A Typical NFL Sunday – Behind the Scenes

Rather than my normal column format, I thought I would give you a look at how Sunday went for the House this past weekend. I try and give a little snapshot of this every week, but this time I will pull the curtain wide open.

The weekend got off to a good start as players liked Marshall on Thursday night (the Hokies 47-21 victory made that a big winner for the book) and Friday was a record day for baseball with player favorites Boston (-200), Yankees (-300), Braves (-250) and Diamondbacks (-200) plus the Astros with Oswalt (-200) all losing. Saturday was a big day for the book as well with Miami, Purdue, Mississippi, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and especially Michigan not covering. The players had some revenge with Florida State and Iowa State but not enough to make up for the other losses.

Perhaps surprisingly, the early game with the most handle was the Titans-Cowboys. In Week One, the Titans looked good in their win over the Eagles and after the Cowpokes’ dreadful Sunday Night opener against the expansion Houston Texans it seemed the public wanted no part of Dallas, even as a 3 or 4-point home dog. The line opened -3 and players bet it hard to -4. Trust me when I say that bookies do not like to move a spread across these numbers in the NFL so this was some serious money across the board. I saw a few books flash +4.5 on Sunday and that seemed to bring the pros out, as there was a late flurry of Cowboys money, but not even close to enough to get the action balanced. The 21-13 Dallas win was a great one for sportsbooks everywhere.

The next busiest game was Patriots-Jets. Once again the Pats were shown no respect and opened as a 1-point dog. Early action was on the Jets and the line went as high as New York -2 before the Patriot bettors came out in force. The game closed at Pick’em and the House was left cheering slightly for the Jets. Not quite as good a result for the House as the Titans win!.I think line makers will be giving the Patriots a little more respect now.

The Packers and Saints drew a lot of action, as the public always likes to bet the Packers. Line hovered between Green Bay -2 and -2.5 and the action was reasonably balanced, but a late surge of Packers’ money made the Saints win good for the House. Teasers were a big payoff for the House here as a lot of players teased the Packers from -2.5 to +4.5. This isn’t a bad tease as you cross -1, +1, +3 and +4 but the 15-point Saints margin-of-victory made it a losing bet on this occasion.

For the Bucs-Ravens game, Tampa Bay got a lot of the action, even after their embarrassing opening week loss to the Saints. Baltimore’s loss to Carolina made people forget they were Super Bowl winners just 2 years ago. The book opened up Bucs -3.5 and the line was quickly moved to -4. There was some initial resistance at -4 and it looked like that might be the right line, but weekend money on Tampa Bay moved the line all the way to -5. It was evident pretty quick that the Ravens were outmatched and players were going to beat us there.

The Miami-Indianapolis game was a strange one for us. The line opened at Colts -2.5 and the early money was on Indianapolis. We had to consider going to -3 but then the Dolphin’s money came and kept coming until the line was -1. Late Colts money at Pick’em kept the damage to the book small and the 8-point Miami win helped us to cash in a few teasers. This game went to the wire but left the book a little disappointed with Peyton Manning.

The Bears-Falcons game was an easy one for the House to run. The line was opened at Atlanta -3 and closed there at kickoff. Early action was on the Bears so the line was moved to -3 (Even) and that was enough to attract the prefect amount of Falcons money. A handful of moves from -3 to -3 (-105) to -3 (Even) and back balanced the action to within a few hundred dollars and the bookmakers could simply watch and enjoy the Bears’ nail-biting victory.

The Browns-Bengals, Jaguars-Chiefs and Lions-Panthers games didn’t get near as much action as the other early games and there were few line moves as a result. (Makes me wonder if people have something against betting on teams with cat names?) The Chiefs opened and closed at -4 with balanced action although there was some late steam on the Over (moved from 42.5 to 45.5) and a little on the Chiefs that made it a good one for the book. Panthers opened and closed -3 and I don’t think anybody noticed. There was a little Under money (moved from 37 to 35) so the Panther’s 31-7 win was good as well. Browns opened at -4 and a mid-week spurt moved the line to -4.5. The money Friday and Saturday was on the Bungles!er!Bengals (sorry, couldn’t resist) and the line closed back at -4. The action was very balanced so the House simply collected a little vig for the game.

The afternoon saw its share of action as well with the Broncos-49ers capturing most of the money. Line opened 49ers -3 and was quickly bet to -3.5. Action was balanced all week at -3.5 but players seemed to really like the 49ers on the moneyline and the Over (opened and closed at 44). The Broncos straight up win was a great one as it paid off on all three line types and cleared out a lot of teasers (-3.5 to +3.5 is the most popular teaser).

The Buffalo Bills made a lot of people happy in the afternoon. The line opened Vikings -5 and was bet down to -3.5. The Over was also a popular play as the number moved from 47 to 49 so the Overtime 45-39 Bills’ win was not great for us but certainly was exciting to watch. The game also went so long that it ended just 15 minutes before the Sunday Night kickoff and this did have some impact on the late game handle.

The Rams-Giants game had decent action considering the line was so high. The Rams opened as -12.5 favorites and some Giants action brought it down to -11.5. Although the move from -12.5 to -11.5 is pretty insignificant in bookmakers’ eyes, it certainly had an effect and there was a run of Rams action at that number. There was an incredible amount of sweetheart teaser action on the Rams (to -1.5 or +1.5 points) and the Giants huge upset made these very profitable for the book. There was also a lot of Rams’ moneyline action at -650 and -700 as players took the sure thing in straights and in parlays. I am sure there are a lot of survivor pools with half of the players missing. I know ours is that way.

The Seahawks-Cardinals and Chargers-Texans games saw limited action. I am not sure if this is because the teams are located in the West or because they are just not very good. Seattle opened and closed at -3.5 with no line moves at all (other than half-juice on Friday). Action was all square and thus it was just a small vig-maker for the book. The Chargers opened -13 and moved to -12.5 on slight Texans action. Late Charger’s money evened the action and brought the line back to -13. There was some action over the relatively low total of 34 and that made the game a little profitable for the House.

Overall, it was a pretty good day for the book. There were a couple of significant line moves that ended in the player’s favor (Bills, Dolphins, Patriots) and I would expect to see the lines next week adjust for these teams. Bettors were very wrong on the Titans, Packers and 49ers so I would expect to see those lines move the other way.

The Sunday night game featured the Steelers and Raiders, both popular with the betting public. However, the Steelers embarrassing loss to the Pats on Monday Night last week meant that Raiders money would be coming so the book opened Steelers -3.5 (we had planned on -4 before the Monday Night game). Surprisingly, there was some Steelers action on the spread and the line moved to -4. A few bettors took the points but many more liked Oakland +150 on the moneyline as a fast way to make up for earlier losses. There was also some heavy betting on the Over and the total moved from 40 to 41. The 30-17 Raider’s victory made a lot of players happy and turned a good day into an average one very quickly.

Anyway, that is how it looked from my vantage point yesterday. It was an exciting day (and a long one) and we get to do it all over again next weekend. Good luck this week and I will be back to regularly scheduled programming next week with a look at betting first halves.

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