Explaining Football Line Movements

Football line movements can tell a bettor a lot. But you need to do the right thing, with the right information.

Key Points

– Line movements in football occur for a number of reasons.

– Football line movements give bettors some information they can use to make better betting decisions.

Football Line Movements

One of the most important factors in wagering on NFL or college football is line movement. Put simply, line movement refers to odds or point spreads that have changed leading up to a game. 

Line movement is something that smarter bettors will track. It reveals some very valuable information and can help bettors get the best possible price on a wager.

Why Lines Move

There are a variety of reasons why lines move in football betting. There are injuries that can play into the projected outcome of a game. During the week, a team’s starting quarterback goes down with an injury. The line on that game is going to change with a backup starting.

Other factors can also influence the line on a football game. Weather can play a role in a line change. An impending storm can affect a line change. Player suspensions and other tactical announcements can cause a change in a line. Football scores and odds can change for many reasons.

The big reason why lines move is related to money being placed on a wager. Remember, the goal of a sportsbook is to take in equal action on each side of a bet. When a large majority of the money is on one side of a bet, sportsbooks have to adjust lines to attract action on the other side of the bet.

Using Football Line Movements to Your Advantage

If you are betting on a favorite, typically it is in your best interest to bet early. Most football line movement tends to go against the favorite. With that in mind, you can use line movement to your advantage.

If you are considering betting on an underdog, waiting for a better price is a good idea. Look at the following example. The Boston Celtics are a 6-point favorite over the Indiana Pacers. 

Boston -6 (-110)

Indiana +6 (-110)

Later in the day, the line shifts and the Celtics are now a 9-point favorite. You liked Indiana from the start. Now, you like them even better as you are getting an additional three points. 

Smarter bettors can use line moves to hedge their bets and can also use a strategy known as middling. One of the more famous middling moves occurred during Super XIII when the Pittsburgh Steelers were 3.5-point favorites over Dallas.

Just prior to the game, the spread shifted to 4.5. Bettors who wagered on Pittsburgh at -3.5 now wagered on Dallas at +4.5 and hoped for a four-point differential. The Steelers won that game 35-31 and sportsbooks took it on the chin.

Shop for the Best Lines

Once you become more familiar with line movement, you will be able to take advantage of such a situation. When you come across a line move that doesn’t seem right, it’s usually a situation where you can find value.

In any case where you see line movement and have found an advantage, it makes sense to shop around for the best line. Using the Celtics-Pacers example from above, let’s say you notice the line tilting toward Boston. 

That’s an indication that money is pouring in on the Celtics. You like Indiana but not at -6. You begin looking around and find the Pacers at +8. That’s great, but as you continue shopping you ultimately find Indiana at +9. Shopping for the better pays off especially if the Celtics win by eight or less.

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