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@FastMoneyLabs’ Best Bet for TNF - 9/22

@FastMoneyLabs’ Best Bet for TNF

Before $FML, I was a risk manager at a large commercial bank, and I hate to admit: I respect what Sportsbooks do (as much as I’m devoted to beating them).

They’re taking in millions of dollars of wagers each night, and to help manage it: they adjust betting lines and prices accordingly, practically in real time, to inspire two-way action (I.e. not just on one side).

Which raises an interesting question: if 74% of public bets and 75% money are on Pittsburgh, then why did oddsmakers move the betting line two full points towards Cleveland from -2.5 to -4.5? (Source: Action Network as of midnight last night).

At first glance I thought those percentages had to be wrong. They don’t fit with the line movement. To sense check them, I compared with the Pikkit Sports community handle below and found strikingly similar splits, which leads me to believe this is a real thing:


So to recap: there’s a very interesting dynamic playing out in the market right now.

  • Sportsbooks stand to lose the most money if Pittsburgh wins and/or covers.
  • Logic suggests that a sound risk manager would adjust pricing in a way that steers gameday action towards Cleveland.
  • However, in practice, the opposite actually happened, as books made it even cheaper to bet Pittsburgh (or double down if you already did).

The Steelers’ best defensive player T.J. Watt is out tonight, but that’s old news. Besides that, I’m not aware of any significant injury news that would justify this much movement. This tells me the line movement is likely explained by one (or both) of the following two things:

  1. While the majority of bets and money are on Pittsburgh, the sharpest bettors in the market pounced on Cleveland -2.5, which inspired line movement (out of Sportsbooks’ respect for those clients), and/or
  2. Oddsmakers know something that we don’t and are willing to bet against the public, often referred to as setting a trap by hanging what feels like a cheap line in hopes of securing a big bag.

I don’t know which it is, but in either case, I find it’s usually wise to side with the sportbooks in these spots. They’re sharper than we tend to give them credit for. They’re also highly proficient at managing risk. Vegas would not deliberately move the line against the grain unless they’re confident Cleveland is the right side.

The last unsolved piece to this puzzle is the why. Why are sportsbooks so confident taking on the public tonight? I can’t say definitively, but there’s a strong chance it relates to the weather forecast… which is ugly:

This wind forecast is emitting serious Bills/Patriots vibes from last season. Remember the primetime game when Pats coach Bill Belichick called three pass plays… total?! Vegas practically shook the public’s pockets in plain sight that night. It was a run heavy game script, which effectively killed scoring props, passing, and the over. It set a good blueprint for what oddsmakers probably expect tonight, which likely inspired the line to be titled towards Cleveland as the more proficient running team.

Pittsburgh’s offense also struggled to move the ball in Weeks 1 and 2, and the short week of rest (just 3 days) leaves them little time to figure it out, especially on an apocalyptic weather night.

Some of my best buddies are Steelers fans, and they won’t be happy to read this, but all signs point to Cleveland being the right side here.

There’s different ways to attack this. Given I expect a run heavy game script that favors the home team, here’s how I played it:

$FML's TNF Best Bet

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Browns ML, Under 45.5 total points, Brisset Under 249.5 passing yards & Trubisky Under 249.5 passing yards @ +175
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