NFL Betting Lines: Spread, Odds and Totals Explained
Millions of NFL bettors across the United States anticipate weekly NFL betting lines. When bettors log in each week of the NFL season to see a series of numbers and selections in their online betting window, one must wonder, where do these lines originate? What causes NFL line movement and how can I take advantage of it?
We’ll answer these questions and more in this article that delves deeper into the origins of NFL odds.
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Who Determines NFL Odds?
There is no simple answer to who makes the point spread, totals and moneylines for each week of NFL action. Even football bettors who have bet for several years may have little knowledge of line movement or the origins of weekly NFL odds.
The first numbers bettors see each week come from a professional group of oddsmakers that convene to give each game an opening number. Many factors go into creating an opening line.
Oddsmakers may use formulas, simulations, or other statistics-based programs to help them create these numbers, in addition to personal observations. However, one must remember that at the core, the odds are not decided by a computer, but instead are primarily man made.
Since they are still primarily decided by the human element, there will certainly be ‘mistakes’ in the lines that will be pounced on by ‘sharp’ bettors. These experienced high-volume handicappers shape the line movement more than any other group of bettors, including the large number of recreational bettors, who are known collectively in bookmaking circles as ‘squares’.
Since there is a wealth of information to go over when handicapping a particular NFL game, the human error element almost always comes into play.
Many traditional land-based sportsbooks and online bookmakers use news services, software and other tools to keep up with the latest injuries, coaching decisions, weather, and essentially all information related to sporting events.
Most sportsbooks use similar or the same services, so lines will often move almost in unison in response to breaking news or betting action.
When Do NFL Lines Come Out?
The NFL sportsbooks earliest to offer lines will normally post numbers for the next week’s games as earlier as Sunday evening. Of course, some games will still be without odds as the teams (or their next week opponent) may be involved in the Sunday Night or Monday Night game.
Why Do NFL Lines Move?
Once oddsmakers post the opening line, sharps and recreational bettor action will move the line in one direction or the other throughout the week.
However, line moves can happen for a variety of reasons other than just betting action. Changes in weather, coaching decisions, such as who will start at quarterback, and injury concerns are all possible reasons for a change in the line.
While in some cases, bookmakers may be privy to insider information about an NFL game, they usually get news just as fast as everyone else but are constantly plugged into the newsfeed. Their goal is to move the odds before the masses and wise guys act on this information.
Is It All About Balancing Action for Sportsbooks?
In a sense, yes, but this is not always possible. Ideally, the sportsbooks would like to reduce risk and use their vig to balance the action on both sides and happily take their 10% commission.
However, many games garner lopsided action and even after rather substantial line moves, bettors still may choose to heavily bet one side. Many times, the sharps may love one side of a game while the recreational bettors or masses love the other. Sometimes, both sharps and squares will be betting the same side, which is a doubled-edge sword for the books.
On one hand, they stand to win big, if the lesser bet side wins, but on the other they risk losing a ton if the other side wins. When large amounts of money come in on the side of a number from sharp bettors, it is a strong indication that number was off. Sportsbooks will then adjust the line to try and encourage betting on the other side.
Sportsbooks and bookies, online and offline, can have stretches where they lose money, and some even go bust. If they are putting out shoddy lines or not moving them quick enough to respond to sharp action, they will be prey to the betting world’s most talented handicappers. It is extremely hard for any sportsbook to survive with experienced handicappers hitting their weak lines for big money.
Should I Jump on a Line Move?
It depends on a variety of factors. If a number moves that you were watching in your favor it may be the time to bet, but if you think it will keep moving in your direction it may be better to wait. Likewise, if a line is moving in a direction that you do not like, but you still want to get a bet in before the line moves any further – you may want to consider betting before it moves again.
Do not get carried away with line movements though, many times it is hard to decipher why a line has moved in one direction. Also, if you do not have an opinion on the game and do not feel it is worth a play, it does not mean you should bet with the move, simply because it moved.
Chasing wise guy steam plays can be a solid strategy, but bettors may have a limited window to grab key numbers as the sportsbooks move lines quickly when they feel that their numbers are off.
What Is the Best Tactic for Beating the Oddsmakers’ NFL Odds?
Beating the bookies consistently is a tall order, but it certainly can be done. The most crucial thing a bettor can do to beat the oddsmakers is get the best possible line versus the market. If you are getting better odds than most people who bet on a side or total, it is going to a lot easier to win. In fact, getting more value when you bet can make the difference between being a losing bettor and profitable one.
To do this, you need astute handicapping skills and a strong knowledge of the NFL, along with excellent line shopping. The sportsbooks are never giving players true 50/50 odds on their wagers, but instead they are taxing bettors 10% or more on each bet.
To counter this strategy, bettors need find sides and total markets where they believe their odds are greater than 50% to win. Depending on the price you are paying, the percentage of bets you need to win to breakeven or be profitable may vary, but the goal remains the same – always look for the best odds possible.
To cap the NFL profitably, you will need to think outside the box and differently from the regular ‘Joe Public’s’ out there that bet their paycheck on a game because, “there’s no way the Patriots -4 won’t cover against the Browns!” Personally, when I started analyzing betting markets and always shopping for the best market prices – it was a light bulb moment for my career as a sports bettor.
Don’t think just because you’re a small-time bettor that it doesn’t matter what price you pay. If the odds are same, the oddsmakers’ edge doesn’t change whether you’re betting $100 or $5,000. Getting the best price consistently on NFL games will help keep you in action while you develop your handicapping methods.
Funding multiple sportsbook accounts or simply keeping an eye on the lines at multiple books is an excellent way to find the best price on a game. Some books are slow to move their lines after market corrections by other books, and you should take advantage.
Online sportsbooks fear the thinking bettor who understands odds and markets and one who consistently finds the best price. Add in a solid NFL handicapping strategy and you have the potential to become a nightmare for the sportsbooks.