Football Betting: Early Week Line Movements
by Robert Ferringo - 11/11/2008
By this point in the football season the oddsmakers have all of the empirical and substantive data that they need to produce spreads with surgical precision each week. As a result, we can expect to see fewer and fewer severe line movements as the betting markets have stabilized somewhat. This week, for example, we have our fewest number of early line movements of the entire season.
That said, since there are less wild line swings it may be deduced that the spreads that do shift significantly from the early "sharp" action are somehow more meaningful. Last week's results would back that up, as our tracked teams went 5-2 ATS. I wouldn't run out and starting doubling down on this week's set of seven games. But I would say that this capper is prepared to see a run made by these "sharp" plays over the closing two months.
Over the past two years the overall mark for these games is 69-61. Here are this week's games:
Minnesota at Wisconsin (3:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15)
Open: Wisconsin -10.0
Current: Wisconsin -13.5
After watching Ohio State thrash Northwestern this past weekend I think folks are starting to question the relevance of Minnesota and Northwestern's records and standing in the Big Ten. This line movement is a pretty clear statement. The Badgers have been the most disappointing team in the country this year. But they need a win to be bowl eligible and the motivation is to keep playing.
North Carolina at Maryland (3:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15)
Current: North Carolina -3.0
Tracking: North Carolina
North Carolina has looked like the best team in the ACC for most of the year and are coming off a convincing win over Georgia Tech. But Maryland has looked solid at home this year, beating two very good teams in Cal and Wake Forest. Maryland is coming off a loss at Va. Tech last Thursday night and is dealing with some injury issues. But I think it's premature to think UNC will roll here.
Arizona at Oregon (6:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15)
Open: Oregon -6.5
Current: Oregon -3.5
The Ducks are a putrid 2-6 ATS in their last eight games and it looks like the books are starting to catch on. Also, the Wildcats have been a stellar 10-3 ATS overall and 8-2 ATS in conference play dating back to last year. That said, Oregon has revenge on its side after UA knocked them out of a BCS bowl game with a 34-24 home win last year. Arizona is 3-0 ATS in the last three meetings, but Oregon has won seven of nine meetings straight up.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida Atlantic (4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15)
Current: UL-L -2.5
Prior to last week's loss to UTEP, Louisiana-Lafayette had covered seven straight games so they are still getting the love. Yet, FAU has won two of three meetings and is 3-0 ATS. The Owls were supposed to be the one gunning for a conference championship this year. But the Ragin Cajuns are the ones on the verge of becoming bowl eligible and are in the driver's seat for the conference championship. But Florida Atlantic will be no pushover this weekend.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Tennessee at Jacksonville (4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 16)
Open: Tennessee -1.0
Current: Tennessee -3.0
It appears that the sharps aren't buying the "they're due" angle here. As in, Tennessee is due for a loss. Had Chicago gotten at least competent quarterback play last week they would have beaten the Titans. But right now the squares still think the Titans were convincing there and they think that the Titans will make a run at being undefeated. Not likely. The underdog is 4-0 ATS in this series and the home team is 5-2 ATS. Jacksonville has been an underachiever but they still have some talent. But can we really back them over a Titans team that is 13-3 ATS in divisional games recently?
New York Jets at New England (8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13)
Open: New England -4.0
Current: New England -3.0
Tracking: New York Jets
Apparently it matters not that the Patriots have won 10 of 11 against the Jets, that they beat New York in the Meadowlands in the game right after Tom Brady went down, and that the Pats are 7-2-1 ATS in this series since 2003. All of the loot is coming in on the Jets here, most likely a reaction to their 47-3 blasting of the Rams. That's curious. Especially with Bill Belichick still roaming those sidelines.
Cleveland at Buffalo (8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 17)
Open: Buffalo -5.5
Current: Buffalo -4.5
Buffalo's soft early schedule is finally catching up with them at the betting window. The Bills are in the midst of a first-to-worst plunge in the AFC East and Browns backers had to be encouraged by what they saw from Brady Quinn last Thursday. Cleveland had a couple days to prepare and the Bills are coming off their fourth loss in five games. The Bills do have revenge here and did cover easily last year on Monday Night Football. But I don't think that's enough to keep this line from continuing to come down.
Last year we tracked the opening steam movements of lines in both college football and the NFL. The idea was to see if the "sharp" money was really that, or if the idea of trailing these severe early line movements was merely a myth.
Here is the basic methodology. If a line starts as Penn State (-1) and moves to Penn State (-4) then we're going to track Penn State as our side, because the Lions are getting all of the money and driving the spread up. If the line starts as Penn State (-4) and then moves to Penn State (-2) we're going to track the opponent because they are taking the heavy action and it's moving the line lower.