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Finding Value in Sides and Totals

NFL Betting: Finding Value in Sides and Totals

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

Picking winners is obviously a big part of successful NFL handicapping. But finding value in sides and totals is where it’s really at. There is a very small percentage of bettors who actually succeed at this over the long run. One thing they all have in common is they have a heightened view of getting the best value on straight bets and over/unders.

If you can just get on the right side on the value see-saw, you will likely see your winning percentage surge. Where a lot of bettors lose their way is that they try to beat the wrong guys. They attempt to beat the opening line, rather than the closing line. The opening line is where the sharpest men in the business come into play. The bookie (who seems to always win) sets a line. Then the first people who get a crack at it are the sharps. Early money is sharp money. And by the time you see the opening line, it’s been hashed out by the brightest men in the business.

Why tangle with those guys? You should be trying to beat the general betting public, not the sharps. Now is where you have to be good at determining line movement. The opening line is given to the public and then their betting action moves the line. If you can consistently have a better line that the closing line--you’re on your way.

You need to become adept at seeing what the line is, where it’s likely to move, when is the best time to bet, what bet to make, and where to bet it. At the end of the day, you want the best value on your bet. So don’t try to beat the opening line. Sure, there will be times where you see what you perceive as a weak line, so you bet it. But that’s not so much because the opening line was weak, you just bet it because you suspect the number will move the wrong way for the team you wanted to bet.

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Say for example, the New England Patriots open at -5. You might like the Patriots that week and you suspect the tasty line will be bet upwards. New England is a glamor team. They receive a lot of betting support from their millions of fans. It’s unlikely that their opponent will be bet on more. So you jump on -5. By the end of the week, the line is now 7. Now a bunch of people have the Patriots at -7, while you’re sitting there with -5. That’s good work.

But let’s say the Jacksonville Jaguars are facing the Jets. You like the Jags at +6.5. But you wait. Why? First of all, the Jets are likely to get more support than the Jags. In addition, you would rather see the point-spread move past the key number of 7. So you wait and by Sunday, the Jaguars are now +7.5. You managed two feats here. You’re getting better value than most Jacksonville backers. And you managed to get on the right side of the key number of 7.

With totals, the same kind of things happen. People see a game involving a high-scoring offense and the urge is to bet the over. People like overs. They like high-scoring games and are too ready to accept the supposed reality that every game involving strong offenses will be an ultra-high scoring game. So the number goes up. Then on Sunday, you bet the under and get great value.

Sure, it doesn’t feel very comfortable having the under in a New England game. In addition, there seems to be a movement in the NFL to have games be more offensively-based. We see how the league is handcuffing defenses. Still, that doesn’t mean you want to have a proclivity for betting overs. All the rule changes and other wrinkles that make the game more offensive have already been hashed out by the bookies and sharps. And if you’ve been paying attention, those are not the guys you should be trying to beat.

Say, for example, the Patriots-Bills game has a total of 47. If you think the game will go over, you should probably get on it early. Once the public gets their hands on it, the number is more likely to go up than it is to go down. If at the end of the day, you’re sitting there with “over 47,” while most people who bet the over have to beat 49 or 50, you’re gaining an edge. And if you can do that consistently, you are receiving good value.

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