“I don’t think you can handicap the NFL until at least three or four weeks are played so you can get a read on what direction the teams are headed,” said a prospective client on the phone with me on Thursday morning.
I couldn’t disagree more.
If we were looking to beat point spreads against the books alone, the job would be a lot tougher. But, what we are challenging is both the informed bookmakers and the public making wagers with the lines they set. A bookmaker may know one team has a solid advantage over another given their intelligence, but they need to set a line on that game that also factors in public opinion.
Early in a season, public opinion is driven mostly by last year’s results. The public may also factor in players who are highly promoted coming out of the draft or athletes teams have acquired through trades or lost to injury. Most of this information, that the public relies on, is useless.
Last year’s results are just that, old. The Chicago Bears won the NFC North Division last season, but they had finished in last place the prior four seasons. The San Francisco 49ers won their final five games of the 2017 season, and expectations for big things last year were pinned to those results and made San Francisco a bad point spread play in 2018.
Twelve teams advance to the postseason each year, and from season-to-season we can expect at least five teams that missed the playoffs the prior year to replace five teams that were in the hunt for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Advance work on a season can give us a pretty good idea which teams are likely to return to the postseason, and which playoff teams overachieved the previous year.
Early in a season, while the books still need to factor in public opinion from last year’s results, we can be ahead of the game with intelligence more importantly tied to how teams are projected to do this season. Which teams are poised to excel this year, and what teams are in a likely position to fall based on overachieving the prior season.
If our challenge was tied exclusively to betting into lines the books set with their knowledge of the game, the point spreads would be harder to beat. But, with the books making point spreads that reflect both their knowledge and public opinion, we have a huge advantage early in a season.
As for the guys waiting to see how three or four weeks of play indicate the direction of teams, I suggest what they missed was when the lines were most out of whack with what was logically going to happen. Once everyone sees the direction teams are headed after three or four games, public opinion will catch up with the books knowledge and spreads will be more in line with what is real.
So, why do I think the first four weeks of the season can be highly profitable?
Because, like the bookmakers, we know what to expect before it happens and are therefore able to capture great wagers with advantageous point spreads. Once three or four games are played, and the public does know the direction of the teams, the lines will be more in tune with this year instead of last season’s results.
Other factors will feed success after four weeks, but criteria pitched for early success is not to be missed.