All the major sports post early lines, but NFL and NCAA football lines offer golden opportunities for bettors. That’s because compared to all of the other sports, the NFL and college football play very few games – only one game per team per week. That means that the lines, which are posted as soon as the last week’s games are over, sit around a long time, attracting action throughout the week.
In other sports, lines are often around for a few days to about a half-week, and there are a lot more of them, which translates into less scrutiny of lines by sports bettors. You can use this fact to give you an edge when betting on football.
The skinny on early lines in football is that there can be great value in them. To find the value, you need to have done a lot of your homework before those first lines go up on Sunday night. You need to be ahead of the curve.
Bookmakers post these early lines to generate interest and action. These lines tend to be very soft, and, as the week goes on, they will usually tighten up. Thus, especially in the NFL and in lesser-known college games, you can find real deals. Note, it’s often the team that is given the points that offers the best value, but this is not a given. That’s why you have to make sure you’re prepared.
Also, once the teams are finished playing, it’s important to consider how they played in that game, why they played the way that they did, and if anyone got injured during the game, and what effect that might have next week.
Early Line Example
As an example, let’s say that New England just beat Buffalo 30-10 and next week they play Oakland, which just lost to San Diego 17-14. New England is traveling out West for the game. The best spread you can find is Oakland at +13.5. You may feel that the Pats are overvalued and the Raiders undervalued. In a game like this, I’d expect the line to probably tighten to something like 11.5 or so. Oakland offers good value at this point.
This is especially the case if the game ends up being New England 32 and Oakland 20. With the early line at +13.5, the Raiders get the win, but with the later line, which may settle in around Thursday, the Pats cover.
Waiting on Games
You may find some lines that offer you great value and bet them Sunday night or early Monday morning. You may also elect to wait on other games to see if something happens with the line that might favor your pick. When you’re betting the favorite in the NFL, a tightened line can be a big factor in winning or losing a bet.
Consider a matchup between the Packets and the Bears. The Packers, who will be at home, start at -3.5, but just before the start of the game, they are listed at -2.5. That difference between -3.5 and -2.5 is a field goal, and that single point is huge in this game. It becomes less important if Green Bay started at -4.5 and ends up at -3.5. In this game, if I want to take the Packers, and the line is moving downward, I’m waiting as long as I can before betting it.
Know the Teams and the League
Before you can take advantage of early and late lines, you will need to know the league and the teams inside out. This is not a guessing game. Being able to spot great soft lines and anticipate lines that will tighten up for your benefit comes from knowledge, experience, and skill. Make sure you stay involved and monitor lines throughout the week.