The mainstream media guides the sports conversation.
Sure, if there is a topic the public has a genuine passion for and the mainstream media attempts to ignore it, that passion will burst through social media and often force the big boys to join in. But, such groundswells are few and far between. Most of the time, sports talk on TV, radio, and the Internet drives the conversation.
This reality creates opportunity for the handicapper. If the mainstream ignores an important handicapping factor, the sharp bettor can continue to exploit his knowledge of this factor while the majority remains unaware. Or, if the mainstream nudges the public to incorrect conclusions about a factor, a different type of opportunity is presented.
Scoring is up in the NFL. Last week, the most touchdowns ever in a single week were scored. This past weekend, the most points ever in a single week were scored. These are extreme stats that rightfully get the media machine talking. An NFL handicapper must determine what it means to him.
It’s important to remember it’s not enough to identify handicapping factors – a winning sports bettor must show which are mispriced by the betting market. It’s not enough to know there’s two feet of snow in Pittsburgh – what’s important is if the market is accounting properly for the bad weather.
A simple glance at the odds screen shows the NFL betting market is increasing OVER/UNDER totals in an effort to account for the increase in scoring. 2013 has had the highest average totals of all-time (45.4 points) – up a half-point from last season (44.9 points). The prior five seasons (2007 to 2011) averaged 42.7 points and the five seasons before that (2002 to 2006) averaged 41.2 (over 4 points less expected scoring each game during that period than this season).
A handicapper now must ask: Has the adjustment been enough? The obvious answer seems to be no. There have been 55.7% of NFL games OVER the total this season. How about recent adjustments – once this historic amount of scoring became part of the conversation? Studying 423 weeks of regular season data (going back to 1989), last week had the highest average OVER/UNDER for any week ever!
The market made this past week’s average total 46.1 points, and still 10 of 15 games (entering MNF) went over the total. Scoring is up. The market is making an upward adjustment on totals to compensate. The handicapper must determine if the adjustment is insufficient, thus presenting an opportunity to bet OVERs.
They must also assess whether the recent extreme scoring is fluky, which will result in too much upward adjustment, thus presenting opportunities to play under inflated totals. Also to be considered is if adjustment is in the range of right, which means there’s no league-wide mispricing to exploit.
We will explore those answers next week.
RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com - and co-host of FIRST PREVIEW, heard Monday through Friday at 10 am on ESPN 1100/98.9 FM. Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas. Discussion of this article continues at Pregame.com. Contact RJ at [email protected]