.5-point favorite. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is dealing with some significant injuries.

The first half belongs to the Chiefs, maintaining a 33-17 lead throughout the fourth quarter. Three minutes to stop time, they possess the ball.

Conservatively, Kansas City opts to run the clock. They pass the ball off three straight times and then punt with a minute remaining in the game. Down 16, the Buccaneers marched down the field and scored a touchdown with less than ten seconds left, effectively converting a successful two-point conversion.

The onside kick was unsuccessful, so the late score was ultimately irrelevant in the game. However, every mainline point spread bettor on Tampa Bay +8.5; their apparent loss became a miraculous win!

When a losing team scores points, usually late in a game, that causes one side to cover the point spread, driving all bettors with a backdoor cover to win. 

A backdoor cover frequently spoils your ‘surefire parlay’ and is thus accompanied by a broad spectrum of sentiments, ranging from disappointment to rage, with the oddly satisfied bettor in between.

Due to this factor, backdoor covers bring forth some of the worst beats in basketball, college football, and the NFL.

Where are Backdoor Covers Most Common?

The most common sports for backdoor covers are basketball and football.

In basketball, there are more opportunities for backdoor covers because of the higher-scoring nature of the sport. In addition, the flow of a game can change quickly, especially in the playoffs when teams start to get physical. The opposing team can quickly put one big run back in the game.

In football, backdoor covers often happen with teams with a strong running game. For example, if a team is down by two scores, they can efficiently run the clock out and score late to make it look close.

How Do Backdoor Covers Happen?

Sportsbooks adjust their lines during the week as more information about injuries and weather comes in. But by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, the lines are set. And sportsbooks typically don’t adjust the line if a team is down by more than the spread.

For example, let’s say the Green Bay Packers are playing the Detroit Lions and the Packers are 7-point favorites. The sportsbook sets the line at Packers -7 and doesn’t adjust it, even if the Lions are up 21-0 at halftime.

The sportsbook knows that public bettors will want to bet on the Packers to come back and win the game, so they don’t need to adjust the line. The sportsbook will still make money because they know that many people will lose their bets on the Packers.

This is why sportsbooks love when backdoor covers happen. It’s one of the ways they make money.

How to Place a Backdoor Cover

You can’t predict when a backdoor cover will occur, but it doesn’t hurt to have one.

To wager a backdoor cover, you need to bet on the underdog. That said, backing the underdog is not always the best idea – especially if they face a superior team. But if you choose this route, ensure you’re getting good value for your money.

For example, if you were to bet on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers +8.5 in the Super Bowl match-up mentioned earlier, you would have won your bet.

Back Cover Tips

Now that you know all there is to know about backdoor covers, here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you place a bet:

  • If you’re going to bet on the favorite, make sure the spread is wide enough. A good rule of thumb is ensuring the spread is at least two touchdowns.
  • If you’re betting on the underdog, ensure they’re not facing a superior team.
  • Pay attention to the line movements. If the line starts to move in favor of the underdog, it might be time to jump on that bet.
  • And lastly, don’t get discouraged if your wager doesn’t hit. Sports betting is a marathon, not a sprint.

The Most Epic Backdoor Cover of All Time

Here are some of the most memorable backdoor covers in sports history:


New York Knicks vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 2017. The spread stands at Knicks +12. Grizzlies rookie Wade Baldwin IV is averaging under three points per game this season. And what does he decide to do as the horn blasts off? With his team in the lead by ten, he takes a shot.

The ball swooshes through the net. Although technically considered meaningless scoring, the 3-pointer gave the Grizzlies over 100 points. Some bettors who took the spread at Knicks +12.5 still recall the bitter taste in their mouths that fateful day.


Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers during the first NFL Sunday of the 2021 season

During the second half, Jared Goff and the Lions clawed their way back into the game with a successful two-point attempt and an onside kick. But the 49ers are still ahead by 15 points.

Things begin to get interesting. Another successful 2-point conversion attempt followed a 2-yard touchdown from Quintez Cephus, reducing the gap. Nevertheless, the 49ers won by just 8 points, and those who bet on them were sweating it out until the final whistle.

Remember, the spread closed at 49ers -9.5, which was a humbling loss for wagers on these odds.

Pros of Backdoor Covers

Backdoor covers have a few positive aspects, even if you’re on the losing side.

The first is that it adds excitement to the game. A backdoor cover can make the game much more enjoyable if your bet is on the favorite and they’re losing.

The second is that it can help you win money. Even if you’re betting on the favorite, a backdoor cover can still result in a win.

Lastly, backdoor covers are one of the reasons why sports betting is so popular. They add an element of suspense that you don’t get with other forms of gambling.

Even though they can be frustrating, backdoor covers are an integral part of sports betting. And whether you love them or hate them, they’re not going anywhere.

The Bottom Line

In sports betting, a backdoor cover is when the favorite team loses or ties the game but still manages to cover the spread. This can be a frustrating outcome for bettors who took the favored team’s side, but a good day for those who went the other way.

If you’re going to bet on the underdog, ensure you’re getting good value for your money. And if you are betting on the favorite, keep in mind that a backdoor cover can still result in a win.

Backdoor covers are integral to sports betting, whether you love or hate them. And they are not going anywhere.


Dan Weiner

Hailing from Atlanta and attending college at the University of Texas, Dan is passionate about sports, particularly college football and soccer. He's a diehard Atlanta pro sports and Texas Longhorns fan. He likes every sport and will watch anything and everything the weirder the better. He joined Betsperts after an 11 year career in television production at ESPN.

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