Sports bettors had a rare opportunity last weekend to witness the birth of a market. Oddsmakers and bettors were mostly flying blind into Week 1 action in the Alliance of American Football. The four point spreads…and four Over/Unders…ALL missed the mark by more than a touchdown. Six of the eight scoreboard results missed by double digits.
It wasn’t one of those situations where you marvel “how do the oddsmakers do it?” Nobody in the marketplace had enough information to know what the numbers “should” have been.
Many early assumptions were way off the mark. Based on media hype about rules designed to help offenses, some pundits (and bettors) expected high scoring shootouts. Posted Over/Unders on opening day were at 54, the same range from NFL conference championship games matching New England/Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams/New Orleans. Production was so futile Saturday that the market dropped Sunday’s games down to the high 40s because it was clear offenses needed more time to get everyone on the same page.
*Week 1 Average Over/Under: 51.1
*Week 1 Average Scoreboard Sums: 38.3
Orlando posted the individual high-water mark of 40 points, but that was fueled by cheap scores off turnovers (a pick six and three TD drives of 41 yards or less).
Once skill position players have their timing down, and offensive lines better know their assignments, scoring could ultimately rise to what the market was expecting.
How many points should home field advantage be worth in a new league? Hosts didn’t yet have any game experience in their home stadiums. Crowd size was going to be a question mark. Would home field be worth much of anything?
You probably know that home teams went 4-0 straight up and against the spread last week, earning a combined scoreboard victory of 119-34. That’s an average win of three touchdowns! Salt Lake was the only visitor to reach the end zone. Road teams threw 10 interceptions, compared to just two for hosts.
What will the Power Rating scale eventually look like? It was assumed this would be a competitive league. A group of third and fourth-team NFL players should reflect parity because there isn’t any “superstar” talent to tip the scales. But, now, Arizona and Orlando look to be championship material because of sharpness and balance, while disorganized Atlanta and Memphis look lost. (San Diego head coach Mike Martz seemed like he was trying to get his own quarterbacks hospitalized with a passing attack that was 10 years out of date.)
Long-time bettors know you can’t judge teams and players by just one game. Maybe last week’s stars are this week’s turnover machines. Quarterback changes could fix what ailed the losers.
This week’s matchups: Salt Lake at Birmingham (TNT, Saturday 2 p.m.), Arizona at Memphis (NFL Network, Saturday 8 p.m.), Orlando at San Antonio (CBS Sports Network, Sunday 4 p.m.), and Atlanta at San Diego (NFL Network, Sunday 8 p.m.)
Sharps have learned from a nationally televised Week 1 eye test. Quants now have some numbers to play around with. As oddsmakers and smart money get smarter, lines should start capturing reality more accurately.
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