You’ve already learned about NFL betting lines, how a point spread works and what role the sportsbook plays when you bet on the NFL online. Now it’s time to put that knowledge to good use. Here are 10 fundamental things you should be doing as part of your regular NFL betting regimen.
1. Identify Your Opponent
The overall purpose of NFL betting is not to beat the sportsbook. The purpose is to make smarter decisions than your true competition: the betting public. This is everybody who puts a wager on the same NFL game that you’re betting on. Each of those people is making a decision to invest money, which is why professional handicappers talk about concepts like the NFL betting market. The more you learn about this marketplace, the better you’ll be at executing the other fundamentals on this list.
2. Fade Public Teams
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways in which the NFL betting public gets it wrong. Many people simply bet on their favorite teams; if a team gets really popular and draws national attention, there could be thousands of people in the NFL betting market who are investing in that team with their hearts and not their heads. These are known as “public” teams. And in general, these teams are overvalued, which means you should consider betting against them.
3. Follow Small-Market Teams
On the other side of the coin, there are teams who toil in relative obscurity and never seem to get the credit they deserve. They might play in a small market. They might play on the West Coast, far removed from the national media centers in and around New York. They might not play the flashiest style of football or have a roster loaded with household names. The NFL betting public can be counted on to undervalue these teams – that goes double once you get into the playoffs, and especially at the Super Bowl. Underdogs covered nine of the 12 Super Bowls between 2002 and 2013.
4. Research Team Stats
If you’re betting on totals, consider teams driven by offense, such as the 2007 No. 1 and No. 3 total offense leaders, the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys, respectively. When they battled in Week 6, they scored a combined total of 75 points. That went way above the posted line of 52 and if you’d bet the over, you’d be in the money. In turn, teams that have a power defense often end in low-scoring affairs. Football is undoubtedly a team game, but the players can make all the difference. Do your homework; if a QB has a heavy aerial style, consider that it may not work on a team with top defense. Running plays may have to be put into effect and that means you can make an extra buck or two when you bet on each play with a sportsbook’s live betting lines.
5. Focus on the Quarterback (in Moderation)
One of the biggest sins the NFL betting public makes is to pay too much attention to the so-called “skill” players at the marquee positions: quarterback, running back and wide receiver. It is true that the quarterback is the most important player on the team, and the first player you should look at when you’re sizing up a team. But there are 52 other guys on the roster, each with a role to play in the team’s success or failure.
6. Study the Offensive Lines Closely
Ever noticed how many offensive linemen get picked early in the NFL Draft? The teams themselves (at least, most of them) are well aware that the quarterback is only as good as the protection in front of him. They also know that offensive linemen are pretty much already trained for NFL-level action once they learn the position in college. These linemen are valuable commodities, but the NFL betting public is hardly aware of their existence. That ignorance creates what the financial experts call “market inefficiency.” You can exploit this by fading teams with poor offensive (and defensive) lines, like the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles, who went 3-12-1 ATS.
7. Read the Injury Reports
The Eagles looked like a pretty good team going into the 2012 campaign, but the wheels fell off when those offensive linemen (and just about everyone else on the offense) started getting hurt. That’s why professional handicappers are always looking at the NFL injury reports. For all intents and purposes, these reports exist to serve the NFL betting industry. They’re not always accurate, but they’ll at least tell you which players are in questionable health. You can research these players on the Web to get a more accurate read on their availability.
8. Give the Special Teams their Due
Thirty yards equals 30 yards, whether it’s a 30-yard pass from Tom Brady or a 30-yard kick-off return by Devin McCourty. Teams without good punters and good punt-coverage units are at a major disadvantage in the NFL. As for place-kickers (other than Adam Vinatieri), they’re ignored when they do well and vilified when they miss. Most people just don’t understand special teams and don’t care to. That’s not a very smart way to bet on the NFL. It will only take a moment of your time to identify which NFL teams are strong or weak in this important facet of the game.
9. Consider the Environment
NFL games don’t happen in a vacuum. If you were to match up, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos, you’d get different results depending on which stadium they’re playing in and what time of year it is. Home teams have a definite advantage in the NFL, an advantage that’s worth an estimated three points on the scoreboard. Weather also plays a significant role in the outcome of a football game; it could be the swirling winds at Heinz Field, or the thin air at Mile High. Pittsburgh Pro-Bowl safety Ryan Clark hasn’t even played in Denver since 2008 because of a blood condition. The Broncos are 2-1 SU and ATS versus the Clark-less Steelers.
10. Time Your Bets for Maximum Value
It’s not like it was in the old days before online NFL betting, but it’s still true that most of the NFL betting public is working your standard Monday-to-Friday job. They’re a lot more likely to bet on the NFL during the weekend, which means you can expect the NFL betting lines to move when these casual bettors flood into the marketplace. Let’s say you’re looking at the NFL odds on Tuesday and the Arizona Cardinals are seven-point underdogs at home against the Broncos. If you like Denver, maybe you should place your bet now. If you like the Cardinals, maybe you should wait until Sunday, when they might be available at +8 or +9.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun
Like any other pursuit in life, you’ll get way more out of NFL betting if you enjoy doing it. Making money is great, too, but if that’s all you’re concerned about, there are easier and more profitable ways to do it. They’re just not nearly as fun as betting on the NFL. Profit and entertainment should go hand-in-hand.