Examining the Line Movement for our Super Bowl Picks

Jason Lake

Thursday, January 30, 2014 1:55 PM GMT

Which way are the Super Bowl betting lines moving? Are people still pounding the Denver Broncos, or have the Seattle Seahawks started to turn the tide?

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 30 inclusive:

48-41-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

16-19-1 Totals

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a football game this Sunday. Many of the people who will be betting on Super Bowl XLVIII (6:25 p.m. ET, FOX) will be thinking about the relative merits of the Denver Broncos (15-3 SU, 11-6-1 ATS) and the Seattle Seahawks (15-3 SU, 12-6 ATS). But if you want to place a sharp Super Bowl bet, you also need to think about the NFL betting public – what they’ve done so far, and what they’re likely to do between now and Sunday.

Good thing we’ve got the data. Our NFL odds board keeps track of the line history at all 24 of our featured online sportsbooks, plus important info on the consensus – including our expanded beta consensus survey showing the relative amounts wagered on both sides. Let’s dive into the numbers and see how they might influence our Super Bowl betting decisions this year.

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Timing is Every… thing

You might recall from my article on the opening Super Bowl odds that Sunday’s game opened as a pick ‘em, although some books kicked things off with Seattle favored by as many as two points. Then the floodgates opened and the money starting pouring in on the Broncos. Within an hour, Denver was favored by as many as 2.5 points at select locations. As we go to press, the Broncos are widely available at –2 with varying amounts of juice. Sports Interaction and Intertops are offering Denver –2.5 (–115); Bodog and Bovada have it at the full Denver –3.

With such a wide range of Super Bowl odds out there, you can see why it’s important to shop around. There’s a big difference between –2.5 and –3, after all. But it’s also important to look ahead at what the prices might be closer to kick-off. What if the Broncos are available at –1 this weekend? What if you can get the Seahawks at +3.5 instead of +3? By applying some general rules of thumb, we can time our bets appropriately and maximize our chances of cashing in this Sunday.

It’s Better to Fade Away

At the most basic level, we expect casual bettors to bet on the teams they like. People like offense more than defense, and they really like celebrity quarterbacks like Peyton Manning. You’ll also find that “square” bettors fall into a herd mentality and bet on the favorites more than the underdogs. This makes the dogs more valuable from a football betting perspective, since the square action moves the NFL lines in the other direction without properly evaluating the two teams in question.

During the regular season, we usually attribute early action to sharp bettors, expecting the more casual bettors to weigh in during the weekend of the game in question. We can still expect plenty of square action once people get out of work on Friday. But this being the Super Bowl, people were eager to jump right into the market, and there was plenty of time after the end of the Conference Round for people to place their bets before getting back to work on Monday.

I Like Big Bets and I Cannot Lie

That doesn’t mean all sharps get their bets in early every time. If the Seahawks are indeed the “sharp” choice this Sunday, grabbing them as a pick ‘em instead of at +3 wouldn’t have made any sense. Our expanded consensus numbers show some big bets starting to come in on Seattle; big bets are more often from the pockets of professional players, since they have that kind of working capital to invest. We have a dynamic now where there are twice as many wagers and twice as much money coming in on Denver, but there almost four times as many $1000+ bets on the Seahawks.

It might be worth waiting even longer if you’re betting on Seattle. If this dynamic holds up and the betting public does indeed pound the Broncos even harder this weekend, we could see the ‘Hawks available more widely at +3, and perhaps even move to +3.5. As always, shop smart.