I’ve got to give Cantor Gaming a boatload of credit this week. While the vast majority of other sports books around the globe collectively twiddled their thumbs following the NFL Draft, Cantor was the first major book to market with both season win totals and point spreads for every regular season game through Week 16.
And Cantor released all of those numbers in their unique style – confident, aggressive, high limit bookmaking, exactly what the industry needs more of these days.
Of course, my job isn’t to praise Cantor. Like any bettor here in Las Vegas, my job is to beat Cantor! Over the course of the hot summer months (the first 100 degree day of the year in Vegas comes this week, with many more to follow), I’ll spend a handful of articles discussing those 2013 NFL season win totals as the markets begin to mature.
This week, I focus on Cantor’s “every game, every week” NFL pointspreads. There certainly aren’t many opportunities in the sports betting world to get down significant wagers on regular season games that won’t be played until a few days before Christmas – 7½ months from now!
General principles: Break the season down into two sections. For games over the first 10 weeks or so, concentrate on spots (good and bad) and hooks (getting those all-important half points off key numbers three and seven). For games played down the stretch of the campaign, after all the inevitable and often unpredictable injuries and attrition start to mount, the focus shifts toward the same bet-on-or-against principles used when wagering on season win totals.
As a result, you’ll see more bets for the first half of the campaign than you do down the stretch. The December betting marketplace stays relatively quiet, with many of the bets that come in being “general fades” of teams that bettors expect to stay UNDER their season win totals.
If a team is expected to get off to a rocky start, based on their pre-preseason power rating and an analysis of their schedule, you’ll see money come against them for games played later in the season. The price to fade those squads tends to go up as the season progresses.
The biggest bettors aren’t necessarily focusing on value per se, even though it is a significant component in just about every substantial wiseguy wager. After all, there’s no reason to tie up your money for the next six months if you’ll be able to bet the game at the same point spread on the week that it gets played!
Wiseguys remember that these lines are all set based on fairly generic preseason power rating numbers – the same Cantor used (along with schedule analysis) to create their NFL Season Win totals. Sharp bettors may have opinions on which teams will be better or worse than market expectations.
Unless the markets share those opinions, there’s absolutely no reason to lock up your money for the next 4-6 months, especially if the opportunity cost of locking up portions of your bankroll forces you to miss out on other positive expectation wagers.
Try these strategies
Step 1: Look for bad spots, then bet against the teams in those bad spots. The most obvious come in divisional sandwich games. Here’s an easy September situation to analyze. The Chicago Bears have a divisional matchup with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2 and another with the Detroit Lions in Week 4. In between? A road trip to Pittsburgh.
As a result, Pittsburgh -2½ in Week 3 looks cheap at the opener! And a bet on Pittsburgh at that number also fits in with the general principle of getting the best of the hooks – those half points off the key numbers of three and seven.
Another early season example. Following their opening day matchup against their former star cornerback and the team they just traded him too (Darrelle Revis and the Tampa Bay Bucs), the Jets have divisional games against New England and Buffalo, then travel to Tennessee in Week 4, just prior to a Week 5 Monday Night Football affair at Atlanta.
Which of those five games do you think the Jets are most likely to lack focus for? Tennessee +1 in Week 4 is a clear choice.
The Titans also have a good spot for their Week 3 matchup with San Diego with the Chargers’ travel concerns the key issue. San Diego opens the season as home underdogs on Monday Night Football against the Texans. For Week 2, they face a dreaded West Coast team travelling East for an early start time (10 a.m.) on a short week situation for their contest against the Eagles.
The following week, they’ve got to do it again; another 10 a.m. body clock start time game at Tennessee. And the Chargers were the favorites for the Cantor opener, making Tennessee +2½ in Week 3 another attractive wager!
Step 2: Bet on teams with weak early schedules in October games, and look for teams with tough early schedules to bet against in October.
This may seem counter intuitive from a handicapping perspective, but not from a point spread value perspective.
Again, the thought process here is to lock in on numbers that won’t be available on the week the game is played. When teams get off to a particularly good or bad start – even if it is schedule related more than anything else – the markets are going to react.
I’m fairly bullish on Cincinnati, yet there are good reasons to bet against the Bengals right now. Cincy gets it rough in early season play, with the Steelers, Packers and Patriots all coming to visit, along with road trips to Chicago and Cleveland.
If the Bengals are a one or two win team heading into Week 6 at Buffalo or Week 7 at Detroit, do you really expect these point spreads to hold? Buffalo +2½ in Week 6 and Detroit -1½ in Week 7 make sense to this bettor, even though I think the Bengals are better than either one of those teams!
I do like Cincinnati when it comes to those two weeks and expect to get a better point spread to support them than the ones from Cantor, giving me a strong opportunity to catch a nice, juicy middle!
On the other hand, the rebuilt Chiefs open at Jacksonville and have Dallas, Philly, Tennessee and Oakland on their early season slate. If they open 4-2 or 5-1, as they easily could, suddenly that +2½ at home for their Week 7 matchup with Houston looks too rich to pass up.
But there’s no rush to get down at that number – don’t be surprised if someone looking to take value with the Texans at less than a field goal bets it up to -3 at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Ted Sevransky is one of the nation’s premier sports handicappers and analysts. Follow Teddy on Twitter @teddy_covers or visit his page at experts.covers.com. Contact Ted Sevransky at [email protected]