NFL Picks: Falcons vs. 49ers Betting the Spread

Jason Lake

Thursday, December 19, 2013 1:49 PM GMT

Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 1:49 PM GMT

The sharps don’t seem too keen on eating chalk with the San Francisco 49ers this week. Are the NFL spreads just too damn high for their matchup with the Atlanta Falcons?

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 16 inclusive:

39-31-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

9-17-1 Totals

Make sure to check out our:

NFL Picks: Week 16 NFL Value Picks 

NFL Picks: Week 16 Fades & Games to Avoid

I don’t know a whole lot of people who like to eat chalk. Not literally, of course – we consume mass quantities of chalk all the time, as a food additive or a calcium supplement. I’m talking about sports betting chalk, the big favorites who lay double digits on the NFL odds board. Some professional handicappers simply refuse to bet on these teams in any situation. And why should they? There’s plenty of tasty low-hanging fruit out there with the underdogs. 

I can think of a couple of reasons. Volume is a big concern when you bet on the NFL; there are only 16 games in the regular season, and if you’re going to build your bankroll, it makes some sense to bet on any game where you think you have an advantage, however marginal it may be. The second reason: Some chalk is tastier than others. Double-digits is a completely arbitrary cut-off point for deciding which favorites to avoid. Surely a team as strong as the San Francisco 49ers (10-4 SU and ATS) can handle laying a few extra points to a doormat like the Atlanta Falcons (4-10 SU, 5-9 ATS).

Don’t Call Me Shirley

That’s what I figured when I wrote about the opening odds for this week’s very special episode of Monday Night Football (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But my faith is being tested. Our consensus reports show 60 percent support for San Francisco, driving the spread up from 11.5 to 12 points; however, the very early action was on the Falcons before people came rushing in on the 49ers. Early action is sharp action, in theory. 

We’ve also got a number of online sportsbooks who are offering the chance to grab Atlanta with even more than 12 points. It’ll cost you some chalk in most cases, though. Here’s a quick glance at some of the NFL odds that were available at press time:

William Hill: Atlanta +12.5

Matchbook: Atlanta +13 (–116)

5Dimes: Atlanta +13.5 (–130)

What’s an online shopper to do? In case you’re new around here, let me introduce you to the fair prices at Wizard of Odds. They’ve crunched the numbers and figured out how much extra juice you should be willing to pay to move from one NFL betting line to another. Generally speaking, the football betting public is risk averse (or perhaps just ignorant when it comes to vigorish) and willing to spend too much in order to get more points.

That’s also the case here. According to the fair prices, moving from +12.5 to +13 is worth 5.4 cents, which makes +13 (–116) a shade too much to pay. There’s an even bigger gap if you move from there to +13.5 (–130), which in a fair market would again cost another 5.4 cents. If you like the big underdogs this Monday night, getting the Falcons at +12.5 is worth the risk compared to these other prices.

[gameodds]16/227107/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Why Pay Less? 

Sometimes the books will shake things up and publish football lines that move in the other direction. At press time, Canbet has the Falcons listed at +8.5 (+130). Should you effectively sell off those four points in exchange for a shot at a bigger payday? According to the fair prices, moving from +12.5 to +8.5 should be worth 42.4 cents, so you’re not getting quite enough of a deal in this case. 

But what if you flip the script and take Canbet’s offer of Niners –8.5 (–167)? That would be much worse, which again reflects the betting market’s risk aversion. Better to stick with Niners –12.5 at the standard –110 vigorish. Even better, you can still get Niners –11.5 as I write this. Can I get the mint-flavored chalk, please?

NFL Pick: Take the Niners –11.5 at Heritage

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