NFL MONEY LINES by Andrew Iskoe of Logical Approach

Over the past two decades an increasingly popular, and profitable, form of wager in Las Vegas has been the Money Line wager. Rather than using a pointspread the bettor just picks the straight up winner of the game. Of course, depending on the relative strengths of the teams, you will lay or take odds to back your choice. That is, you'll lay 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 or more to back a strong favorite. Likewise, you'll get 2-1, 3-1 or more if you think a solid underdog can pull of the straight up upset. In many respects, it's the same as wagering on baseball (except you can't list the starting quarterbacks)!

Historically, the pointspread matters in the NFL only about 15% to 18% of the time. That is, between 82% and 85 % of the time the team that wins the game also covers the pointspread. Either the Favorite wins and covers, or the Underdog pulls off the upset and wins straight up. That 15% to 18% figure refers to those times when the Favorite wins but by less than the pointspread. As a result, if you handicap the game by looking at which team is most likely to win the game, you'll also cover the pointspread roughly five times in six.

The Money Line offers a way to increase your return when betting on Underdogs. Rather than lay 11 to 10 and get some points, if you like that Underdog you can play them to win the game straight up. Instead of getting points you'll be getting better than even money on your wager. Similarly if you like a Favorite but feel squeamish about laying points, you can lay the odds on the Money line and you'll win if your team wins the game, be it by 1 point or 31 points. You'll lay more than 11 to 10 for the privilege of having your team just win the game, but there may be times when playing the Money Line is more advantageous than laying points. And, as in baseball, you can play multi-team money line parlays if you don't wish to lay heavy odds on a single team winning straight up.

Unfortunately there's been very little research done and published on what a proper money line should be for each level of favorite and underdog. That's where the accompanying chart comes in.

Since 1981 there have been over 6,500 regular season games played in the NFL. We have researched all of those games. Looking at how often a 4 point home favorite won or lost, how often a 3 ½ point road underdog won or lost, etc. We're talking straight up results, not vs. the pointspread. We've tabulated those results and have converted them into the accompanying chart to determine what the true odds for each pointspread should be.

As a simple example, if a 4 point home favorite won 21 games and lost 14 games, they will have won 60% of those games, which translates into a 3 to 2 favorite, or a -150 favorite.

We did smooth the results somewhat to account for slight differences in pointspreads. A 2 point favorite at one Sports book might have been - 2 ½ or - 1 ½ at another Book. But the accompanying odds are quite precise considering the large size of our data sample.

Our chart shows what the proper price should be for a Home Favorite or Home Underdog at various pointspread levels. As the chart shows, there is a fairly linear relationship overall. That is, the higher the pointspread favorite, the greater the winning percentage. But there are some dips along the way.

To use this chart effectively you would compare the posted money line on a game to what it should be according to the chart. Thus, if a Sports Book lists a 7 point home favorite as - 280 you are getting the worst of it. That team should only be - 245. Since Sports Books often use a spread of 20 cents, the 7 point road underdog might be at + 260. If so, you'd have an overlay since you'd be getting +260 when you should be getting only + 245 (the inverse of the home favorite price).

The chart lists the money lines from the perspective of the home team, both in terms of favorites and underdogs. The road team price is simply the inverse of the home team at the same level. Thus to find the price for a 6 point road favorite you'd reverse the price of a 6 point home underdog. You can see the 6 point home underdog should be + 228. Thus a 6 point road favorite should be - 228. Similarly, to find the price for a 10 point road underdog you'd convert the price of a 10 point home favorite. A 10 point home favorite should be - 405. Thus a 10 point road underdog should be + 405.

Hopefully you'll find this information insightful and useful as you consider yet another way to profit during the football season.




Home Favorite Line True Odds Home Underdog Line True Odds
> -14.0 -6.66 > +14.0 +29.00
-14.0 -4.89 +14.0 +5.00
-13.5 -4.83 +13.5 +4.00
-13.0 -4.55 +13.0 +3.13
-12.5 -4.82 +12.5 +3.88
-12.0 -4.95 +12.0 +3.30
-11.5 -4.58 +11.5 +4.00
-11.0 -4.80 +11.0 +3.39
-10.5 -4.05 +10.5 +4.52
-10.0 -4.07 +10.0 +3.33
-9.5 -3.91 + 9.5 +3.26
-9.0 -3.70 + 9.0 +3.03
-8.5 -3.49 + 8.5 +2.87
-8.0 -3.41 + 8.0 +2.37
-7.5 -2.67 + 7.5 +2.55
-7.0 -2.45 + 7.0 +2.45
-6.5 -2.40 + 6.5 +2.50
-6.0 -2.22 + 6.0 +2.28
-5.5 -1.95 + 5.5 +2.23
-5.0 -2.01 + 5.0 +2.07
-4.5 -1.88 + 4.5 +1.72
-4.0 -1.63 + 4.0 +1.50
-3.5 -1.57 + 3.5 +1.43
-3.0 -1.47 + 3.0 +1.33
-2.5 -1.40 + 2.5 +1.22
-2.0 -1.31 + 2.0 +1.18
-1.5 -1.23 + 1.5 +1.04
-1.0 -1.16 + 1.0 -1.04
-0.5 -1.16 + 0.5 -1.02
Pick -1.07 Pick -1.07

To have TRUE VALUE on the MONEY LINE you should LAY NO MORE than the TRUE ODDS listed for the FAVORITE at each Pointspread level and should TAKE NO LESS THAN the TRUE ODDS listed for the UNDERDOG at each level.

NOTE: To convert for plays on the Road team, simply use the reverse sign (i.e. a 7 point Home Favorite should be -2.45 on the Money Line; a 7 point Road Underdog should be +2.45 on the Money Line;

NOTE: True Odds are expressed to a dollar. Money lines are expressed in hundred dollar increments. Thus True Odds of -1.57 are the same as a Money Line expressed as -157.

* Excludes 2 Regular Season Neutral Site games played in London, England (in 2007 & 2008).

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