Big Line Moves And Sharp Bettors Hurting Sports Books In NFL Preseason

Professional handicapper FairwayJay chips in some insight into NFL preseason betting at the sportsbooks and impact of major line moves.

Betting NFL preseason football is not for everyone. In fact, most recreational bettors and media members think it’s fairly foolish. But the leading online sportsbooks know they are at a greater risk in preseason games. The sharps and professional bettors account for at least 50% of the handle on NFL preseason games, and those bettors attack and force major line moves by the bookmakers.

Leading online sportsbooks like and affiliate reduce their liability in preseason by taking maximum bets of $500 to $1000 on NFLX sides. Many sportsbooks prevailed over the sharp action on Thursday, Aug. 22 when the New York Giants (+3) held off a late 2-point conversion to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 25-23. 

While that game did not have at least a 2-point line move from the opener, three others did as the Ravens, Redskins and Packers all had major moves in their favor of at least 3 points. Baltimore and Washington won by double-digits to cover the point spread easily, but Green Bay couldn't maintain its 21-10 halftime lead and lost the game and cover in the closing seconds as the Raiders won 22-21 on a last second field goal to improve to 3-0 SU/ATS this preseason.

Adam Burns, head linesman for BetOnline and told me in early August that sharps vs squares betting (public, recreational bettors) is near a 50-50 split during NFL preseason.

"Everything in the preseason is moving on information, and the public is only really interested in the games they can watch. They'll follow steam to try and build a bankroll, but they aren't engaged like they will be come September," Burns said. 

Following the steam is not a winning formula during the NFL regular season, but it pays off in the preseason. While it's not wise to bet the bad numbers or take the worst of it and tail the end of a major line move, the preseason results show the moves favoring the bets towards the team taking money are paying off. 

I sent out a tweet about information plays during the preseason, and how lines move with the announcement of news, team starters, QB's and rotations and injuries. Following the line moves has been a winner for the bettors and losers for the sportsbooks, as teams with a least a 2-point line move in their direction during the preseason went 7-3 ATS in Week 2, and now 2-1 to start Week 3. 

Two more games fit the profile Friday, Aug. 23 as both the Browns and Bills have seen the opening line move in their favor by at least 2 points. On Saturday, Aug. 24, the major moves of at least 2 points have seen the sharps supporting the Texans (pk), Saints (-3) and Seahawks (-3). 

In Week 1, the sharps were on the Titans, Jaguars and Seahawks according to Cooley. The Titans closed a 1.5-point underdog after opening +3.5, and Tennessee shot down the Eagles easily in Philadelphia, 27-10. Winner for the sharps. The sharp bettors also took Seattle, although there was not a major line move. The Seahawks beat the Broncos as a slight home underdog as head coach Pete Carroll continued his dominant winning ways in the preseason. 

In Thursday's Raiders vs Packers game in Canada, a new strange twist happened. This time the game was not cancelled due to the field conditions, but resulted in this change announced by CBS Sports HQ on Twitter.

Due to issues with old goalpost holes in the end zones (used for CFL games), the Packers-Raiders game from Winnipeg is being played with the following rules: • 80-yard field • No kickoffs • Goal lines are placed at the 10-yard lines

That 'information' caused a totals move by the bookmakers and sportsbooks, but not enough. Money poured in on the OVER with the news and announcement at post. The over/under posted total moved up sharply from 38 to 40.5 in the final 20 minutes before the game started. 

The shortened field with no kickoffs saw the Packers take a 21-10 lead to easily cash first half over bets, and also cash the game total over on the last second field goal, which stung the sportsbooks after it looked like Green Bay would win 21-19. 

Recall too that in NFL preseason Week 1 this year there were a number of games with significant scoring. That caused an adjustment on the Week 2 totals of an average of five points. 

Preseason coaching profiles and personalities has been most profitable supporting the winningest coaches again this preseason. Betting on Pete Carroll (SEA), John Harbaugh (BAL), Mike Zimmer (MIN) and Jon Gruden (OAK) has been pure perfect profit, as those coaches are undefeated (8-0 SU/ATS) when not playing against each other (SEA/MN played in Week 2). 

The NFL preseason games are not the only betting market that sees sharp line movement and adjustments in price. The NFL season win totals are popular bets, and Burns told me, "Gamblers are betting the 'under' for the Giants season win total of 6, and they were quick to pounce on Shurmur being the first coach fired." 

It appears the fans in New York have made their own quick decisions and adjustments on the Giants this season. Last year as sports betting became legal in New Jersey, local bettors were betting big on the Giants to make the Super Bowl. New York completed a disastrous 5-win season, and now bettors are calling for the coaches head. It won't be long before they want quarterback Eli Manning benched in favor of rookie QB Daniel Jones, who has performed well in preseason and the player many New York fans showed their displeasure towards when he was drafted in the first round. 

While the NFL preseason market moves are proving profitable for the sharp players, don't get in a habit of following the money or over-reacting to non-relevant news during the regular season. Avoid the rough and the noise that doesn't matter often provided in the media and sound bites. There will be much criticism of players and teams like the Giants as the season approaches and kicks off. If you can pay more attention to the bookmakers and betting market, anticipate potential line moves, and follow some of the information from proven handicappers that win more often, you'll make more pars and birdies and find you're bag full or more cash. 

You can bet on it.  

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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