Football Betting: Friday Public Action Report
by Trevor Whenham - 09/26/2008
We saw why following counter-intuitive line movement can be so interesting in the Public Action Report last week. The public was overwhelmingly on the Panthers, yet the Vikings rose up under the ancient Gus Frerotte and won handily. The line movement gave us a good hint that could happen. This week we again have just one NFL game that fits the criteria (more than 70 percent of bettors on one team, but the line moves to make that team less favored), but there are also two in college football for us to look at.
Michigan State (-8) at Indiana (Saturday, Sept. 27, 12:00 p.m.) - Three out of every four bets have been on Michigan State, yet the line has dropped from 8.5 to eight. That tells us that Indiana is worth a look here. To be perfectly frank, it is hard to know why. Michigan State is coming off a solid win over Notre Dame, and has won three straight after a respectable loss to Cal to open the season. Indiana, on the other hand, is 2-1 against lousy competition, and is coming off a blowout loss to Ball State. You could point to a reasonably solid Indiana defense, a Spartans QB that is struggling to complete passes, home field advantage, and the possibility for a letdown against a perceived weak opponent for Michigan State after the scrutiny of a game against the Irish. Whether you buy those or not, the numbers tell us to give the Hoosiers a look.
Pittsburgh (-15) at Syracuse (Saturday, Sept. 27, 1:00 pm) - More than 70 percent of bettors are on Pittsburgh, yet the line opened at 16.5 and has dropped from there. There is little disputing that Syracuse just isn't that good, and you know things aren't going well when an AD publicly questions a coach. What this line movement reflects in my mind, then, is that Pittsburgh just isn't as good as the public thinks. They haven't managed to cover a spread yet, and they had a bad loss to Bowling Green to start the season. This game has been played close in recent years, and the line movement hints that that might be the case again here. If you are a fan of the Bears or the Dolphins and you are nostalgic then you might want to watch this one, because one of these days Dave Wannstedt's next game at Pittsburgh is going to be his last if he doesn't start to make his program competitive.
Buffalo Bills (+8) at St. Louis Rams (Sunday, Sept. 28, 4:05 pm) - Both of these teams have been big stories this year. The Bills because of how good they are, and the Rams because of how incredibly awful they are. Buffalo has started out with a bang, and have shown themselves to be the cardiac kids of the league. After a big blowout of Seattle, they have waited until the last second to get past Jacksonville and Oakland. Regardless of how it has happened, though, they are 3-0 and on top of their division. The Rams aren't on top of anything. They have been unfortunate enough to play three potential playoff teams already, and they have been crushed lifeless by all of them. They have no real sparks on either offense or defense, and the fallout is here - the quarterback was benched, a starting cornerback was cut, and the coach has been called out by management. This thing is ugly, and there is little reason for hope.
All that makes the line movement here that much more interesting. More than seven out of 10 bets have been on the Bills, yet the line has dropped from an opening of 9.5 down to 8 in many places. There are at least a couple of ways to explain this. First, people are just uneasy about Buffalo. They have started well, but they are still the Bills, and it is hard to embrace a team like this that people don't know a lot about. It's also important to remember that the Bills were heavy favorites last week but they just barely squeaked by against Oakland. Their seeming love of leaving it until the last minute seems to have made the books comfortable with encouraging action on Buffalo as long as the line is bigger than a single score. Finally, as bad as St. Louis is, it is really, really hard for a team to lose every single week, even though the public tends to think that bad teams will.
Whatever the reason, the line movement in this game has forced me to write a line I never thought I would this year - the Rams might be worth a look.