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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, August 10, 2018 at 3:00 PM

If you watched the first full night of NFL Preseason action Thursday, you noticed a lot of road teams cashing tickets by winning outright…and you noticed a lot of high scoring games.

The first was not a surprise to sharps (professional wagerers). Home field advantage isn’t worth much in preseason action. The market usually gives it about 2 to 2.5 points because squares (the public) would auto-bet every home team if it was cheaper. You saw Thursday night that home field might have been worth about ZERO!

The second point WAS a surprise to sharps. There’s usually not this much offense and scoring in exhibition openers. And, when there is, it’s because of special teams points or defensive returns. We hardly had any of those Thursday, yet two-thirds of the games went Over. A lot of offenses put up good numbers, throwing passes and moving the chains all night.

That cost a few Wise Guys some money, and has made everyone re-think what normal expectations should be for the rest of this week and this month?

Why would sharps change their thinking so quickly? Aren’t they the guys always lecturing you not to overreact to what you see on TV? Don’t fall pretty to “recency bias” they say. What’s going on now to make them consider reacting so quickly?

I’ll tell you what’s going on. Sharps are concerned that defenders are backing off because they don’t like the emphasis on penalties to shots above the shoulder. Defenders aren’t going to take any risks now. Once games are being played for real next month, we’ll see if this carries into the regular season. It’s tough to make a veteran stop doing what has always worked. Refs may have their hands full come September. Right now…it’s fairly easy for quarterbacks to complete passes to receivers who can then race out of bounds.

Also a factor, more head coaches are emphasizing offenses that throw a lot of short passes. Skeptics used to say you needed a quarterback like Tom Brady to win a championship that way. Last year, a quarterback like Nick Foles beat Brady in the Super Bowl! A lot of up-and-comers believe they have a quarterback who’s close in talent level to Foles. The game has evolved toward more passing throughout our lifetimes. Gradually. That’s happening more quickly now.

Combine those two factors (more passive defenses against more aggressive offenses), and you just might have the secret behind eight of 12 Thursday games going Over even though a lot of star quarterbacks sat out, or barely played at all.

All that said, it was just one night. And, it’s not like every game was landing in the 50’s. Let’s look at the breakdown

20’s: 27

30’s: 30, 36

40’s: 40, 43, 44, 45, 45, 48

50’s: 50, 51, 57

The market priced almost all games in the mid 30’s (Indy/Seattle was the high at 38). You can see that was about 10 points too low to split results. If every Over/Under had been 42, we STILL would have had 67% Overs. If every total was 44.5, it would have been a 6-6 split.

That’s what has old school sharps who usually bet Unders in August so rattled. There weren’t a slew of “return” touchdowns by defense or special teams, but scoring jumped THAT much. We’ll see a larger sample size to see if it means anything for the rest of the month.

I usually don’t release Over/Unders to my clients in August (or the regular season for that matter) unless I’m hearing something very good from my sources. I’ll have to think about next week. I’ll see if the market moves its totals. If there’s no movement…then I might look at some Overs. If every game is lifted 3-4 points, I might play contrarian and jump in on an Under or too with teams who don’t have quality backups at the QB position.

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I recently told you I’ve sent a lot of time in New Jersey lately to help sports books get up to speed for the challenges ahead. I’ve heard that a significant percentage of Thursday’s handle was on that Giants/Browns game…even though there were a dozen NFL games and some good baseball games on the board. It will be very interesting to see how sports books in the region react to the expected onslaught of “public” money on the Giants, Jets, and Eagles (Philadelphia isn’t far).

Syndicates with bodies in both Nevada and New Jersey are hoping some “middle” opportunities open up. Maybe the Giants will be -3.5 in Nevada, but -4.5 in New Jersey (we’re unlikely to see middles offering up the key number of three). You can take the Giants -3.5 in Nevada, their opponent plus 4.5 in New Jersey (and local sports will NEED that bet to help balance their books), and hope the game lands on four. If that syndicate has a preference for one side or the other, they’d weigh their action accordingly, with the middle as a nice back-up bonus if the game is played close to the number.

We’ll talk more about that later this season once we see how NJ books handle their local action. Thanks for reading today. See you next week.  

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