Reporters working the crime desk in a newsroom do not drive around at night looking for illegal activity. What they do is watch the police scanner and when it shows some action, they head for the scene.
A severe shift in an NFL point spread is like a police scanner, it sends an alert that something has been discovered in a matchup that seemingly shifts the advantage to one side.
Case in point, this Monday the books posted the homestanding Los Angeles Rams a field goal favorite, then suddenly shifted the point spread to make the Los Angeles Chargers the road favorite by 2½ points. The 5½ point shift, indicating something major happening to one or both of these teams heading into their weekend showdown.
Information I have not yet confirmed, will no doubt uncover conflicting coaching philosophies entering this game. One coach working on something other than the scoreboard, and the other side more interested in the final score. Early information can be right or wrong, but when the books move a point spread five-and-one-half points in a blink, something major is favoring one side over the other.
What we know is the sharpees call was the Cowboys plus a field goal on the spread, and that sent the wise guy money to the window in droves. Now the tug-a-war between what number erases the Cowboys statistical edge?
The Cowboys on the road getting a field goal is a lot better proposition than them playing as a road favorite. Statistically, that will clip 16% off the winning edge. In other words, 84% of the time the line shift won’t make a difference, but the 16% when it does, stings.
The Rams are the defending National Football Conference Champions and have little to prove in meaningless preseason games. They lost last week in Oakland despite having a plus two turnover ratio. The team has spent vast amounts of time defending Todd Gurley’s burnout last season, and what his status is while not playing in the preseason.
As for now, I think the Cowboys have a little more to play for in this game, but a five point shift on the spread cries something more. When we find out what it is, we can evaluate it from a motivational side whether the factors the books responded to warranted such a drastic move. Then, the big question, are we willing to give up a 16% edge by taking a road favorite?
On Thursday, the NFL kicks off their weekend action with five games. Three games will be played on Friday and before the San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos close out second week preseason action on Monday Night, there will be seven games played on Saturday and Sunday.
The battle in Los Angeles between the Rams and Cowboys will be played on Saturday night.