NFL 2022 Season - Week 13


Friend or Foe
by Dennis Ranahan

My wife tells me that my columns have too many statistics.

Seems she gets bored with numbers, but loves the human interest stuff when I write about people interactions. So, to appease her desires, and not to abandon my forte, numbers, I will forego listing the stats for what I’m about to say. At the same time, I request you trust that numbers bear out my positions while I forgo them in favor of the story around it.

First things first. The books are in business to separate you from your money. How they do that is a testament to their resources and skill. There are some handicapping services that advertise how they spot lines the books missed and promote that they are going to help you break your book.

Okay, this seems like it should be the first thing, but given I have already assigned that, call this 1a: the last thing one should want to do is break their book. I am not in search of a broke book whether I was the cause or not. Second, saying the books are off on a point spread is to claim you’re capable of sneaking a sunrise by a rooster.

They do not miss lines.

They better not go broke.

And winning with them is a lot easier than trying to beat them.

When I was first developing motivation charts while in high school, I noticed something rather significant while charting point spread results, ‘home team underdogs always won.’

In fact, while they didn’t ‘always’ win, they did beat the point spread 64% of the time (I had to get that number in there, sorry Pam).

During the 1970’s, that winning point spread percentage was reduced while home team underdogs continued to play at a steady pace. Since 1990, home team dogs have won more straight-up than they had the prior thirty years, but their record against the point spread is fifty-fifty.

While the public went for the home underdogs the team’s on the field were playing the same, but the books adjusted the point spread enough to erase any advantage with that basic situation.

And you want to try and beat these guys?

Bad idea.

The trick is to win with them, be on the unpopular play at your office for six days, and come back on Monday morning a weekend winner. Know what percentage of people win while gambling? In deference to my wife’s request, I won’t tell you … but tell me how many people you know show up on Monday with more money than they had on Sunday morning?

The books have more information and better utilize that information than any team in the league. When a quarterback is questionable to start for a team the coach sees it to his advantage to keep his availability uncertain to force an opponent to prepare for two different signal callers. This competitiveness prompts a delay in the information release. The books will tell us exactly when the decision was made on a key player the moment it is known. They do it with the point spread. A team that is off the board will have the line posted when the questionable player’s availability is known. This often happens two or three days before confirmation of his status is either released by the team or plays out on game day.

While the books are positioning themselves to separate clients from their money, we are taking positions with them against the public and offering a share of those winnings with our customers.