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Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Here is our weekly look at how the NFL and college football betting markets are shaping up leading into the weekend.

For consistency, lines, totals and betting percentages are from Caesars Sportsbook, unless otherwise noted. The betting percentages are not specific to the current line or total and are designed to provide a snapshot of the early action. The look-ahead lines were offered in advance of the previous week’s games. Most numbers were re-opened Sunday night.

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NFL market watch

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles (Thursday)

Last week’s look-ahead line: Bucs -6.5, 52.5
Sunday line: Bucs -7, 53
Wednesday line: Bucs -7, 52.4
Spread action: 87% of the bets and 78% of the money wagered is on the Buccaneers.
Total action: 70% of the bets and 51% of the money wagered is on the over.

Notes: Buccaneers QB Tom Brady said Tuesday that his sore thumb on his throwing hand is not seriously injured and he expects any discomfort to dissipate before Thursday’s game.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week’s look-ahead line: Dolphins -3, 43.5
Sunday line: Dolphins -3, 45
Wednesday line: Dolphins -3.5 (-105), 47
Spread action: 54% of the bets were on the Jaguars, but 72% of the money wagered was on the Dolphins.
Total action: 52% of the bets and 80% of the money wagered was on the over.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Football Team

Last week’s look-ahead line: Chiefs -6, 54
Sunday line: Chiefs -6.5, 55.5
Wednesday line: Chiefs -7, 55.5
Spread action: 95% of the bets and 95% of the money wagered was on the Chiefs.
Total action: 70% of the bets and 75% of the money wagered was on the over.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

Last week’s look-ahead line: Ravens -3, 48
Sunday line: Ravens -3, 51.5
Wednesday line: Ravens -3 (-105), 52
Spread action: 91% of the bets and 96% of the money wagered was on the Chargers.
Total action: 93% of the bets and 99% of the money wagered was on the over.

Notes: The betting public sided with the underdog Chargers early in the week at BetRivers’ sportsbooks, where Los Angeles had attracted 91% of the money wagered on the point spread. “The Chargers will be a public underdog this week; they’ve got quality wins,” Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said in a company release. “The Ravens were lucky to beat the Lions and Colts, and lost to the Raiders. I’m not convinced Baltimore is everything they’re made out to be right now.”

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Last week’s look-ahead line: Packers -4.5, 46
Sunday line: Packers -4, 46
Wednesday line: Packers -4.5, 45
Spread action: 85% of the bets and 80% of the money wagered was on the Packers.
Total action: 71% of the bets were on the over, but 95% of the money wagered was on the under.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Last week’s look-ahead line: Colts -7.5, 43.5
Sunday line: Colts -10, 43.5
Wednesday line: Colts -9.5, 42.5
Spread action: 58% of the bets and 51% of the money wagered was on the Texans.
Total action: 82% of the bets were on the over, but 81% of the money wagered was on the under.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants

Last week’s look-ahead line: Rams -6.5, 50
Sunday line: Rams -10, 48
Wednesday line: Rams -9.5, 49
Spread action: 94% of the bets and 94% of the money wagered was on the Rams.
Total action: 56% of the bets were on the over, but 76% of the money wagered was on the Giants.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers

Last week’s look-ahead line: Panthers -1, 47
Sunday line: Pick ’em, 47
Wednesday line: Vikings -1, 46
Spread action: 52% of the bets and 56% of the money wagered was on the Vikings.
Total action: 65% of the bets were on the over, but 85% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: The early action on the game at Caesars Sportsbook included a $500,000 money-line bet on the Vikings at even money.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions

Last week’s look-ahead line: Bengals -3, 49
Sunday line: Bengals -3.5, 48.5
Wednesday line: Bengals -3.5, 47.5
Spread action: 78% of the bets and 95% of the money wagered was on the Bengals.
Total action: 56% of the bets were on the over, but 95% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: The lopsided action on the Bengals at Caesars Sportsbook included a $500,000 bet on Cincinnati -3.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns

Last week’s look-ahead line: Browns -3, 52.5
Sunday line: Browns -3, 54
Wednesday line: Browns -3 (-105,) 49.5
Spread action: 71% of the bets were on the Cardinals, but 58% of the money wagered was on the Browns.
Total action: 83% of the bets were on the over, but 67% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: Early weather forecasts in Cleveland were calling for heavy winds, ranging from 17-19 mph during Sunday’s game.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots

Last week’s look-ahead line: Cowboys -1, 48
Sunday line: Cowboys -3, 48
Wednesday line: Cowboys -3.5, 51
Spread action: 93% of the bets and 79% of the money wagered was on the Cowboys.
Total action: 62% of the bets and 99% of the money was on the over.

Notes: Books are going to need the home underdog Patriots, potentially for a big decision. As of Wednesday at BetRivers sportsbooks, more money had bet on Cowboys minus the points than had been bet on any other market on the board.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos

Last week’s look-ahead line: Broncos -2.5, 44
Sunday line: Broncos -3, 44.5
Wednesday line: Broncos -3.5, 44
Spread action: 60% of the bets and 85% of the money wagered was on the Broncos.
Total action: 65% of the bets were on the over, but 71% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: Books took different approaches to ex-Raider coach Jon Gruden’s resignation this week. Some sportsbooks halted betting on the game; other books, including Caesars, kept the game on the board and tweaked the line slightly. Caesars moved the Broncos from -3 to -3.5 on the news of Gruden’s resignation. “Bill Belichick is the only coach where the spread would move significantly if he wasn’t on the sidelines,” Mucklow said. “In this instance, you have a Super Bowl-winning coach being replaced by someone who’s never been a head coach. With how the Raiders have looked recently and all the distractions that are going on, it’s not a surprise that this number moved off 3. We’ll see how the players respond to the new coach, but obviously this is a different case compared to coaches that get fired midseason for poor records.”

