NFL Picks: Are There Distinct Patterns in Betting Lines?

Kevin Stott

Thursday, August 27, 2015 7:22 PM UTC

Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 7:22 PM UTC

We look at the line movement in NFL games to determine if there are distinct patterns in betting lines so you can work them into your NFL pick-making process each week.

Quite often the actual line movement in NFL Football games somewhat resembles a drive across the USA. You start out with a bang—in New York City—with the opening line and there’s lots of action, movement and buzz around the game. And then nothing happens for awhile, until you hit Chicago—a ½-point or 1-point move—and then there’s nothing from Illinois until Las Vegas—like Tuesdays until Fridays—with line movement. And then, like the lights of Sin City, the NFL odds percolate again on Saturday, and then bubble over to a crescendo on Sunday, in Los Angeles, at the end of the weekly Point Spread journey. This doesn’t always happen, but this and other Betting Patterns emerge and the astute and professional sports bettors are aware of the ebbs and flows and some work them into their individual pick-making processes each NFL week, knowing in their minds how they think the public will bet and how some point spreads may close.


Introduction: While You’re Sleeping the Wiseguys are Plotting
Like all markets, certain distinct patterns evolve in NFL betting, probably more so with Sides than Totals with much more money being bet each week on teams with gamblers either giving (betting Favorites) or taking the points (betting Underdogs) as opposed to making wagers on an NFL game’s Total (Over/Under). And with the advent of the Internet and the boom in football and all sports wagering overall, with more money and action in this particular market, the Betting Trends that used to simply be noticed by some can now be seen by everyone. And that oh-so powerful tool—the Computer—also made it possible for gamblers to fire on a game in a split-second, obviously making for increased competition when the Opening Line is released for the serious or professional gamblers, sometimes referred to as the Wiseguys.

And looking for the smallest of edges, probably more than anyone, these bettors who attack the Opening Line often have a crafty ulterior motive when making those bets, hoping for a shot maybe at a Middle, Hedge, partial-Hedge, in-game Hedge or whatever numerical reality they can try to create working in the Present against that initial Opening Line bet which they have made. And anticipating, are almost even “knowing” which way a point spread in a given NFL game will go—a Betting Pattern—is something these Wiseguys work into their football betting arsenal. And when it works, it’s a thing of beauty. And probably quite addictive. But the numbers need to be right and the bettor has to be fully aware of where the point spread (line) is for that given game at all times in order to potentially get the best “opposing” number to try to create a Middling opportunity. And even then, if locked in a day or so or even hours before the game’s kickoff, that bettor is never sure that number won’t move some more, making for yet another decision.

The odds for weekly NFL games have now become a monster marketplace, with cell phones and the advent of In-game wagering helping make this volcano erupt. Professional and serious sports bettors know the importance of that Opening Line—as well as having many options (outs)—in the NFL. This reality is all about intent and knowing when those odds come out, being ready to bet and then and betting at perceived numbers the individual gambler may want for a couple of different reasons. Not everyone betting that Opening Line is necessarily a Wiseguy or professional bettor or hoping to set up a Middle, Hedge or other potential profitable betting reality. For some, that will be their only bet on the game and they will simply hope it will win—the old fashioned way. But for the most part, when one sees Opening Lines moving in the NFL it is because of the professional bettors and those so-called Wiseguys.


Weekly NFL Point Spreads Are Also Sort of Like the Four Stages of the Butterfly
1—Eggs Stage: The beginning of it all. The Opening Line. Usually Sunday nights and Monday mornings. This is where there is a distinct Betting Pattern begins for each game and where a great deal of money is poured into this marketplace. And the early and initial line movements on a given NFL game are often the one’s which signal which way the number will go and often shape the way the public perceives the Wise Guys “feel” about a game. And this can often be a deceiving perception from the General Public/Squares point of view because of an individual or betting group pours money in on the Cincinnati Bengals -2½ over the Cleveland Browns with hopes the game will go and close around -4 or -4½ in hopes of a potential Middle weren’t really attacking the Bengals -2½ because they were sure that Cincinnati would win by 3 or more points. It’s often a matter of positioning. So the eggs have been laid (the lines are out) and it’s time for the number to do something else. Or more likely, nothing at all for a number of days.

