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It takes a lot for a sportsbook to move an NFL team’s win total.
There aren’t many games in an NFL season, so switching a team from 9.5 to 10.5 sets up the dreaded middle, when a team lands on 10 wins and the book loses on over 9.5 and under 10.5. That’s not good for business.
NFL lines are generally sharp too, knowing that’s where the most action comes in. So when an NFL team has a win total move, it’s generally due to something big, like an unexpected season-ending injury, a sudden retirement or a big signing or trade.
Or, sometimes sportsbooks miscalculate, and a lot of action on one side forces a line move. There have been four line moves on NFL win totals at BetMGM (and one notable shift in the odds) since they were posted before the draft.
Let’s take a look at each and see if the moves from before the draft to mid-May were justified:
Dallas Cowboys (-110 to -175 on over 9.5 wins)
The other four teams we’ll talk about had a line move. The Cowboys have stayed at 9.5 wins but the juice has moved significantly toward the over. If BetMGM keep getting action on the Cowboys, it might be forced to move the line to 10.
We discussed the Cowboys’ odds in detail last week. It seems this one was a big reaction to Dallas’ draft, which drew rave reviews. Draft classes can have a huge impact — see the 2017 New Orleans Saints or 2018 Indianapolis Colts — but it’s always tough to depend on rookies. If the line gets to 10, it will be hard to pass on the under.
Chicago Bears (8.5 wins to 8)
Usually, popular teams move only up. Not many Bears fans are getting on the BetMGM app to wager that their team will go 8-8 or worse.
But the vibe around the Bears is mostly negative. The quarterback situation doesn’t seem good, and that’s driving the line movement. The draft didn’t inspire confidence. Chicago was a popular team last year and that excitement is gone.
Arizona Cardinals (6.5 wins to 7)
This could also be related to some negative feelings about the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West. The Rams, like the Cowboys, haven’t moved off 8.5 wins but the odds on the under have gone up. Under 8.5 on the Rams was +115 before the draft and has moved to -110. If most people are leaning to the under on the Rams, it makes sense why there’s some extra excitement for the Cardinals’ over. And let’s face it, the Cardinals will be a fun team to follow this season with an over ticket. Still, betting on 8-8 from the Cardinals is a big jump for a team that still has defensive questions.
New England Patriots (9.5 wins to 9)
Speaking of divisional correlation, let’s just combine a discussion of the Tom Brady-less Patriots with ...
Buffalo Bills (8.5 wins to 9)
You get the feeling the sportsbooks are going to be rooting hard for the Patriots to win the AFC East again. The Bills will be a popular team this season. They have moved to +130 to win the division at BetMGM, just behind the Patriots at +120.
If you think the Patriots are tanking for Trevor Lawrence, you’re wrong, but then this would be the year to make some money on going against New England. It’s understandable why there’s skepticism. Jarrett Stidham is a total unknown. The Patriots need to win 10 games to cash any over tickets, and while that has been routine for Bill Belichick the past couple decades, this year feels different. There’s more uncertainty than ever. Still, it’s the Patriots. It’s the greatest coach ever. It’s still a defense that will be very competitive, and an offensive system that is sound. If Stidham or Brian Hoyer are functional, the offense will be fine. A lot of money has been lost through the years betting against New England.
On the other hand, the Bills check all the boxes for an offseason hype team. They made a big stride last season. People believe the Patriots are going to fall off. Buffalo made a big move to get receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings. The Bills played the Patriots tough twice last season. The snowball is rolling downhill. The action at 8.5 seems justified, but it’s a lot tougher when it’s at 9.
The Bills went 10-6 last season, but assuming a step forward assumes a lot of things, including more improvement from third-year quarterback Josh Allen. It’s hard to take the under because the optimism about the Bills is justified, but a lot of value in the over was taken away with the line move. If you think the Bills go over 9 wins, it might be better to just take them to win the division.
There must be plenty of people who bet the Patriots under at BetMGM and also took the Bills over. That combination makes sense. It just means sportsbooks will have a little more interest than usual in the late-season AFC East games.
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