Football Betting: Friday Public Action Report
by Trevor Whenham - 10/31/2008
After taking a break for a week, it's time to return to the Public Action Report. It's been a while, so let's review. Typically, when one team has attracted a significant majority of the bets made on a game the odds on that team are going to increase. That's because sportsbooks generally want to have the action on the two sides in a game basically balanced so that they can earn their profit without enduring risk. Sometimes, though, we'll see a situation in which one team has a large majority of the bets on their side, yet the line is moving to make them more attractive. That means that the books have adjusted the lines so that the team is more attractive, even though the majority of the bets are already on them.
There are at least a couple of reasons this could happen. The first is smart money. We can find out how many bets have been made on each team fairly easily, but the public cannot find out how much money has been bet on each team. It's possible that the team that has had the fewer bets made on it has had more money bet on it because the bets are bigger on the less popular team. Bettors who make large bets that can swing the lines in this way are often known as smart money. It makes sense that people who are making such large bets are doing so because they have and edge. Identifying these strange line moves, then, can give us some insight into where the smart money is potentially being spent. If smart money is on a team, then that team is probably worth a closer look.
The second reason why these lines might not move as expected is less likely, but also possible. The sportsbooks could move the lines like this because they have a strong opinion on a game and are willing to book action that is opposite to their opinion. In those cases, the line movement again would point to a team worth a look. That doesn't mean that the less favored teams are automatically worthy of a bet - this isn't a brainless tout sheet. It does mean, though, that they should be considered more than you might otherwise. Conversely, if you enthusiastically support the more popular team then you might want to reconsider, or at least further evaluate our decision.
Spotting the games that are worth a look is an imprecise science. For the purpose of this report we have developed a basic criteria - 70 percent or more of the bets have been placed on one team, yet the line is moving contrary to how you would expect. To increase the relevance of the results, I'll also add a new criterion - that the line movement needs to involve a move from, to, or through a key number. That makes the line movement more significant - a line movement that involves a key number is far more meaningful than a shift between other numbers. There are two games this weekend - one in college and one in the pros - that feature such line movement:
Temple (+7) at Navy (Saturday, Nov. 1, 3:30 pm ET) - I said that these games would be worth looking at, not worth watching. This game opened with Navy favored by 7.5 points. Nearly eight out of 10 bets have been placed on the Midshipmen. Despite that, the line has dropped to the key number of seven. This makes it much easier for the game to be a push, and thus makes a bet on Navy more attractive. That movement is not what we would expect, and that therefore means that Temple is worth a look here. Though Temple isn't a great team, betting on them hasn't been a bad experience at all this year - they are 5-2-1 ATS. That's better than Navy's 4-3, even though Navy has a better straight up record.
Philadelphia (-6.5) at Seattle (Sunday, Nov. 2, 4:15 pm ET) - Given how their season has gone so far, it seems hard to believe that there is a reason in the world to back the Seahawks. This line movement suggests that there just might be, though. The support of the Eagles has been predictably one-sided - 84 percent of bets have been on Philadelphia. Despite that, this line, which opened at the key number of seven, has dropped to 6.5. That means that Philly bettors now win if the team wins by a touchdown or more. That's unexpected, and that means we should look at the Seahawks. Seattle is only 3-4 ATS, but they have covered their last two games, so there are signs of hope.