Why does Vegas set lines? What is their goal? Well, Vegas sets lines in an attempt to get exactly half of the action on each side of every line they post. In this case, they take the rake, guarantee a profit, and move on. So, does that mean Vegas lines are perfectly set? Furthermore, does it mean they are always perfectly set early in the week? No! Every week this season (starting Week 2), we’ll be jumping into early-week betting line inefficiencies to take advantage of before they move. This line movement can be caused by a number of factors, but the primary reasons for movements after initial line release are public sentiment and recency biases (shark money typically doesn’t come in until later in the week, when bettors have more complete information). With that, let’s jump in!
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This line rocketed down to its current level from an opening number of 48.0 once Colts quarterback Carson Wentz was placed on the league’s COVID list. As an unvaccinated player, his fate would seemingly be sealed heading into a must-win game against the Raiders. Shortly after, the league and NFLPA came together to shorten the required time spent on the league’s COVID list from a 10-day mandatory quarantine period for unvaccinated players to a five-day window for both vaccinated and unvaccinated players, after which players that were either experiencing “improving symptoms or that remain asymptomatic” could return. Wentz was placed on the COVID list on Tuesday, meaning he has a chance to play this week, should he either remain asymptomatic or personally report an improving trend (because it is on the “honor system” now). This gives us additional “outs” on the over, particularly considering the Raiders will be without three starting linebackers for a matchup against Jonathan Taylor and the top rushing offense in the league.
This game carries one of the biggest playoff implications of any game this weekend. The Dolphins have made history as the only team to ever hold both a seven-game losing streak and a seven-game winning streak in the same season, the latter of which has propelled them into the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC, an absolutely remarkable turnaround. During that seven-game win streak, the Dolphins have generated 33 sacks and allowed only 11.7 points per game. The Titans offense remains without Derrick Henry and they have ceded the second-highest adjusted sack rate on offense. In a game with a game total of only 40.0 points, taking the points and hook on the side of the Dolphins is significantly +EV for us this week.
There are still a good deal of unknowns surrounding the Ravens this week, primarily involving their quarterback position. That said, when thinking through how both of these teams are likeliest to attack in a must-win game for each side (the Rams could fall into the fifth or sixth seed in the NFC, setting up a possible first-round road matchup against the Bucs, while the Ravens need to win out and get some help to sneak into the playoffs), heavy pass rates are likely in the cards. Baltimore somewhat quietly leads the league in overall pass rate over the previous four games, while the Rams are one of the more adaptable offenses in the league when it comes to avenue of attack (as in, the Ravens rank first in yards allowed per carry and last in yards allowed per pass this season). High pace of play, elevated pass rates, and a bit of desperation leads to value on the over here.
The Broncos are tied with the New England Patriots for the fewest points allowed per game this season at just 17.3. They also have one of the most talented backfield duos in the league, will be starting a backup quarterback, and have a top-five rush rate over the previous month of play. Their opponent, the Chargers, rank 31st in DVOA against the run and allow the fourth-highest yards per carry. That elevated expected rush rate, elevated chance at sustained drives from the Broncos, and top scoring defense in the league is likely to combine for lower-than-average offensive plays run from scrimmage, lower-than-average total possessions, and suppressed scoring here. All of that plays right into the Broncos hands as they fight off playoff elimination this week. Take the points on the road.