Sport

NFL betting strategies

Written by Sean Callander

The American Football season is rapidly approaching, which means the champagne corks are popping for savvy punters around the world. WGM provides some handy hints for those looking to get the best of the bookies.

 

When it comes to sports betting, the National Football League (NFL) is “The Godfather” – a colossus soaring far above its sibling rivals the MLB and NBA. It’s estimated that, combined with College Football, around US$100 billion is bet on football games each year. That’s not bad for a country where legal betting channels through casinos account for barely two percent of that figure!

But like any encounter with “The Godfather”, wagering on the NFL should be treated with caution. Those billions mean you’re betting into a very sophisticated and knowledgeable market. Over the past 14 seasons, NFL underdogs have gone 1561-1541 Against the Spread (ATS) at 50.3% in regular season and playoff games. That shows the oddsmakers have done an exceptional job of setting lines since 2004.

Here are a few basics for those unfamiliar with the NFL: There are 32 teams spread across two conferences (National and American) and four divisions (North, South, East and West). Each team plays 16 regular season games with six from each conference progressing to the playoffs. The grand final, or Super Bowl, features the champion from each conference.

It’s important to note that that divisional teams play each other (home and away) each season, accounting for six of those 16 games. Teams also face opponents from those in another division within their conference (two at home and two on the road). From a handicapping perspective, punters can at least rely on a consistent flow of data from such contests that are played more regularly than others.

Other sports such as basketball, baseball and hockey have consistent scoring with either one or two points at a time and final score margins that are consistent across all numbers. In the NFL, the most likely final margin is three points (almost 10 percent of all favorites win by exactly a field goal). The combination of seven-point touchdowns and three-point field goals also creates a number of common final scores (31-28, 28-21, 17-14 and so on).

Dynasties have been few and far between in the half-century history of the league. Indeed, nine different teams have shared the past 12 NFL titles, with only the New England Patriots and New York Giants winning multiple trophies in that period. The main NFL betting categories are head-to-head, spreads and totals to go with myriad exotic options, especially come Super Bowl Sunday.

So what hope does the enthusiastic amateur have of taking on and beating such a mature market populated by enough wiseguys to fill the biggest Las Vegas casino? Normally we advocate undertaking your own research prior to building a betting strategy and staking plan but it’s virtually impossible to stay on top of the relevant news and information. And in this case, those wiseguys are doing the hard work for you.

Firstly, find a data source that features a split of the public/consensus versus sharp/smart money being placed on NFL games (covers.com is an excellent example). This data is based on the money flowing through the sportsbooks situated in the numerous Las Vegas casinos. Historically, we know that betting against public money alone is a profitable play representing a win rate just shy of 58 percent and rising to almost 60 percent when focusing just on home teams.

These same sharp punters are also looking for the crucial line movement either side of those key NFL numbers – 3 and 7. Being able to bet +3.5 when other spots have only +3 or lay -6.5 when other sportsbooks have -7, will substantially increase your long-term win percentage. In games where one team receives 20 percent or less of spread bets, the underdog closes with a better line 55.4 percent of the time – enough to tip the line that crucial 0.5 points.

In addition to simply opposing the public money, it’s possible to follow where the sharps are taking the lead in market movements. Let’s say the LA Rams are at home to the Seattle Seahawks, and the oddsmakers have made them a five-point favorite. Around 80 percent of all the straight action is on the Rams yet the sportsbooks have lowered the number to -4.

This is sure evidence that the smart money is flowing in on the Seahawks, overwhelming all of the public money with the Rams as they lower their line on the favorite in an attempt to balance the books. This approach works in all sports but the bigger the pools, the more certain you can be that the smart money is flowing one way or another – and that’s the side to ride.

As Al Pacino’s The Godfather character Michael Corloene would say, “Itʼs not personal Sonny, itʼs strictly business.”

 

As with all forms of sports betting, ensure you have appropriate bankroll strategies in place, always chase the best possible price and understand the concept of value when making NFL wagers.

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