What’s NFL Betting Line Movement?

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) walks on the field during NFL football practice in Costa Mesa, Calif., Wednesday, June 14, 2023.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Jul 06, 2023, 4:03 PM

NFL betting line movement is a key handicapping signal for bettors that often (but not always) implies a significant betting interest in one side of an NFL game.

One of the fundamental rules of betting is that the sportsbook is always trying to limit its liability in a game in the way it sets prices. If there is dramatically uneven betting action on one side of a bet – especially in point spread or totals markets – the sportsbook may elect to move the line.

This change in the line is referred to as line movement.

Consider a hypothetical game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Chiefs are priced as a 4-point favorite, there’s a good chance that a high volume of bettors are going to bet on Kansas City. That may cause online sportsbooks to move the point spread to Chiefs -4.5 or Chiefs -5. 

The line movement incentivizes buyback on the Chargers, which would reduce the financial liability of the sportsbook on that particular game. 

Sometimes, line movement happens because of sharp betting signals. That is, the sportsbook elects to move a number based on a handful of bets from bettors that the sportsbook knows are long-term winners. 

A small amount of sharp money can actually be much more powerful than a huge volume of public money. 

The most noteworthy kind of line movement is reverse line movement. That’s where the general public is betting in one direction, but the line ultimately moves in the other direction. 

Since the sportsbook knows it will continue to take increased liability on a popular side as an even better number, reverse line movement is often a powerful signal that the sportsbook trusts a small number of sharp bettors more than a huge group of public bettors. 

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.