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers

Last week’s look-ahead line: Seahawks -2.5, 48
Sunday line: Steelers -4, 43
Wednesday line: -5, 42.5
Spread action: 69% of the bets and 75% of the money wagered was on the Steelers.
Total action: 68% of the bets were on the over, but 88% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: The line flipped from Seattle -2.5 to Steelers -3 after Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson suffered an injured finger in a loss to the Rams last Thursday. The total dropped from 48 to 42.5 on the news of Wilson’s injury, which is expected to keep him out several weeks, although not specific timetable has been given for his return.

Betting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insightsBetting market watch: Line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans (Monday)

Last week’s look-ahead line: Bills -3, 52.5
Sunday line: Bills -4.5, 53.5
Wednesday line: Bills -5.5, 54
Spread action: 94% of the bets and 96% of the money wagered was on the Bills.
Total action: 81% of the bets and 73% of the money was on the over.


A bookmaker’s approach to college football lines

Circa Sports is responsible for the first college football lines to hit the betting market each week. The book posts its opening lines at 11 a.m. PT on Sundays and offers $3,000 betting limits to all comers, including professional bettors. Within the industry, Circa Sports is what’s considered a “sharp book.” Their limits grow rapidly through the week and, by the time kickoff approaches, will be among the largest in the betting market.

Matt Metcalf, sportsbook director for Circa Sports in Las Vegas, is sharing his bookmaking approach with ESPN this football season.

Handicapping the Sooners’ QB situation

Metcalf moved Oklahoma up three points in his power ratings based on the offense he saw against Texas in the second half. The Sooners inserted freshman quarterback Caleb Williams in place of starter Spencer Rattler against Texas and rallied from 18 points down in the second half to knock off the Longhorns 55-48.

“I’m assuming they’ll do what it takes to have that offense. If that involves not playing Rattler, I think they’ll go that route,” Metcalf said. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has declined to name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against TCU.

The Sooners opened as 12-point favorites over TCU at Circa. Metcalf initially wanted to use Oklahoma -14, but, without knowing for sure whether Williams or Rattler will start, elected to go with the lower number.

“I didn’t want to commit all the way to getting that Oklahoma team that we saw in the second half,” Metcalf said. “If they did play Rattler, I think the number still works.”

The line had grown to Oklahoma -14 by Wednesday

Reading ahead of the market on Clemson-Syracuse

Learning information on injuries can force Circa Sports oddsmakers into a guessing game of trying to figure out whether bettors have read the same information. This week, it happened when Metcalf and his team were formulating the point spread on the Clemson-Syracuse game. Metcalf had read that key Syracuse starting offensive linemen missed last week’s game against Wake Forest with injuries and thought that Clemson’s defensive front would have the advantage. Plus, with Clemson coming off a bye week, he felt like this was a good spot for the Tigers.

The consensus line among Circa’s oddsmakers was Clemson -15, but they ended up opening the Tigers as 17-point favorites.

“The thought was that Clemson, with a bigger, stronger defensive front, would give [Syracuse] a lot of trouble, so we kind of tacked on some points there,” Metcalf said.

The early money came in on Syracuse, driving the number to as low as Clemson -13.5, and the guessing game began. “I don’t know whether people are telling us that they don’t agree with it or they just didn’t read it yet,” Metcalf said. “Sometimes, if we read ahead of the market on injuries, it doesn’t really pay in a sense because we’ll sit there and take a lot of bets”

Metcalf couldn’t stomach leaving the point spread at any less than Clemson -14, where it has sat for the first half of the week.

“I think Clemson is the side I would look to need as a bookie,” Metcalf added, “because it feels like a good spot for them.”

Cursing the early action on Navy-Memphis

Metcalf opened Memphis as 9-point favorites over Navy but was cursing himself three hours after putting the number on the board; not because he was wrong, but because he was right.

The first limit bets were on Navy. Metcalf moved the number aggressively toward the underdog, through the key number of 7 and down to 6.5. “I don’t really like Memphis,” he said, “and I struggle with if Navy has improved.”

At that point, the next several max bets were on Memphis and the lower number, pushing the number back to around the opening line of Tigers -9.

“I kind of doubted my number too much, and I was wrong, and they bet it back up,” Metcalf said. “So, I’m sitting on my opener but have two limits bets high on Memphis. I trusted the market over my number in the beginning. And our number was better than I thought it was.”

Memphis was a 10.5-point favorite as of Wednesday afternoon.

Public, sharps agree on Cincinnati

Metcalf believes Cincinnati is probably a two-touchdown underdog to the elite teams like Georgia and Alabama, and around 10 points to Ohio State.

“But it’s obvious that everyone is behind that team,” Metcalf said. “We took a ton of action on them last week against Temple. The public and the sharp guys definitely like them.”

Metcalf opened Cincinnati as 16-point favorites over UCF this week and attracted immediate action on the Bearcats. The line had settled at Cincinnati -21 as of Wednesday.

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