2—Caterpillar Stage (Larvae): Usually Tuesdays through Friday afternoons. The Betting Pattern for the weekly NFL odds are visible and a thing—like the Caterpillar—moving slowly, almost invisibly across a branch or something, waiting for the next stage of development. It seems line movement on NFL games in this work week (Monday-Friday) period is almost dormant, with both the Wiseguys and General Public waiting to make their wagers or some incredible mid-week line movement that seldom if ever comes. The Caterpillar Stage isn’t always a slow trudge to the Chrysalis Stage (the weekend), and sometimes NFL Point Spreads and Totals have a significant move during this period, but it is predictably slow with most of those big moves already being made at the starting gate, in the Eggs State. And this is all probably a byproduct of betting routines, the shape of people’s Monday-Friday work weeks, human nature and the General Public’s and casual bettor’s proclivity to make his or her bet right before game-time. Some things will never change and a Bookie’s phone being busy in Pittsburgh or the long lines at the betting windows here in Las Vegas always prove this point, although with In-game wagering now, missing the opening kickoff doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on an opportunity to bet on the game. It is 2015.

3—Chrysalis Stage (Pupa): This happens usually late Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays up until game time. The Caterpillar is done growing. Time to evolve some for the next stage. It’s at this point the Betting Pattern usually sees public money pour into this market, with a slight proclivity to betting Favorites and the Over. Unlike College Football, NFL numbers creep like the Caterpillar and often lay dormant like the Chrysalis, just chilling, waiting. There’s really not much to do when you’re attached to a fricking sick, Bubba. Anyway, the public often bets on games backing a popular opinion, because it’s their team or because it’s simply on TV. And the Wiseguys and Sportsbook Directors are well aware of all of this, and adjust their Time and Resources accordingly.

4—Butterfly Stage: This final stage, in my mind at least, and happens like an hour before kickoff, usually on Sundays. This is when there is much action, often dubbed Late Action, on NFL Sides and Totals. The final product. A beautiful Butterfly has been created—the closing point spread. And then all the participants in this mathematical madness sit back and see how the Butterfly really flies in the windy skies of the NFL, where Referees, Luck, Injuries and scores of other variables all shine either an ugly or glorious light on that number, reminding bettors they are all now at the mercy of whatever happens and that they have absolutely no control over it. And, after the Sunday night NFL game—even before the week is officially over with another game coming on Monday night—it starts all over again. More lines, more eggs, more larvae, more pupa, more waiting and growing.


Betting Patterns and a Theoretical Real World Middle Opportunity in Week 1
The general public, sometimes referred to as the “Squares,” usually prefer to bet Favorites. Knowing this, many serious sports gamblers (Wiseguys) will aim for a Middle. For example, in Week 1 this season, the Green Bay Packers opened up as 5-point Favorites (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) over the Chicago Bears for their game at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sept. 13. Knowing (and having the ability to bet this particular game for months) that the public would more than likely back the elite Packers (6/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) over the Bears (66/1, bet365) in this game, the Wiseguys or professionals or whomever decided to back Green Bay at this game at its opening -5 (points). So now, still over three weeks away from the actual game, the point spread has risen to -6½, and by game day and game time, it may, and probably will (at least) rise to -7½, meaning those individuals or groups who have a Packers -5 wager can now go back, bet the Bears +7½—past the Key Number of 7 in this instance—and hope for a Middle with Green Bay hopefully winning the game by 6 or 7 points. If they do, these individuals would win both bets, avoid paying any juice and have pretty much brilliantly worked a system—and Betting Pattern from the public they have seen over and over again—and profited in a big way. And if the Packers win in this theoretical by 5 points, then those who were smart enough to quickly lay the 5 points—a personal Betting Pattern of one’s own that creates these Hedging and Middling opportunities—would Push the Packers -5 wager and still win the Bears +7½ bet, And whether or not this can actually be defined as sports gambling is another thing, but whatever it is, when it works, it’s nothing short of brilliant and actually smarter than “real” sports betting and constantly fighting the vigorish.


Well worth noting here: The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook puts out odds for the following NFL week out midweek, and this Early Line can be a absolutely wonderful tool as well as a profitable marketplace for the sophisticated sports gambler who is constantly in search of the best number and ability to potentially create Middles. And these numbers released Wednesday at the SuperBook often vary quite differently than the Opening Lines the sportsbook hangs on the betting board on Monday mornings. And like some girls, certain NFL games get more attention from the guys. And there are many mega-tendencies the general NFL betting public display like following the crowd, betting the same game as all of their buddies, betting more on TV games. And the professional bettors know this and try to use this knowledge their advantage. Both the early-betting Wiseguys and pros as well as the usually late-betting General Public and recreational sports gambler have their own tendencies and these Betting Patterns end up usually shaping both Sides and Totals in similar patterns from week to week, and from season to season.

NFL Week 1 Pick: Green Bay Packers -6 over Chicago Bears (Pinnacle)

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