Introducing the Lazy Line™ for NFL Games

You can’t fight City Hall, but you can work the system to your advantage here and there. In this case, City Hall is the casino industry and its process for generating betting lines for NFL games.

Several years ago, I decided giving up made more sense than fighting on. The bookies possess too much info, too much technology, too much firepower. So I surrendered. Well, for a while.

In February 2002, I flew to Las Vegas on Super Bowl weekend. As I rolled my luggage through the Las Vegas Hilton Sports Book, I noticed the money line on the underdog Patriots: 4 to 1! The favored Rams featured an “unstoppable” offense. The Greatest Show on Turf! The Patriots owned a roster full of no-names and retreads, especially on defense. Still, 4 to 1 struck me as outrageously generous odds on a Super Bowl-caliber team. Money poured in on the Rams, and the line was the bookmakers’ lure to balance the ledger a bit.

I wasn’t daring enough to jump on that generous offer, but after watching the Patriots pull off the huge upset I did learn from my mistake. I bet against the over-rated Rams nearly every week the following year.

After his team lost in the Super Bowl, head coach Mike Martz was asked if the Rams offense stalled because the Patriots defense consistently jammed receivers at the line of scrimmage. He replied, “If it was that easy, everyone would do it.”

Those words turned out to be prophetic.

The Rams began the next season by losing all 4 preseason games and their first 5 regular season games. They scored 21 or fewer points in all 5 regular season losses. On the field, everyone jammed the Rams’ receivers at the line of scrimmage. Off the field, bookies and bettors continued to favor the Rams in the face of this radical shift in reality. These flawed perceptions held strong for many weeks, providing ample time to cash in.

Using such glaring misperceptions as our guiding light, the crew searches for misaligned lines. Using various stats, we attempt to discover overvalued players and scenarios. We seek stats and trends that contradict power rankings and other line-making tools or that are weighted incorrectly for a particular circumstance. With that hard evidence in hand, we construct our own lines.

Each week we whip up a Lazy Line™ for every NFL game in less than an hour. When the Lazy Line™ differs significantly from the Vegas line, we lay our money down. Check back every week of the NFL season to see how effectively the Lazy Line™ identifies line distortions.

—Roger LeBlanc