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The Pinnacle Pulse

The Inside Wagering Line

By Simon Noble

With only 3 weeks left in the regular season, there are new factors to consider when handicapping your games at this time of the year. How will weather affect the games? How does the end of season affect home field advantage?

In very bad weather conditions including heavy snow, driving rain or high winds, offenses have trouble throwing deep with accuracy. Consequently, they often rely on running the ball more while avoiding long passes. Defenses are also aware of the difficulty in the passing game, and can utilize formations and schemes that are stronger against the run and short to mid-range passes.

At Pinnacle Sportsbook, we see the effect of the offensive and defensive adjustments as twofold: there are fewer total plays in the game due to fewer clock stoppages, and there are fewer first downs as defenses are not spread as thin. These taken together can make a game total plummet.

A less obvious effect of foul weather is on games with large spreads. If you have a 14-point favorite in a game with a total of 42, you "expect" the score to be 28-14. If a blizzard sweeps through an outdoor stadium and lowers the total to 35, you expect each team to score about 17% less than under normal conditions. While the public is quick to jump on the total, at Pinnacle Sports book we've found that they are much slower to jump on an under-priced dog getting 14 points instead of 11 or 12. Remember, the lower the total, the more valuable points become (both for sides and teasers).

Another area to consider in games played in bad weather is a team's particular strengths and weaknesses. Teams with exceptional running attacks and run defenses are at less of a disadvantage (or even at an advantage) in games where the run is forced. On the other hand, teams relying on the passing game will suffer more. Your ideal weather play would be a big dog that runs the ball well, against a favorite that relies heavily on passing.

In addition to extreme weather, there is another end-of-season factor: inflated home field advantages. We all know that teams do better at home - winning about 59% of all games with a median margin of victory of 3. What a lot of people don't realize is that the advantage changes during the season, peaking during the final 4 weeks.

Calculating the home field advantage is simple if you have a database. You simply add up the points scored by home teams, subtract points scored by visitors and divide by the number of games played. If you did that from 1994-2004, you will see that the home field advantage is about 2.5 points per game. In the last 4 weeks in each of those years, this number goes up to 3.6 points per game. The moral of the story is that teams want to win at home near the season's end no matter how good or bad they are.

It's worth remembering these concepts towards the end of the regular season when weather and home field advantage are often factors for consideration. To see if there are any games that fit these criteria this week, you can view all of our live Pinnacle Sports betting lines at www.pinnaclesports.com. You will also find updated wagering lines on the games listed below where we have already seen some interesting line movement this week.

New York Jets (+9) at Miami

After winning 3 straight games, the 6-7 Dolphins are still mathematically in the playoff hunt. If they win out against the Jets, Tennessee and New England and the Patriots lose their last 3 games to Tampa Bay, the Jets and Miami, the Dolphins would make the playoffs by winning the AFC East. There are some other unusual situations where Miami could receive a wild card, but those require some rather convoluted analysis better saved for others.

Our opener of Miami -7.5 was greeted by a flurry of sharps. The early players laid the 7.5 and 8, or even sold down to -9 +110. The combined pressure of early sharp money and teaser exposure on a low-totalled game, has forced us to move aggressively on this match up.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Minnesota

Minnesota doesn't seem to get much respect these days. Despite winning 6 straight games and being in the midst of the playoff hunt, statistics betray them. They are the only team with a winning record that has more points allowed (286) than points scored (246). In 8 wins, the Vikings have only beaten one team with a winning record.

We opened this game at -2.5 -116. A wide variety of sharps took Pittsburgh at this opener and backed them all the way up to -3 -105 and -2 -137. So far, this has been one of our highest volume games on the card.

Arkansas St. (+17) v. So. Mississippi (New Orleans Bowl)

The New Orleans Bowl kicks off the bowl season in Lafayette, LA. due to Hurricane Katrina. Both Arkansas St. and Southern Mississippi finished at 6-5 on the regular season. The Golden Eagles became bowl eligible thanks to tiebreakers after being in a 3-way tie to win Conference USA. Likewise, the Indians advanced on tiebreakers after splitting the Sun Belt conference championship 3 ways.

Arkansas St. was a Div I-AA team from 1982-1991 and this season has been a year of achievement for their football program. Since stepping up to Div-I, their only other winning season came in 1995. At 6-5, they are ecstatic to make their first Div-I postseason appearance since the 1970 Pecan Bowl.

We opened this game at -17 flat. While the sharps have mostly stayed off this game, the public have a slight preference for Southern Miss. We were slowly accumulating a position on the Golden Eagles as we gradually raised the price. Offering Arkansas St. at +100 and +101 was just cheap enough to balance our position.

Boston College (-1) vs. Boise St (MPC Computers Bowl)

Boise St. is playing in its 4th Computers Bowl and the Broncos have won all 3 of their prior appearances. The Boise St. Broncos - famous for their blue turf - will have home field advantage in this match-up. No team wants to play on the blue against Boise St. and for good reason. The Broncos have won 30 consecutive games at home, a streak which began on September 22, 2001.

We initially opened this game at Boston College +3 a week ago and saw moderate volume of mainly public money on the underdog. Although there were a few sharps on Boston College, a majority of them seem to favor Boise St. at +1 -108 to +2 -110.

Arsenal +114 vs. Chelsea

We see some interesting things on our reduced margin soccer betting on the English Premiership each week. All our reduced margin soccer games use a 4-cent line, so this game opened at -128/+124. We use pretty standard openers, but we're the first to put them up each week and tend to see a lot of movement in the line.

A recurring theme we see at Pinnacle Sports is that other markets - most notably Asia - open close to our opener and then move substantially towards our current price on the day of the game. If you find a reduced margin game that has moved 25 cents at Pinnacle Sports book, it would probably be profitable to follow the "Pinnacle Lean" when the larger markets open.

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