On Thursday, the 2019 NFL preseason kicked off with the Denver Broncos taking on the Atlanta Falcons in the annual Hall of Fame Game. By all accounts, the game was a dud until the last few minutes when the excitement picked up. Despite the lack of on-field entertainment, sportsbooks reported a boost in action due to this being the first NFL game in six months.
Official numbers haven’t been released yet, but many sportsbook directors have commented on the increased handle for the day due to the HOF Game. For starters, several sportsbooks and online betting sites reported that the NFL preseason opener saw more action than just about all of the MLB games on Thursday night. Caesars Palace, FanDuel and Westgate were a few of the venues that shared their data with the media, but also stated that a large chunk of this action was due to sharp money.
In other words, the bulk of these wagers were placed by professional gamblers. In fact, professional NFL bettors are believed to make up 50% to 70% of total wagers on NFL preseason games. Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill U.S. director of trading, commented on how the average person doesn’t really know who is even playing in these games:
“The masses don’t normally get fully involved with the exhibition games. The average Joe doesn’t even know who is playing. It’s glorified tryouts.”
Over the last week, the spread saw a significant amount of movement as the Broncos went from a slight 1 point underdog to a 2.5 point favorite. In fact, some sports betting sites even had the Broncos listed as a 3 point betting favorite. The movement was strong and never went back down.
For those that missed the contest, Denver was down 10 to 7 with less than two minutes left in the game. They drove down the field, with the help of a few key penalties, and scored a touchdown on a tipped pass. Denver would go up 14 to 7 with less than 90 seconds left. Unfortunately, the Falcons weren’t able to score and Denver would go on to cover the spread.
Heading into the contest, the Under was a popular choice for NFL bettors. In my HOF Game prediction, I urged readers to go with the Under as there was plenty of data to back up this choice. From Atlanta’s 2018 preseason scoring futility to Denver’s inability to score points all last year, the Under had a lot of muscle behind it.
Jeff Stonebeck, director of trading for The Mirage in Vegas, publicly stated at the beginning of the HOF Game that they were rooting for the Over because a lot of their action was on the Under. The Falcons and Broncos would end up scoring a 21 total points, which was well below the 34 to 34.5 O/U line set by most NFL betting sites. I predicted that the two teams would combine to score 27 points or less.
As the preseason progresses, keep any eye on movement throughout the week to see which way the steam is heading. Like the NFL HOF Game, this movement could be a solid factor in your NFL handicapping strategies.
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