NFL Week 3 Consensus Reports: Who is Wrong?

Jason Lake

Sunday, September 21, 2014 4:15 PM UTC

Sunday, Sep. 21, 2014 4:15 PM UTC

It’s time to separate the sharps from the squares. In this football betting tutorial, we’ll show you how to interpret the consensus numbers on our NFL odds board to help you with your handicapping.

Contrary to popular belief, the world is not round – it’s square. Here we are, Homo sapiens sapiens, the most awesome creatures ever to walk this planet, and we’re basically a bunch of doofuses. Seriously: We all suffer from hundreds of recognized forms of cognitive bias, screwing up our decision-making and our ability to socialize. It’s tough out there for a human.

As you may have noticed, some people are more human than others. Cognitive processing power isn’t distributed evenly across the population; it falls on a bell curve, with about two-thirds of people ranging between mildly dim (85 IQ) and mildly bright (115 IQ). This makes up the vast majority of the NFL betting marketplace. If you want to make money betting on football, theirs is the money you should go after – no matter where you personally fall on the bell curve.


Are You Ready for Some Ontological Discourse?!?
Fortunately, we just so happen to have a way to track the behavior of the betting public. As the NFL odds open and action starts coming in, we collect enough data to produce consensus reports, surveys that show what percentage of bettors are on which teams, and for how much money. For example, as we go to press, the Seattle Seahawks (–5 at home offered at 5Dimes) are drawing 52 percent consensus and 60 percent of the money wagered for Sunday’s Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos.

Since these consensus reports describe the behavior of the entire NFL betting population, we like to do what we can to separate the wheat from the chaff. If we can count on the average bettor to fall prey to cognitive bias at an average level, we can also expect smarter bettors to have more success recognizing and managing those biases. These are the bettors we call sharps. Everyone else, we call squares. Again, these are relative terms – we’re all incredibly square. But you can be wrong 46 percent of the time in sports betting and still become a millionaire.


C Sharp or B Flat
So how do we spot the sharps? They’re the ones most likely to bet early in the week, which means they’re the ones most likely to populate the early consensus reports. Going back to our Super Bowl rematch, our first consensus numbers showed the Seahawks pulling in 91 percent support as 4.5-point favorites. We also expect sharps to make larger bets on average, and indeed, the average bet on Seattle as we go to press is $91, compared to $65 for the Broncos.

This is incredibly valuable information that we’re getting for free. There’s only a very slim profit margin in betting on the NFL, and it comes from the square side of the betting pool making worse decisions than the sharp side. In theory, all you need to do to grab that profit is give the consensus reports a proper deep reading, and pick whomever the sharps are picking. Let them do all the hard work while we ride their coat-tails.

Sadly, life isn’t that easy. Sharps are never united on which teams they pick; in reality, down there on the football field, there isn’t always a lot of difference in talent between the teams in question – they fall on a bell curve, too. So do the results of the games themselves; on neutral ground, roughly half the time, the Broncos will beat the Seahawks. Every once in a blue moon, Seattle will win 43-8. You never truly know what will happen on Any Given Sunday, but if you use the consensus reports as part of a more comprehensive NFL betting strategy, chances are you’ll be happier with the distribution of Benjamins in your bankroll.

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