The Seahawks are favored to beat the 49ers this weekend but after the line opened at 3.5 points, it has moved slightly in the 49ers direction. There were reports today that the majority of money being wagered is being bet on San Francisco.
To find out more, we talked to Lee Sterling of Paramount.sports.com this morning.
Sterling works out of Miami, Fla., and is a sports prognosticator who – for the right price – offers advice to gamblers on his website. He can be heard handicapping games on more than 30 radio stations throughout the country, including Seattle’s KJR 950-AM, where he does a weekly segment with Dave ‘Softy’ Mahler at 3:30 p.m. Thursdays.
Sterling said the shrinking line was a "little shocking." He said he usually gives the Seahawks 5 points when they play at home, which would mean a spread of 3 points is almost like favoring the 49ers by 2.
Sterling called San Francisco a "public" team, meaning the 49ers have a so many fans that bet them blindly it always affects lines. The same can be said for teams such as the Cowboys, Packers and Steelers.
Sterling is still crunching the numbers, and not ready to offer a prediction for Sunday's game, but he had several things to say about sports gambling in general, and how the Seahawks are perceived nationally.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Question: I’m pretty sure the Seahawks have been favored in every game except for the one down in San Francisco, have they been a favorite of gamblers, too?
Answer: No, you know, I think people are starting to catch on at home. But I think what’s going on is you still have the public teams. Those teams, you know, believe it or not San Francisco has a huge following. Right now, this line opened at 3.5 and probably more than half the casinos are down to 3 points. So, to me that’s a little shocking. I don’t think there’s that much difference between the two teams, but I think the home-field advantage is worth more than 3 points. I usually assign 3 points to the home-field advantage, but for the Saints (in the Super Dome) I put it at 4 to 4.5. Seattle, believe it or not, I had the home-field advantage at 5 points, which is the highest in the NFL.
Q: The Seahawks game last week, if I’m not mistaken, started at 7.5 in favor of Seattle and then went all the way up to 9.5. (Seattle won by 8.)
A: Did you hear me on KJR? I said, ‘This is the toughest of the four games.’
I think I predicted (the Seahawks) to win 27-17. So, it’s the only one I missed. It worked out well I didn’t put the game out. When it got back to a touchdown, it would have cost me.
Q: What will this weekend be like overall for NFL gambling?
A: I think on both sides, the AFC and the NFC, this is what the public wants to see.
Q: How big is this weekend for NFL gambling compared to the Super Bowl?
A: Usually about 45-50 percent, if my memory serves me correct, in Vegas and all that. The reason the Super Bowl is so much bigger is all the prop bets (a bet made regarding something that does not directly affect the game's final score). They didn’t come out with any prop bets (for the Championship games) so far.
Q: That’s what I was wondering. I’ve been looking around online and I haven’t seen any of those exotic prop bets.
A: They’ll pop up maybe Wednesday afternoon, Thursday morning. They’ll have a lot of those. The average person only bets like 5 percent of the prop bets if they’re betting the Super Bowl offshore or there in Vegas. That’s where, usually, the sports books clean up. There’s usually like 15-20 percent juice (the amount of profit off all bets) on these props, where the normal bet is 11-10 (percent). They (the sports book) just have a bigger edge. But it makes it fun. There are some errors. Come the Super Bowl they’ll have 300 to 400 props out and I can usually spot 10 errors where I think I’ve got the edge. But the average person can’t spot those. They’re going to wager on who’s gonna score the first touchdown. Some people are going to bet the coin toss, how long the national anthem takes place.
Q: How many of those prop bets do they usually have for a game like this, for the NFC Championship?
A: They should have 30 to 50 at the bigger sports books. Somewhere in that range. There’s some sports books that don’t put them up until the day before or the morning of. They’re afraid, they put limits on you. Usually the largest sports books only let you play $500 to $1,000 at most on these prop bets. They want you to bet a lot of them. They know if they get you to bet five, seven, 10 (different prop bets) eventually the juice is going to eat you up. That’s why they have low limits and they put a lot of them out there for you. Then, as the game’s going on, you’re chasing.
Q: How do you keep track of it all? How many people do you have on staff?
A: I got three people who work for me. It’s a lot easier this time of year. I’ve always seemed to do the best the first five, six weeks of the college and the pro seasons and once the bowls and the playoffs start. There’s not as many games. Like, I’m going to watch the past three games for both teams on top of the times where they played each other, Seattle and San Francisco. So I can spend more time going through their schemes and what they’re going to try to do.
The biggest problem for me is the middle of the year. You know, the odds makers have caught up and adjusted their lines. There’s no secrets out there.
The only thing that really surprised me was San Diego last week of the four games. Their game plan was just horrible. I don’t know what (offensive coordinator Ken) Whisenhunt was doing. Obviously he was distracted, talking to two teams. (Whisenhunt was hired Monday to be the Tennessee Titans head coach). When you’re talking to two teams, you know, making a game plan for a divisional playoff game is pretty tough to do. It was like run, run, pass. I mean, it was horrible.
Q: How many of those types of variables do you take into consideration? You know, Dan Quinn here in Seattle as well as Darrell Bevell, both coordinators have had their names floated for several jobs.
A: That doesn’t bother me. It’s a dead period now. It was open last week. So that’s why it turned out that way.