Football Betting: Early Week Line Movements
by Robert Ferringo - 10/22/2008
Two points are being illustrated by our research here with our early line movements. First, the systems and situations that can consistently pay out in the long term are not easy to find. Over a two-year stretch the "sharp" action is just 52-52. Second, since you can't just blindly play favorites, or underdogs, or early line movements, the three ways to make a profit in football gambling are to 1) go against teams taking more than 80-85 percent of the public action, 2) stay ahead of trends, and 3) know when to ride the hot hand.
Right now the hot hand is going against the "sharp" early line movements in both college and pro football. Over the last three weeks these early line movements are just 6-20 ATS, including a 2-5 mark last week. Now, that means that prior to this decline the sharp early money had gone 46-32 (59 percent) for over a year. That's a solid run and would have been reason to ride the wave. But after a dramatic reversal, right now the only way to play it is to bet against the teams being tracked in this space. That is, until it turns itself around.
Here are this week's games:
Minnesota at Purdue (Noon, Saturday, Oct. 25)
Open: Minnesota -2.0
The Golden Gophers have quietly been one of the biggest surprises in college football this year. They are 6-1 just one season after struggling to a single win and they are coming off a tremendous road upset over Illinois. Conversely, Joe Tiller's Purdue squad is spiraling out of control and need to make a strong push to reverse their 2-5 start. However, Purdue has played a much more challenging schedule, they are 7-1-1 ATS in the last nine meetings, and they are facing the No. 104 pass defense in the country.
Duke at Vanderbilt (3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25)
Open: Vanderbilt -14.0
Current: Vanderbilt -9.5
Vanderbilt has covered five straight meetings in this series and is taking on a Duke squad that's lost its last two games by an average of three touchdowns. Duke couldn't stand up to Georgia Tech's option attack. But Vandy has already been in this position once this year - the Jackets had torn up Mississippi State before playing the Commodores and they made the necessary adjustments to shut down Vandy's rush attack. Will Duke do the same?
Kentucky at Florida (12:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25)
Open: Florida -19.0
Current: Florida -24.5
I think that this is a curious line movement towards the Gators and is overlooking one very salient point: Florida has Georgia on deck and is likely looking forward to that grudge match. That said, Florida has covered eight of 10 overall and have maimed Kentucky 10 straight times (straight-up). Kentucky has played South Carolina and Alabama tough this year - losing by an average of just five points - and has covered five of six in this series.
North Carolina State at Maryland (3:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25)
Open: Maryland -14.0
Current: Maryland -10.5
Tracking: N.C. State
When Maryland's own players admit that they don't know how they are going to play from week to week you can't really expect bettors to have any more of a clue. The Wolfpack have lost three straight games but are 4-1 ATS in their last five games. Injuries have decimated N.C. State this year but they are still playing hard. On top of that, the Terps are in a perfect sandwich spot - coming off a tremendous shutout win over Wake Forest and looking ahead to a critical matchup at Virginia Tech next week.
Texas Tech at Kansas (Noon, Saturday, Oct. 25)
Current: Kansas -2.5
It's usually a huge red flag when a lower ranked team is favored over a higher one - especially when that higher ranked team is No. 6 in the nation. Texas Tech is unbeaten, but their best win came against……….Nebraska? Kansas State? The Jayhawks are battle-tested, going 3-0 ATS against South Florida, Colorado and Oklahoma this year. This is a matchup of two of the best pass offenses in the country (Tech is No. 1, Kansas is No. 6) and two of the worst pass defenses in the country (Tech is No. 104 , Kansas No. 100). Forget the points either way: back the team you think will win.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Atlanta at Philadelphia (1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26)
Open: Philadelphia -7.5
Current: Philadelphia -9.0
One of the easiest decisions you can make each year is to bet on the Eagles after a bye week. They are 17-7 ATS in their last 24 games after a bye and 8-3 ATS as a home favorite. The books know this. So they intend to jack up the spread as high as they feel that they can. Atlanta is a very good team and is also coming off a bye week. But they are just 2-6-1 ATS in the last nine meetings and although they did win in Lambeau they were manhandled on the road in Carolina and Tampa Bay.
Washington at Detroit (1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26)
Open: Washington -9.0
Current: Washington -7.5
This is a huge red flag if 60 percent of the action is on the Redskins but the line is moving towards the Lions. That said, how can you watch Dan Orlovsky and think that Detroit has a realistic chance at winning? Washington won by 31 points at home last year and is clearly the stronger squad. But be careful. You always have to be wary of betting against teams looking for their first win of the year. Washington lost to St. Louis at home and is 0-2 ATS recently (vs. 2-0 ATS for Detroit).
Cincinnati at Houston (4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26)
This is the second week in a row that the Bengals' total has fallen significantly, mid-week. Now, last week's game went safely 'over'. Will it happen again? That's a tough one, especially considering the Bengals just lost their best defensive player, MLB Keith Rivers, for the season. Houston has been an 'over' machine (19-7-1) while the Bengals are a steady 'under' play (9-4). Carson Palmer will not play this week, which will make it tough for the Bengals to move the ball. But they can't stop anyone. Who knows.
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.