Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Monday, August 20, 2018 at 4:00 PM
The great thing about studying betting markets during dress rehearsal week is that you get to see how oddsmakers (by way of opening lines) and sharps (by way of early betting) are viewing team quality entering the regular season.
This will help you build your own Power Ratings for teams. If your own evaluations seem off…you’re probably wrong (at least a little bit)…and should consider shading your numbers in the direction of the market. If you’re in synch…you’re ready to start digging deeper to find situational or stat angles that might help you find betting value each week.
Of course, the problem is that this week’s lines are influenced by how long each starting quarterback is going to play. So, it’s not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. But, you will find that “first half” lines are very close to what we’d see in the regular season. Almost every team is going to play the first half at something close to full speed.
As you study this week’s point spreads, remember the fundamentals.
*Home field advantage is typically worth three points in the NFL. A bit less in exhibition games, particularly if the starting quarterbacks will only play a half. Subtracting out three points for the host will tell you what a “neutral site” line would be for the matchup. That’s where all Power Ratings or computer ratings begin. A big “neutral” scale that serves as the starting point. (Remember that Jets/Giants this week IS on a neutral field at the Meadowlands…both teams play home games there).
*Oddsmakers and sharps are still paying attention to “quarterback wars,” which is why a few lines this week don’t match what we’ll see in the regular season. Any team going hard for four full quarters is going to get a nod in the market before a team that will play 60% or three-quarters of a game. Come September, it will be important that you remember to dock “mediocre” teams who have been getting August market respect because of quarterback wars. Sharps will be less in love with the Jets in September than they’ve been in August. Probably Cleveland too…though sharps kept betting the Browns last season because of perceived line value.
*Any BIG line movement you see this week will be the result of personnel decisions for THIS week rather than team quality. If a game moves a couple of points, maybe that first point was about team quality…but the rest was about how long starters are going to play this week. Make use of that knowledge this week, but throw it away after that.
Of course, you should also be using settled lines for Regular Season Win Totals and futures prices when building your own ratings. Just remember to adjust for strength of schedule. It’s possible for a team that’s a “B” in quality to have a lower win total than a “C” if that “C” has a much easier schedule. Also note that the NFC has a few more legitimate Super Bowl hopefuls this season than the AFC. Some NFC longshots wouldn’t be nearly so long if they were in the AFC.
Here, let me run those win totals for you now. That might motivate you to sit down as you read this and start putting together ratings.
10.5 or more: New England, Philadelphia, LA Rams, Minnesota, Pittsburgh
9-10: Green Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans, Jacksonville, LA Chargers
7.5 to 8.5: Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Carolina, Kansas City, Oakland, Denver, Seattle, Tennessee, Baltimore, Detroit
7 or less: Washington, Indianapolis. Cincinnati, Miami, NY Giants, Tampa Bay, Chicago Arizona, Cleveland, NY Jets, Buffalo
Obviously, those first five teams are the most serious Super Bowl threats. Though, that second group has a real chance to crash the party. Probably only 2-3 points separate group one from group two. That third hunk is basically .500 caliber teams and Wildcard contenders. Those are probably about 4-5 points behind the elites (well, 6 or 6.5 for the worst teams in the group), and 2-3 points behind the second group. The final group isn’t currently registering as “playoff caliber.” It’s hard to know yet if any at the bottom are going to be so bad that they’re 2-14 or 4-12 type teams. Can’t know the “bottom” of the scale until some games are played for real.
I know that other handicappers like using stats and algorithms to analyze teams. I’ve always been most comfortable with the Power Ratings approach. That’s particularly true in my favorite sport to bet, college basketball. Comparing your numbers to the market helps you sharpen up your own evaluations very quickly. You have to respect the market to beat the market. Too many squares (public bettors) think point spreads are easy to beat. Takes them WAY too long to respect the market.
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