Betting market watch: NFL, college football line moves, early action and bookmaker insights

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Here is our weekly look at how the NFL and college football betting markets are shaping up leading into the weekend.

For consistency, lines, totals and betting percentages are from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise noted. The look-ahead lines were offered in advance of the previous week's games. The numbers were re-opened Sunday night.

The percentages of bets and money wagered are as of Wednesday afternoon and not specific to the current lines and totals. The bulk of betting takes place closer to kickoff, and early betting splits are often more extreme and skewed by small sample sizes. The betting percentages are designed to provide a snapshot of the early action.


Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans (Thursday)

Last week's look-ahead line: Panthers -4.5, 44.5
Sunday opener: Panthers -7, 43.5
Wednesday: Panthers -8, 43
Spread action: 81% of the bets and 83% of the money was on the Panthers.
Total action: 69% of the bets were on the over, but 59% of the money was on the under.

Note: Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills is expected to start against the Panthers, after starter Tyrod Taylor was placed on injured reserve. ... As of Wednesday afternoon, Carolina had attracted more point-spread bets -- and more point-spread handle -- than any other team at BetRivers sportsbooks.

Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills

Last week's look-ahead line: Bills -7, 47.5
Sunday opener: Bills -9.5, 47
Wednesday: Bills -8, 46
Spread action: 69% of the bets were on the Bills, but 93% of the money was on Washington.
Total action: 66% of the bets were on the over, but 67% of the money was on the under.

Note: Caesars Sportsbook reported taking a $300,000 wager on Washington +9 in Nevada on Tuesday, which led to the lopsided money on the WFT.

Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns

Last week's look-ahead line: Browns -9, 46
Sunday opener: Browns -9, 46.5
Wednesday: Browns -7, 46
Spread action: 72% of the bets and 58% of the money were on the Browns.
Total action: 63% of the bets were on the over, but 51% of the bets were on the under.

Note: The point spread and total did not budge after rookie Justin Fields was named the Bears starter on Wednesday.

Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions

Last week's look-ahead line: Ravens -7.5, 48.5
Sunday opener: Ravens -9, 49.5
Wednesday: Ravens -8.5, 49.5
Spread action: 86% of the bets and 86% of the money were on the Ravens.
Total action: 82% of the bets were on the over, but 58% of the money was on the under.

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

Last week's look-ahead line: Titans -3, 49.5
Sunday opener: Titans -5, 52
Wednesday: Titans -5.5, 48
Spread action: 85% of the bets and 87% of the money was on the Titans.
Total action: 59% of the bets were on the over, but 97% of the money was on the under.

Note: Colts QB Carson Wentz is dealing with two sprained ankles and his status for Sunday's AFC South divisional game was uncertain to start the week.

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Last week's look-ahead line: Chiefs -7.5, 53
Sunday opener: Chiefs -7, 55
Wednesday: Chiefs -6.5, 55.5
Spread action: 78% of the bets and 84% of the money was on the Chiefs.
Total action: 84% of the bets were on the over, but 69% of the money was on the under.

Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants

Last week's look-ahead line: Giants -2.5, 43.5
Sunday opener: Giants -3, 47.5
Wednesday: Giants -3, 48
Spread action: 58% of the bets and 57% of the money was on the Falcons.
Total action: 61% of the bets and 72% of the money was on the over.

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots

Last week's look-ahead line: Pick 'em, 43
Sunday opener: Patriots -2.5, 43.5
Wednesday: Patriots -3, 42.5
Spread action: 63% of the bets were on the Patriots, but 51% of the money was on the Saints.
Total: 69% of the bets were on the over, but 64% of the money was on the under.

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

Last week's look-ahead line: Steelers -6.5, 47
Sunday opener: Steelers -6.5, 46
Wednesday: Steelers -3, 44
Spread action: 72% of the bets were on the Steelers, but 92% of the money was on the Bengals.
Total action: 61% of the bets were on the over, but 93% of the money was on the under.

Note: Caesars Sportsbook reported taking a $300,000 bet on the Bengals +3.5 Wednesday in Nevada, which skewed the betting percentage. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker T.J. Watt are both battling injuries. The early action at DraftKings was very balanced, with 51% of the money bet on the point spread on the Steelers as of Wednesday afternoon.

Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week's look-ahead line: Cardinals -6, 50.5
Sunday opener: Cardinals -7, 51
Wednesday: Cardinals -7, 52.5
Spread action: 94% of the bets and 94% of the money was on the Cardinals.
Total action: 65% of the bets and 80% of the money was on the over.

Note: Bookmakers better get used to needing the Jaguars. The early action at multiple sportsbooks was extremely lopsided on the favored Cardinals. Arizona had attracted more money-line bets than any other team at BetRivers. This line was headed above -7 at some shops by Wednesday.

New York Jets at Denver Broncos

Last week's look-ahead line: Broncos -7.5, 43
Sunday opener: Broncos -11, 42
Wednesday: Broncos -10.5, 41
Spread action: 75% of the bets and 66% of the money was on the Broncos.
Total action: 56% of the bets were on the over, but 80% of the money was on the under.

Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders

Last week's look-ahead line: Raiders -1, 48
Sunday opener: Raiders -3.5, 47.5
Wednesday: Raiders -4, 45
Spread action: 91% of the bets and 79% of the money was on the Raiders.
Total action: 58% of the bets were on the over, but 51% of the money was on the under.

Note: The line ticked up to Raiders -3.5 to -4 on Wednesday, after Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa was ruled out with fractured ribs. Veteran backup Jacoby Brissett is expected to start against the Raiders.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams

Last week's look-ahead line: Rams -1.5, 52.5
Sunday opener: Rams -2, 53
Wednesday: Bucs -1.5, 55.5
Spread action: 78% of the bets and 87% of the money was on the Buccaneers.
Total action: 84% of the bets and 89% of the money was on the over.

Note: It didn't take long for this line to flip, and by Monday afternoon the Buccaneers had gone from underdog to favorite.

Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings

Last week's look-ahead line: Seahawks -2.5, 51
Sunday opener: Seahawks -1, 53
Wednesday: Seahawks -1.5, 55.5
Spread action: 77% of the bets and 63% of the money was on the Seahawks.
Total action: 71% of the bets and 67% of the money was on the over.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Last week's look-ahead line: 49ers -3, 48.5
Sunday opener: 49ers -3.5, 48
Wednesday: 49ers -3.5, 59
Spread action: 76% of the bets and 54% of the money was on the Packers.
Total action: 88% of the bets and 99% of the money was on the over.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Last week's look-ahead line: Cowboys -3.5, 52.5
Sunday opener: Cowboys -4, 52
Wednesday: Cowboys -4, 51.5
Spread action: 71% of the bets and 74% of the money was on the Cowboys.
Total action: 64% of the bets and 80% of the money was on the over.


College football: A bookmaker's approach

Matt Metcalf, as sportsbook director for Circa Sports, is the oddsmaker responsible for the first college football lines to hit the betting market each week. Metcalf posts his opening lines at 11 a.m. PT on Sundays and offers $3,000 betting limits to all comers, including some professional bettors who have been shunned by other operators.

Metcalf is sharing his bookmaking process with ESPN this football season for our Market Watch column. This week, he touches on creating the largest spreads, like on Akron-Ohio State, the toughest team to handicap currently and how he adjusted his power ratings after closer-than-expected wins by Alabama and Clemson.

On big spreads

Metcalf opened Ohio State as a 53-point favorite over Akron. The line was bet down to Buckeyes -49 on Sunday afternoon shortly after it hit the board.

Both teams have injury questions with their starting quarterbacks, which Metcalf noted as a possible cause for the early action on the underdog Zips that caused the line at Circa to drop. The Buckeyes' C.J. Stroud is dealing with an injury to his throwing shoulder but is expected to practice and play Saturday against the Zips. Akron starting quarterback Kato Nelson was injured two weeks ago in a 45-24 loss to Temple. Junior college transfer DJ Irons started last week, completing 19-of-23 passes for 296 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in Akron's 35-14 win over Bryant.

When making spreads on big perceived mismatches, Metcalf doesn't consider any type of key numbers (56, or eight touchdowns, for example) and says his power ratings often spit out a number way higher than he believes is appropriate for the actual betting line.

"My raw number on the [Akron-Ohio State] game was probably closer to 65, but you kind of have to shade these numbers down," he said. "To me, because I'm not running a model, this is where my art kind of comes into play in terms of me knowing how to read my own numbers and knowing that when I make a spread."

Toughest team to handicap

Metcalf says the opening line on the Navy-Houston game had the biggest range of opinions among his team of oddsmakers that he consults.

"We had lines ranging from Houston by 17 to Houston by 33," Metcalf said, adding that his own numbers had the Cougars favored by 25.

Metcalf decided to open Houston at -22. The line had settled at -20 as of Tuesday, but action on the game had been minimal at Circa. Navy is 0-2, losing to Marshall and Air Force by a combined score of 72-10. Metcalf, however, didn't want to make Houston too big of a favorite over the struggling Midshipmen.

"It's a weird game where no one knows how bad Navy is, and yet, they still run the option, and it's tricky," Metcalf said. "You still can't just throw up a 28-point spread against Navy, because they play a unique style that doesn't usually allow teams to win by huge margins."

Houston starting quarterback Clayton Tune left last week's 45-0 win over Grambling with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Tune's status for the Navy game was undetermined entering the week.

On Alabama's power rating

Metcalf trimmed the Crimson Tide's power rating by three points after Alabama's closer-than-expected win over Florida last week. He also dropped the power ratings for Georgia, Clemson and Oklahoma, believing that the top tier of teams potentially weren't as far superior to the rest of the landscape as he once thought.

"The only team [out of the top contenders] that I didn't move down was Ohio State," Metcalf said. "I would've had Ohio State a 10-point underdog to Alabama last week, and now I have them a 7-point dog."