‘Head fakes’ not totally recognized early in NFL win totals

Jun 4, 2013 3:10 AM

The earliest of the early money is most assuredly a strong leading indicator of where the future dollars are likely to flow.


We don’t see many wiseguy “head fakes” when it comes to season win totals (betting the opposite of what they really want in an effort to create a much broader market after other books copy those numbers) to get more significant wagers down.

Cantor was the first to post win total numbers and it’s no surprise their numbers have moved the most in early summer betting. The prevailing rule of thumb for NFL win totals is that a half-game is worth at least 50 cents of juice.

For example, betting a team OVER 7½ (-160) has approximately the same level of expectation as betting OVER 8 (-110). We’ve seen the Cantor books move the win total for four teams, all of which had significant OVER money.

Books don’t like to move their numbers – adjusting the juice is a vastly superior option. The last thing any sports book director wants to see is a team finishing the season by landing on one of the two numbers, ensuring a push or a win for virtually anyone who bet.

This early in the process, adjusting a win total number by a half win is a vastly superior option to getting hammered with wagers on an off market number. Money that comes in during the summer dwarfs what flows in the first week or two the numbers are posted. In other words, the risk of moving off a number is much less now than it will be a month or two.

Here are the four teams (as of Sunday, June 2) that early bettors have gotten heavily involved with OVERS, forcing Cantor to move their opening numbers. This grouping is from the Cantor books:

Cleveland Browns: O/U 5½ wins (-110 each way) is now Browns 6 (-135 the OVER).

Kansas City Chiefs: O/U 6½ (-110 each way) now Chiefs O/U 7 (-160 to OVER).

Miami Dolphins: O/U 6½ (-120 to OVER) now Dolphins O/U 7½ (-145 to OVER).

St. Louis Rams: O/U 6½ (-110) now Rams O/U 7 (-165 to OVER).

The LVH opened their numbers after Cantor, and were able to take advantage of the information available surrounding those early “strong opinion” teams.

Jay Kornegay opened the Browns O/U 6, (OVER -130) and that number hasn’t moved. The Chiefs opened O/U 7 (OVER -145) and the number has been bet up slightly to OVER -155. The Dolphins opened at O/U 7½ (OVER -135). It’s slightly down now to OVER -130. The Rams opened O/U 7½ (UNDER -140) and bettors continued to support St. Louis at that number – UNDER at -120 starting the week.

This doesn’t mean LVH’s numbers were “sharper” than Cantor’s, just that they were able to take advantage of the knowledge about the emerging markets gained from Cantor’s first to market numbers.

LVH offered variance on 13 of the 32 NFL teams compared to Cantor’s numbers. As described above, Cantor moved the line on four of those teams, leaving nine with some variance between books as of late Sunday night.

Here are the nine teams with current variance. Both Cantor and LVH are dealing bettor friendly 20-cent juice on their season win total lines:

Baltimore Ravens: LVH has Ravens O/U 8½ (OVER -140) Cantor has it at 9 wins (OVER +110). Note how the 50-cents-of-juice-equals-approximately-half-a-win theorem is in play here (and elsewhere on this list).

Denver Broncos: LVH has Broncos O/U 11½ (OVER +110). Cantor has it 11 wins (OVER -160).

Green Bay Packers: LVH has Packers O/U 10 (OVER -120). Cantor has it 10½ (OVER +115).

Houston Texans: LVH has Texans O/U 10 (OVER -130). Cantor has it 10½ (OVER +120).

Minnesota Vikings: LVH has Vikings O/U 7½ (-110 each way). Cantor has it 7 (OVER -150).

New England Patriots: LVH lists Patriots O/U 11½ (OVER +130). Cantor, has it 11 (OVER -140).

Pittsburgh Steelers: LVH lists Steelers O/U 9 (OVER -140). Cantor has it 9½ (OVER +125). This is one instance where there’s more than a 50-cent differential between the two lines right now.

San Francisco 49ers: LVH lists 49ers O/U 11½ (OVER +135). Cantor has it 11 (OVER -125). It’s worth noting Cantor’s number on San Francisco hasn’t moved from their opener. The LVH took an opinion here with their opener, and they’ve seen an early 30-cent line move as a result, after opening the 49ers +105 OVER.

Seattle Seahawks: At LVH, the Seahawks opened O/U 10½ (-110 each way), Cantor has it 10 (OVER -120).

I’m hoping that by next week, we’ll have enough “near virgin” numbers out there to write about what my definition of “accurate” strength of schedule numbers for 2013 actually means. If we don’t, it’s not too early to discuss why the early bettors are supporting or fading the squads that have been bet heavily in early action.

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]

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