The NFL season win total market is maturing, with one book after the next posting numbers over the past few weeks. We’ll see that market continue to mature over the next few weeks. By the start of the preseason, NFL season win totals will be posted just about everywhere, giving savvy bettors an opportunity to shop around for the best number on whatever team they are looking to fade or support.
Today, I’m going to take a look at where the early money is going. The NFL win total market is not particularly complex. You don’t see "head fake" moves, where bettors bet in the wrong direction early, hoping to take advantage of a bad market number down the line.
Rather, the early money tends to be a very good indicator of where the late money is going to come. Barring an injury related disaster, the teams that are taking Over money now will continue to take Over money into August, and vice versa.
One final note before I start discussing the early money “wise guy” teams for 2010. The standard formula for converting win totals from one book to the next is that each half win equals about 50 cents of juice. For example, as of this past weekend, the Dallas Cowboys were lined at 10 wins with the Over -130 at the Venetian here in Vegas. At the ‘M’, Dallas was lined at 9.5 wins with the Over -180.
In my calculations, those lines are exactly the same; Dallas is lined at 10.3 wins. Over 10 (-130) and Over 9.5 (-180) both translate to 10.3 victories. Using this well known, standard wiseguy formula, we can compare apples to apples as we examine the lines from one sportsbook to the next.
The single biggest early market mover has been the Atlanta Falcons, a popular wiseguy choice for the 2010 season. We’ve seen the Falcons explode in the marketplace, bet up from about 8.3 wins to 9.3 wins over the past six weeks. With a healthy Matt Ryan entering his third year as the starter at quarterback and a revamped defense, the Falcons are a trendy choice to emerge from the always tumultuous AFC South.
The Dallas Cowboys are another “hot” team in July. They’ve got a pro bowl quarterback in Tony Romo, a roster loaded with veteran talent and a head coach with a ‘win now or get fired’ mantra hanging over his head. The early money has pushed Dallas from a 9.7 to a 10.2 win team.
San Francisco and Minnesota have both attracted significant early support. The betting market expects Brett Favre to return for another season with the Vikings; staying ahead of the curve by supporting Minnesota now, prior to Favre’s official announcement. In the weak NFC West, the Niners are the flavor of the month after showing significant signs of progress in Mike Singletary’s first full year on the job last season.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen a handful of teams get bet down sharply over the course of the past six weeks, since these numbers started popping up. Carolina is at or near the top of the early wiseguy “bet against” list, bet down from 7.5 to 7.0 wins. The Panthers jettisoned their starting defensive line in the offseason, and they return a grand total of eight games of starting experience on the roster at the quarterback position.
Seattle, too, has been a sharp ‘bet against’ team over the summer months. Pete Carroll’s move to the Seahawks looks like a coach escaping a bad situation and NCAA sanctions at USC; not the move of a guy who was dying to get another chance to coach in the NFL The Seahawks have numerous holes to fill on both sides of the ball, with the look of a rebuilding team, not a contending one.
Other teams that have taken significant Under money include Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. Early bettors are concerned about head coach Jack Del Rio’s future if the Jags start off slow, and the Jags tough schedule only increases those concerns. Bettors don’t like the expected midseason Ben Roethlisberger/Byron Leftwich QB transition, and the Steelers have more additional personnel concerns on both sides of the ball than we’ve seen from them in recent years.
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