Thirty years ago while working part time for me and attending the University of California full time, my nephew developed a method to gauge the value in the National Football League point spreads. His system, which together we refined and later added to the information available on the Qoxhi Picks site, assigns a point spread price number for each team that is always calculated in alignment with the current point spread on any game.
Okay, I could go through the process of determining a point spread price and how it serves to know when there is value in the point spread regardless if the team is a favorite or underdog. But, suffice it to say, that value is a good thing. When a team is priced over their established average they more often lose against the point spread, and when they are priced under their average they most often beat the line.
At least that is the way it works in the regular season.
But, in the preseason, wide discrepancies in a point spread that are reflected by the point spread price number more often illuminates a winner on the high side and a loser on the low side.
Because in the regular season teams all have the same objective, win the game. But, in the preseason, while there is a scoreboard, often one or both sides have little interest in that in favor of what they need to do with their squad to get ready for the games that count. And, because there is no consequence for losing, a team focussed on more important objectives are not shy about telling the truth about their game plan.
The books know this, and while the general public is still looking at talent in the preseason as if it mattered almost as much as it does in the regular campaign, when there is a point spread that appears off bettors often scramble on the teams that look like they have an advantageous line. Most often, that leads to the wrong side of the proposition.
The bookmakers best friend is the point spread. They manipulate the line to lure bettors to the wrong side of propositions from the start to the finish of an NFL season. But, in the preseason, they study the coaches game plans with resources not available to most of us and yet are forced to adjust their lines to balance both what they know and public opinion.
In the regular season, this creates value for us when a point spread price illustrates a team has value when underpriced, while in the preseason, the better wagers are found in the games that show up overpriced.
For example, last week the Los Angeles Chargers appeared overpriced when they met the Rams at SoFi Stadium. But, the coaches game plans offered an edge to the Chargers and the books made them road favorites that carried the highest point spread price of the week, 95. In the regular season, the Chargers would have trouble beating a point spread price that high; an average team is priced at 70. Yet, given the Rams weren’t playing to win and the Chargers were, the LA visitors (in their own stadium) were able to cover the 3½ point line and 95 point spread price number with a 13-6 victory.
This week, the Chargers are not as intent on winning as they were last week, as dictated by their game plan, and their opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, are. Last week, San Francisco lost their home opener while giving extended playing time to one-time first round draft choice Josh Rosen. Playing with his fourth team in three years, the 49ers were seeing if the UCLA product might fill the bill to be third on the quarterback depth chart.
He failed that test, the 49ers lost to the Chiefs, and Rosen was cut on Monday.
That leaves the 49ers looking at their top two quarterbacks this week against the Chargers, Jimmy Garoppolo and first round draft choice Trey Lance. This matchup swings the preseason edge to the 49ers and prompted the books to install them as a four point road favorite over the Chargers. The line has moved up to 5½ points, which moves the 49ers point spread price to 108, the highest I have ever seen in a preseason game.
Would I back the 49ers in the regular season with that high of a point spread price?
But this is the preseason, when everything is different.
Qoxhi Picks: San Francisco 49ers (-5½) over Los Angeles Chargers