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How accurate are those Week 1-16 way-too-early gambling lines?

Every year we see lines for the first 16 weeks of the NFL season shortly after the schedule is released. Time to look at how accurate they actually are, compared to game day.

The NFL releases the upcoming regular season schedule in mid-to-late April every year, and that is followed by a variety of odds. Most sportsbooks will post Week 1 lines, but the folks at CG Technology offer up lines for every game in Weeks 1 through Week 16. They posted them this year, and the 49ers were underdogs in all but three games, with those three games listed as pick ‘ems. The three pick ‘ems were all home games, which says something about where the 49ers might stand on those lines as the games approach.

There is often a question of how accurate those lines end up being when the game arrives. A line in late April, before the draft, offseason workout programs, and training camp leaves plenty of questions to be answered. Old friend and former NN writer Danny Tuccitto put together an analysis of (Part 1, Part 2) those CG Technology lines to see how they stack up when the games actually happen.

It turns out the lines are relatively close when it comes to accuracy. Danny broke down the way-too-early lines from 2012 to 2015, and then compared them to the line on game day. On average, the early lines were off by 4.05 points from the final spread. 5 percent of the lines were spot-on, and 50 percent were within three points or less. The lines become meaningfully worse at around Week 12.

The important thing to note on these lines is that they are based on how oddsmakers view public perception of teams. Oddsmakers saying the 49ers are two-point underdogs at home against the Rams to open the season does not mean they think the 49ers will win by two points. Rather, oddsmakers think that number is what will get the betting public to bet as close to evenly on both sides of the number. If a team is favored by 3.5 points and the money wagered is half on the favorite and half on the underdog, the house wins thanks to the vig.

The 49ers opened as a two-point underdog to the Rams in the opener, and the line has remained that way. I don’t have high hopes for a playoff appearance by the 49ers this season, but I also will happily take the 49ers as home dogs to cover against the Rams. Even without Aaron Lynch, I’m inclined to take the 49ers as underdogs in that one.