The betting board has done some extremely interesting things for this week and it is a handicapper’s job to examine those moves and figure out what they mean. In a lot of cases, you don’t want to take a worse number, especially one that has crossed a key number, but you can attempt to find alternate ways to bet on the game based on what the sharp money and the line moves are telling you.
Let’s look at a few games as examples, focusing on the late games in the interest of time.
Vikings at 49ers (-3.5, 49)
The 49ers grade extremely well by some of the widely-available advanced metrics that are out there, specifically DVOA from Football Outsiders. We’ve seen an unnatural amount of steam on San Francisco for being a 5-5 team in recent weeks, but the metrics suggest that the Niners are better than their record.
There are several different groups and styles of sharp bettor out there, but the ones I refer to as the “quant crowd” have a ton of influence. Those are the modelers and the spreadsheet guys and girls that bet primarily using the stats. They’re less worried about the subjective angles like situational spots and rest advantages and more focused on what the numbers say.
A move from 2.5 to 3.5 should not be taken lightly, given the major importance of 3 in NFL betting. This is a loud and clear, well-defined sharp move on the 49ers. At this point, taking 3.5 is getting the worst of it, but this line move and a total in the upper 40s does imply that the San Francisco offense has success. Maybe a team total over 24.5 or some rushing over props make some sense in light of the movement we’re seeing.
Rams (-2, 47) at Packers
This line has been a slow burn, as the Rams just keep increasing by a half-point. It would take an extraordinary amount of money on Los Angeles for this line to reach -3 in my opinion, but crazier things have happened. This line move is intriguing for several reasons. We usually see teams off the bye as “forgotten”, as a lot of bettors are emotionally drawn to the most recent thing that they’ve seen. While the Packers lost to the Vikings, Aaron Rodgers played great a week after playing poorly, so we would expect renewed confidence in the Pack.
Matt Stafford has played in these conditions, so maybe that helps. Also, the Rams have had time to incorporate OBJ and Von Miller into the team a little more and that could be a driving force behind the move.
Another thing we’re likely seeing here is that bettors that like the Packers are just playing the moneyline in the 115 to 120 range. The sportsbooks can limit their exposure if they’d like by offering a cheaper Packers ML while leaving the spread where it is. If you like the Rams, you might get a cheaper than normal ML as kickoff approaches and not even worry about laying the -2.
Browns at Ravens (-3, 47)
I must say that I’m pretty shocked to see this line down to -3. The Browns have had a really positive week on the injury front, as Kareem Hunt returns and we haven’t heard of any setbacks for Baker Mayfield. Jack Conklin should also return at right tackle. Cleveland’s recent stinker against New England and last week’s ugly game against Detroit should have lessened market confidence in the Browns, but that is not the case.
What this tells me is that a lot of influential bettors think that the Ravens are fraudulent. The defense isn’t very good and the offensive line has some concerns. My interpretation here is also that bettors expect the Browns running backs to have a big day, leading to some thoughts about Chubb overs or Hunt overs in the passing game. Remember, you can use the line movements to support a play on a player prop, team total, halftime wager or something of the sort if you’ve missed the boat on a good number.