NFL Betting: Follow the Money (Backing Eagles, Bengals, Carolina in Week 2)

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NFL Betting- Follow the Money (Backing Eagles, Bengals, Carolina in Week 2)

It is always interesting to track the money. One of the most prominent and accessible indicators of where the betting syndicates are siding in a game comes from the ticket-to-handle ratio. When a side has substantially more money than the percentage of tickets sold, it tells you that the people backing that side are doing so with significantly more money per wager. 

Here are three examples from this week’s action:

TeamPercent of TicketsPercent of Handle
Philadelphia35%75%
Carolina45%78%
Cincinnati 60%76%

Chasing syndicate money is a high-risk proposition. It is a topic far too comprehensive for this article. What you should always account for is whether you are getting the same number. In addition, be prepared for the reality that syndicates still lose 38-43% of the time over a significant enough sample size. So you have to be with them every play, and that is not possible from tea leaves.

One thing you can do to improve your win percentage immediately is to get the best line. I do not just mean the best line available at the time, but the best number available all week. If you are consistently getting a number that is less than the best number offered, you are probably struggling. 

This necessarily involves some foresight not just into the game but into line movements. Information can help you improve your reading of where a number is likely to move, including the juice, the percentages, and your read of the Sunday morning bettors. II will rarely take a side if I am not getting what I believe to be the best number available all week. 

Why the Money is Backing Philadelphia: 

Point:

Jalen Hurts looked fantastic last week against the Falcons. He finished the week as the model’s ninth highest-rated quarterback. His numbers include a 77 percent completion rate, 7.5 yards per attempt, three touchdowns, and zero picks. Hurts also graded out with one elite-level throw and zero turnover-worthy throws. 

San Francisco looked vulnerable late against Detroit. The 49ers are playing back-to-back games on the road in the eastern time zone. Getting three and a half points at home is too valuable to pass by on a team that could be the best in the NFC East. San Francisco is injured. San Francisco has a ton of public support, and this is the best fade opportunity. 

Counterpoint:

Hurts is not suddenly elite after a single game. His performance is an explainable outlier. He did it against the Falcons. A team expected to have one of the worst defenses in the league. Jalen’s average depth of target (adot) was shockingly low, 3.3 yards. Hurts threw screen passes all day. You should complete 77% of your passes at that depth. If you complete any less, you are in trouble – off schedule, facing third and long. 

The Eagles Screen-Pass offense is a gimmick, and now it is on tape. It will not surprise anyone. Hurts EPA per pass attempt was only +.32. Hurts has yet to show the ability to throw an intermediate or deep ball with consistency. As well as Hurts played last week, Garrapolo outplayed him on the road. The spread in this game, before last week’s games, was SF -4. It is now -3. Anyone truly ahead of the curve on the Eagles would have bet it before last Sunday.

Why the Money is Backing Carolina

Point: 

The money is not backing the Panthers. It is fading the Saints. (Some believe Carolina played better than their box score last week). Coming off the outlier of outlier performances against Green Bay last week, this was a no-brainer play for many. A division game on the road with an overhyped Saints team that has Jameis Winston under center. All they need is Winston to revert a little. On top of that, the Saints are injured. 

The biggest reason moving money to the Saints fade is the spread. Before last week it was Saints -2.5. The Saints’ performance against the Packers moved it across 3 to -3.5. That is a monster move across the most critical key number. 

Counterpoint:

The Saints set up as the perfect fade team this week, with one major exception. Sam Darnold is the Panthers’ quarterback. Darnold played his former team last week, and he did not look good. His EPA per pass play was +.02! That is 16 times lower than Hurts’ EPA, and his was inadequate. Winston had an EPA of +.71. The Saints have the far superior quarterback and coach. 

Why the Money is Backing the Bengals

Point:

The money is fading the Bears. Specifically, it is fading Dalton and Nagy. Dalton’s numbers last week were awful. Dalton’s EPA on pass plays was -.26. That is not a typo. Every pass he threw cost the Bears a quarter of a point. That is so horrific; there is almost beauty in it. When the number was Bengals +3, the money came in fast. At -2.5, the game does not make any sense on either side. 

Counterpoint:

Burrow had an EPA of only +.07. Taylor is not significantly better than Nagy – they are both likely to be fired this season. The only thing that saved Burrow was the three elite throws he made against a disinterested Minnesota defense. There is no reason to believe that is a repeatable skillset, yet. The game is on the road, and Fields will get some run at quarterback. The risk/reward isn’t there when the upside is a push on three.

About the author:

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I write about data and sports. I created my first model in 1997 using nothing more than Excel. Currently, I have data-driven models for the NFL, NBA, and World Cup Soccer.

Mathematics is the music of reason.
— James Joseph Sylvester, English mathematician

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