Predicting Football Line Moves

Learn to predict football line moves.

Key Points

– Understanding what causes football line moves can help NFL bettors.

– Predicting football line moves can give bettors an advantage against the sportsbooks.

Predicting Football Line Moves

In many ways, football betting is different from the other major North American sports. The length of time that lines can be bet on before the games are played is arguably the most significant difference. 

Baseball, basketball, and hockey lines are usually accessible the evening before games. If not, they are always available early in the morning of game day. That’s not the case in the NFL.

The odds for the majority of Sunday afternoon NFL games are set the previous Sunday night. That gives the general public and sharp bettors much more time to consider the lines and place their wagers. It also gives more time for the bookmakers to change the lines to balance their action. 

Football lines often change significantly between when they are set and when betting is closed just prior to kickoff. This is significant because there are several days where football line moves take place. 

A line may change by just a half-point or the move might be bigger. There are a number of factors concerning football line moves. Understanding them can help you survive the rest of the football betting season

Timing is Everything

The timing of your bet can be very important related to football line moves. If you are betting on a favorite, for instance, you would much rather do so at -4.5 than at -7.5. At -4.5, your team can win by a touchdown and win the bet. 

At -7.5, you need your team to win by at least eight. Winning by seven would result in a betting loss. The opposite would be true for underdogs. You would much rather bet on an underdog at +7.5 than +4.5. 

Predicting when and in which direction a line will move is the difficult part of timing your bets. The sooner you can bet on the favorite if a spread is going to increase, the better. If you are betting on the underdog, however, waiting as long as you can before placing your wager is probably the best course of action.


What Causes Football Line Moves

There are a number of things that can cause football line moves. Sportsbooks typically prefer to have their action balanced. They would ultimately like to have the same amount of money wagered on both sides of a bet.

When that occurs, they are assured of a profit. Thanks to the juice, or vig as it is also called, the sportsbook is left with its commission after the winning bets have been paid out. 

The bookmaker will typically adjust a line to make the team that is drawing more bets less appealing. That will cause bettors to shift their betting to the other team. 

What this does is lessen the risk that the sportsbooks are taking and help to balance out the action. If bettors know which team is commanding more action, they can often predict how a line will shift. 

Predicting Adjustments

Predicting line moves is extremely helpful for the NFL bettor. NFL handicappers should keep two basic guidelines in mind when predicting the movement of a betting line. 

The first involves the betting public. Remember, the public loves favorites. Public bettors lack sophistication. They focus on teams that are more likely to win instead of which teams are likely to cover. 

Favorites are more likely to win in the majority of situations, which does make them more appealing. Sportsbooks know this and as the week wears on the odds on a favorite are likely to become less attractive. 

Public teams almost always draw the most money. There are teams that bettors will back without exception – the Yankees, Lakers, and Chiefs are just a few examples of teams that always command public betting action.

As a result, NFL bettors should bet early in the week on favorites and later in the week on underdogs. Win betting football this season using this tip.

Reverse Line Movement

It’s not always that easy though to predict football line moves. Occasionally, a line will shift in the opposite direction of which it was anticipated. This is called reverse line movement and occurs when professional handicappers, known as sharp bettors or simply sharps, place a significant bet on one side.

For example, we would expect an announcement of an injury to a player on the favorite to affect the point spread. The Chiefs are a 5.5-point favorite when it is announced that TE Travis Kelce and a starting offensive tackle are out. We would expect the line to shift in the direction of the Chiefs opponent.

It does not. After the announcement, the Chiefs are now a -7.5-point favorite. That doesn’t seem right, but it happens. The explanation, of course, is that there has been a sharp money move. 

Lines will move in the exact opposite direction that you would expect sometimes. That makes predicting football line moves difficult. 

The important thing to remember is that, as an NFL bettor, you are not required to wager on any specific game. If you anticipate one kind of line movement and don’t see it, you can simply choose not to wager on that game.