The NFL Odds Cycle

We cover why betting lines move in our article on betting markets, but for NFL bettors, it’s worth delving in deeper to explain the NFL odds cycle for a typical week of betting action.

Much of this information can be used for NCAA betting markets as well, but the timeline will be a bit different because most college football games are played on Saturday.

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The Opening Line

The speed at which a sportsbook posts its lines depends on several factors.

Sharper sportsbooks will post their odds first because they’re willing to risk posting a bad number (although they rarely post soft lines, even early) due to the increase in bets they will receive for posting early and can adjust quickly if they get hit hard by sharps. They’re also going to look to improve their odds based on the early sharp action they receive once they release their odds for the coming week.

In US online betting markets, there are two sportsbooks that post their NFL odds sooner than anyone else in the market. After the late Sunday afternoon games end, Bookmaker.eu and 5Dimes.eu will usually have odds out for next week’s games, that don’t involve Sunday night’s game or Monday night’s participants. It’s not uncommon to see lines move a full point on based on Sunday evening betting action. The bets moving the odds early are quite large and from some of the sharpest bettors around.

Both of these sportsbooks are considered the two sharpest for US players, with Bookmaker getting the nod for sides and totals. They’re right up there with Pinnacle Sports, the worldwide leader in bookmaking, in terms of efficient markets. It’s at this point where the lines are freshest and will immediately bt hit from wiseguys or sharp sports bettors. The market will quickly adjust to five-figure wagers, which Bookmaker accepts and international bookmakers like Pinnacle accept with regularity.

For bettors who want an early jump on the lines before anyone else, this is the earliest shot you will get at next week’s odds online. Most sportsbooks, especially those that cater to mostly recreational bettors will have their odds up sometime Monday.

Early Week

NFL Thursday Night FootballThe NFL market starts to take shape during Monday and Tuesday. As I mentioned above, this is still a prime time for high-volume bettors to bet big on early numbers they like. It’s possible that not all games will be on the board early Monday. Occasionally sportsbooks will hold a game off the board a bit longer, particularly in the case of a significant injury question to a key player.

By Monday evening, however, every game on the slate will be available for wagering for the coming week. With Thursday Night Football games becoming a regular event since the 2012 season, the weekday game’s markets will mature than faster than the weekend’s games. Steam moves are extremely frequent earlier in the week. Reading line moves early on can be deceiving. A typical tactic of some professional bettors is to wager on one side of a game to move the number and ‘buyback’ the other side, by doubling or tripling their wager.

However, the moves made early in the week are always the work of high volume professional level bettors. Much of the betting public doesn’t begin to wager on NFL games until later in the week, usually around Thursday or Friday. Many more wait until Saturday’s college football action concludes to place their bets for Sunday’s contests. Some wager minutes before the games begin.

It’s important for bettors to realize that major line movements earlier in the week are not usually the result of public betting patterns. They aren’t wagering in large numbers when the odds are released, and their opinion especially early on is not valued highly by oddsmakers.

Late Week and Game Time

As the days progress in the week, more information becomes available regarding injuries, coaching and player news, weather reports and other relevant factors. These can and will also cause line movement depending on the significance of each move.

As we approach the weekend, public betting also starts to become a factor. Public wagering isn’t a driving force behind the lines, because once again, the sportsbooks don’t value the opinion of their losing clients when it comes to doing their jobs. However, if the public is all over one particular side or total, it will cause the line to move.

Although it’s important to remember that by the time it’s Saturday and Sunday, NFL markets sides and totals are extremely sharp for the most part. The oddsmakers have had nearly a week to adjust to sharp betting action and gather information on the week’s coming contests. There’s always going to be some last minute information that may change the line drastically, but it’s rare to see these games move more than a half point past Thursday or Friday. Bettors can always judge the confidence a sportsbook has in a particular market by the amount of money they will take on it. Every US-facing sportsbook takes considerably more money on NFL sides and totals than they do on every other major sporting event. Some have substantially higher limits for later in the week than they do on Monday or Tuesday.

Their confidence level when it comes to NFL markets is extremely high. It’s their moneymaker. Their odds are the sharpest when it comes to football because one mistake here or there can cost them big.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the line cycle of a typical NFL week is crucial to understanding why lines are moving and why the market is changing. We can’t fault bettors for wagering later in the week. Their wagers will still be excellent if they beat the closing line, but there’s some real value in hitting the market early, particularly if you can get the right side of key numbers, such as the three and seven.

There are tons of handicappers that beat the NFL every year, but contrary to the belief of some, it’s the hardest sport to beat due to the crazy amount of action wagered on NFL markets. Understanding line movement and keeping an eye on public betting percentages and steam plays is one of the best ways to gain an extra edge on the oddsmakers.