Understanding NFL Line Movement - Prediction Machine

Understanding NFL Line Movement

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The betting landscape for NFL games is pretty unique in the world of sports wagering.

There’s a full week between most games, a high volume of bets on each game often unmatched by college football, and at least three prime time games every week.

This structure allows savvy bettors who understand betting splits, line movement, and public betting patterns to gather powerful data unrelated to X’s and O’s.

This market information is so useful that truly mastering it can yield profit from “betting the numbers” without ever watching a game or knowing the names of players on each team.

Below are a few key concepts to understand, but there’s a disclaimer. Don’t bet a game just because of one factor listed below. Each game has a constellation of data points, and the purpose of this article is to help you add a few stars to inform your decision. Still consider what Prediction Machine’s algorithm is recommending, and still look at injury reports and whatever healthy betting habits you’ve developed

Prime time games

Prime time games (Sunday Night, Monday Night and Thursday Night) are noteworthy because they typically produce a higher volume of bets. Bettors are more likely to place a wager when it’s the only game on television and these games often come with extra marketing from the national media.

When there’s a higher volume of bets, a lot of the things shared in this article become magnified and even more reliable. To remember this concept, think of how a food dish with extra ingredients is more rich and flavorful. Prime time games around dinner time give us rich and flavorful data.

“Prime time unders” have been very profitable in the NFL, because the public loves to bet oversĀ causing bookmakers to inflate totals upward.

Betting splitsĀ 

Betting splits let us know where money is coming in on a given game. For instance, if the Cowboys and Bills are playing we can see information such as “60% of bets have come in on Dallas and 70% of the money is on Dallas too.”

It’s important to note that betting splits data supplied from the internet can sometimes be outdated and is almost always from one particular sportsbook. Of course the more books you have data from, the more conviction you can have in your assumptions.

Fading the Public

When analyzing betting splits, you’ll see games where the public is loaded up heavily on one side. Of course, fading the public doesn’t win every time, but consider that if the public consistently won more often than they lost over the long haul, sportsbooks wouldn’t have fancy decorations and they’d be going out of business. Instead, sportsbook are thriving because the public tends to lose more than they win over the long term.

There are many “contrarian” professional bettors who simply bet vs. the public either in high volume or when the betting splits are especially exaggerated. Some people say, “When in doubt, fade the public.” I say, “When in doubt, don’t bet it.” However, fading the public is a great tool for bettors’ tool box and I always feel more comfortable going into a game on the opposite side of the public.

Low Bets, Higher Dollars

It’s common while analyzing betting splits to see a game where the majority of the bets (60% for instance) are on one team, but the majority of the money (AKA “handle”), say, 70%, is on the opposite team. This “low bets, higher dollars” scenario allows us to make some assumptions.

In this scenario, the public likes one particular side, but ask yourself why would there be more money on side A if the public likes side B so much? We can assume in this situation that much larger bets were placed on the non-public side. While there are certainly very wealthy recreational bettors who don’t qualify as “sharp,” this can often be an indicator that professional bettors like one side, while public bettors like the opposite side. If true, I think you’d agree you’d rather be on the side of the Pros and not on the side of the Joes.

Line movement

As helpful as betting splits are, they can have even more impact when combined with a robust knowledge of line movement.

Betting splits can tell you that 80% of the bets and money are on the favorite and you now know why the line has moved from -3 to -4. But what if 80% of bets were on the favorite and the line moved from -3 to -2? This seemingly illogical adjustment is called “reverse line movement” and is a major red flag. A sportsbook wouldn’t move a line like that, against their own interest, unless it had a high level of conviction in the outcome. That conviction could be related to inside information not available to the public, but it’s more likely because the casino is tailing a highly respected bettor who has a history of winning.

A “line freeze” is a similar concept, where instead of a line moving in the opposite direction, it stays static when you’d expect the high volume of bets to be pushing it one direction.

Anticipating line movement

While there is no surefire way to predict which way a line will move with 100% accuracy, savvy bettors can consistently get in front of line moves, and know when to wait for a line to move before placing their bet.

One way to do this is by “reading the juice” next to a bet. The juice (AKA vigorish) is most often set at -110 on point spread bets. However if the Giants have been -7 (-110) all week and then suddenly change to -7 (-125), this is an indicator that the -7 might be turning into a -7.5 soon. Sportsbook directors increase juice to try and discourage or slow down bets on one side and if they’re trying to discourage betting on -7, it’s likely because they’ve been getting a lot of -7 action and may need to adjust to -7.5 soon.

As a general rule, public Joe bettors aren’t betting NFL games for the following week on Sunday night or Monday morning. If you see line movement earlier in the week, it’s more likely to be moving because of sharp money.