Your team is leading the football game through three quarters. They’ve staked out a decent lead going into the fourth and if you had wagered on the first half you would have already put money in the bank and you would have already been buying rounds at the bar for all of your friends. If you didn’t, and the unthinkable happens – your team unravels in the fourth quarter and they end up losing the game – your wager is lost. That’s why first half betting, and locking in your win, is such a valuable betting option.
This was something I brought to your attention back in Issue #64. If you happened to bet on the Seahawks-Rams game last weekend you know exactly what I’m talking about and you’ve probably learned a valuable lesson in first half betting. You could have locked in the Seahawks if you had bet them in the first half when they led 24-7. Then you wouldn’t have had to feel completely terrible about the 20-3 Rams second half comeback and eventual victory in OT.
Books offer first half wagering for the simple purpose of increasing handle. The more you bet, the more (hopefully) the book earns. Bettors should be wagering on first halves to give them another chance to win. There is not much of a secret in how first half lines are derived; it is generally just the pointspread for the game cut in half with a half-point to full-point adjustment against the favorite.
Take a step back for a moment to look at how the weeks have played out so far in terms of first half and second half points this NFL season:
Week 1 – 1H: 287 2H: 334
Week 2 – 1H: 276 2H: 329
Week 3 – 1H: 246 2H: 300
Week 4 – 1H: 305 2H: 235
Week 5 – 1H: 325 2H: 320
Total – 1H: 1439 2H: 1518
It is very easy to find a team’s total points for and against for the season as a total. Every newspaper and major sports website provides this readily. What is tougher to find is a team’s points for and against broken out by first half and second half. I track this myself every week in a spreadsheet and it helps because interesting mismatches do appear. Remember that a team is playing the same opponent in both halves of every game, so even great, and horrible, teams will have a stronger half.
Imagine one team outscores its opponents 48-7 in the first half of the first four games but is only even at 31-31 in the second half. It would be a good team because it has outscored its opponents 79-38 and that team would probably be 4-0 straight-up but may not have covered the spread all four times. This would be a strong contender for a first half play.
Conversely, a team that is outscored 48-7 in all its first halves to date and manages to get to 31-31 in its second halves would be bad and probably winless; but may have a couple of back-door covers to its credit. This would be a strong candidate to play against in the first half.
These examples are dramatic, but you get the idea; some teams get off to a quick start but fade while others start slowly but finish strong. (Historically speaking, this is actually a common theme throughout the NFL.) When you compare two teams that are playing each other and see that one plays better in the first half and their opponent plays better in the second half, there may be an opportunity to exploit the weakness of the first half pointspread. This is by no means a system, but it is definitely something you can easily do in a few minutes every week. If 15 minutes a week of tracking scores by half leads you to find a single winning play, then it is worth it every time.
Sleepless in Seattle
Going in to last weekend, Seattle was the best first half team, outscoring their opponents by an average of 12.7 points in the half per game (+38 total). Their +/- on points scored in the first half is 24 points better than the second half (where they were only +14). So it was no real surprise that they covered the spread in the first half this past week and that they lost in the second half. Ultimately, they didn’t cover for the game.
San Francisco was the worst first half team, having been outscored by 62 points or 15.5 points on average in the first half. In the second half, they are an amazing 75 points better, having outscored their opponents by 13 after the break. Thus, it was no surprise that they lost the first half and covered the second half.
When you look at the stats now, you will see Seattle has outscored their opponents in the first half 72-17, but is down 20-29 in the second half. San Francisco has been outscored 26-96 before the half, but has outscored their opponents 65-41 after. Please note that I am a horrible bettor and my suggestions rarely pan out (which is how I got to this side of the counter), but on the surface it is pretty easy to see which team I would choose to bet on for the first half this weekend.
Next week we’ll take the next logical step and discuss wagering on the second half.
Good luck with your wagers!
Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino
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