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Making the Most of Early NFL Win Totals

It wasn’t that long ago that NFL season win totals were a relatively rare thing to see and bet on. They have become more and more popular with every passing year, though – both to the betting public and to astute bettors looking for long term value. As a result, some sportsbooks have taken to posting totals for the first time right after the Super Bowl has been played. They often are posted for long, and the limits aren’t particularly high, but they are available to be bet on. They may not be the best investment in the world when it comes to betting on football - in fact they almost certainly aren’t – but for NFL handicappers who are willing to do a bit of homework they can be very valuable tools to help you when the next season starts – especially early in the next season. Here’s a look at four ways that these early NFL season win totals can be useful to football bettors:

Early insight into what oddsmakers think – Season win totals are one of the best ways to get inside the minds of NFL oddsmakers. They are very popular bets and they are risky, so oddsmakers have to work hard to make them as strong as they can because they know they will be hit hard and fast if they don’t. They have to balance what they think a football team is likely to do with what they think the public will think about that team. When they post early season win totals the public attention isn’t going to be on the numbers as intensely, so they aren’t going to move as rapidly. That means you have the luxury of getting a sense of what they think before the public and the smart money reacts to them. Those opinions will obviously change significantly thanks to free agency and the NFL Draft, but it gives you a good starting point to understand what the books are thinking, and what basic hierarchy they have arranged the league in. If and when some teams do change significantly you can then look at how they have changed and whether you think that that change is warranted.

Movement tells you what smart money thinks – The sports betting public isn’t going to pay a whole lot of attention to these early numbers – at least not to nearly the same extent that they flock to the numbers posted right before the season. That means that there is a good chance that any significant early movement in these lines is as a result of smart money. Later on it becomes much harder to isolate the smart money in season win totals, so this is a rare chance to get a good sense of what the mart bettors are thinking about teams – which ones they are optimistic about, and which ones they don’t like.

Gives you a starting point for early evaluation – I talked about this earlier, but it is the most important aspect of these lines, so it is worth repeating to make sure it sinks in. Effective NFL handicapping isn’t about having your own opinion about football teams. It’s about understanding how your opinion compares to the opinions of the public, the oddsmakers, and the smart money. You don’t make money from being right. You make money from understanding when the odds are wrong, and when there is value in betting on them as a result. These early numbers are the best starting point for understanding where the oddsmakers think teams are sitting at this given point. As things happen – free agents sign with the team or leave, players are drafted, developments happen in mini camps, and so on – the perception of teams will change and evolve. By knowing where the futures odds started you can look at how the oddsmakers perceive the impact of the different developments will affect the team, and you can analyze whether you think that they are overcompensating, or whether they are understating what will happen. That makes it easy to find value in early season games. Without this method of evaluating teams to start the season sports bettors are forced to guess where the value is until football teams have played a few games.

Allows you to effectively gamble on soft spots – If you have had a chance to look at where football teams are at and where they are likely to be as things sit now – what holes they have in their line-ups, what free agents they are likely to lose, how much cap flexibility they have, and so on – then you probably will have a sense of which win totals differ dramatically from your own opinion. Because there is so much that could change, and so much risk as a result, you likely wouldn’t want to bet heavily on these odds, but if your NFL handicapping efforts show there is a really soft number in your eyes then it could be a worthwhile investment.

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