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Predicting Line Moves in Football

When it comes to betting, football is like no other sport. The point spreads for the upcoming games are typically posted six or seven days before the games will be played, giving bettors plenty of time to think about which side they like.
This can also create a bit of a problem for NFL and college football bettors, as there is nothing worse than making a football bet on Tuesday and then finding out you could have received two or three points by waiting until the weekend to make your wager. This is especially true if you lose the game by a point, while the majority of bettors on the same side managed to win their bets because of the point spread change.

That leads us to the question, which way is the point spread going to move?

There is no definitive answer, but there are several factors that bear watching, which we’ll look at here, as well as try to find a few other pieces of information that might give us an advantage.

Bet the Favorites Early

As a general rule of thumb, favorites tend to climb during the week, as the public begins to wager on the games, so you’ll seldom go wrong in placing your bets on the favorites early on.
A perfect example of this would be the Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland on Nov. 30, 2008. The Colts opened as 4-point favorites, but as game-time approached, Indianapolis was bet up to 5- or 5.5-point favorites. When the Colts managed to escape with a 10-6 victory, bettors who wagered on Indianapolis early in the week at least received their money back on the push, while those who took the Colts shortly before kickoff ended up with a loss.

Granted there will be times when the point spread comes down during the week, but this doesn’t occur as often as the point spread going up. This is especially true in the nationally televised NCAA football games, where the public is more likely to bet the favorite.

Prime Time Teams

Another general rule of thumb is that teams who had big performances in a nationally televised game will see the point spread move against them as the week goes on. An NFL team that posted an impressive victory on Monday Night Football will typically be bet by the public. Since the public will usually bet later in the week, that is when the line will typically move.
If you do happen to like a team off of a big prime-time performance, you’re typically better off betting this team as early as possible.

The big name college football teams also tend to be bet more heavily on game day or later in the week, so if you like one of the perennial powers, you’re often better off by placing your wager earlier in the week.

Predicting Public Betting Patterns

Another way to predict which way the point spread will move is to see who the public favors early on and expect that trend to continue during the week. You can visit sites that offer public betting percentages, such as The Spread or Sports Insights, as well as read some of the many football newsletters that are published each week.
If several of the top newsletters (Power Sweep, Gold Sheet, Playbook, etc.) are leaning towards one particular side, the chances are the odds will move against that particular team, as they will likely receive the majority of wagers.

Weather

Originally, I had not not included weather, but after a bit of thought, decided that it is something that should at least be touched upon.
Once the weather starts to turn nasty, a number of football games will be circled, meaning they have lower betting limits, early in the week with the generic “Inclement Weather Possible” as the reason. Obviously, knowing what the weather is predicted to do at game time is an advantage to the bettor.

Totals will drop a point or two on game day if the game will be played in miserable conditions, so a bettor who likes the under on a particular game will often be better served by wagering on the game earlier than game day. They will likely get the best of the line even if betting a day before the game is played.

So basically, if you’re looking to take advantage of weather-related line moves, wait as long as possible to make sure the latest weather forecasts will be in your favor.

It will take a bit of time, practice and observation, but eventually you should be able to correctly predict which direction the line will move much more often that not. If you can give yourself a slight advantage in the majority of your wagers, you’re that much closer to showing a long-term profit.

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