How to predict football line moves
Carnac the Magnificent would have made a great sport’s handicapper, but unfortunately, crystal balls, Magic 8-Balls and make-believe soothsayers are not real.
But what if handicappers possessed just a smidgen of Carnac’s famous prognosticating abilities? What if they could predict football line moves? They can. Kind of.
Because of the amount of time that lines are available to be bet on before the games are actually played, there is a lot of time for bettors to think about the lines and make their bets. This often however, results in bookmakers adjusting the lines to balance the action and juice the odds in their favor as the week progresses. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see a line move by three points or more on before kickoff.
However, timing bets is challenging and predicting when a line is going to move and in which direction it will move is difficult. It’s a better to bet on a favorite to win by -4.5 than at -7.5, as a single touchdown can secure a winning bet, while the same is true for betting on an underdog at +7.5 rather than at +4.5.
With that, there are a couple of rules that handicappers can follow to help them better understand what creates line moves and when they are more likely to occur.
First, NFL handicappers need to understand that the public almost always likes the favorite, generally speaking.
The reason is simple.
The betting public are not experts and rarely think about what team is likely to cover, but rather focus on which team is likely to win straight up.
Which in most cases is usually the favorite, many of which are teams the public absolutely loves, and will bet on regardless of who they are playing or what the spread is.
Because of that, the favorite is going to attract more attention and backing, and the odds are going to move as oddmakers try to make the favorite less attractive and the underdog more attractive as the week progresses.
This decreases the risk that the books are taking, by balancing the money wagered on both sides, and in turn guaranteeing them to make a profit, as the amount paid out to winners is usually less than the amount they take in from the losers.
And while the public teams almost always draw the cash, handicappers are still left wondering where the smart bet is.
Well for starters, if a public favorite is struggling or playing a disrespected team, then the action is likely to be heavily tilted towards the public team early on. Consequently, the oddmakers are going to adjust the line to make them less attractive as the week progresses, so jumping on these teams early in the week can be a good idea if handicappers are confident in backing them early on.
Next, the opposite can take place when smart bettors wager significantly more on an underdog than the larger number of public bettors will bet on the favorite.
This usually results in a reverse-line move, meaning that the favorite actually gets more attractive as the week goes along, despite the fact that the majority of bets from the public have been placed on them.
In either situation, it’s not easy trying to predict public betting tendencies, but smart bettors can look for these signs to help lock in their bets before major line shits take place.
Nevertheless, in the end, NFL handicapper’s always have the choice of not betting on any particular game, especially if they expect one kind of line movement and don’t get it.