How to handicap NFL betting odds

Jun 13, 2017 |
How to handicap NFL betting odds
There’s one natural edge that bettors have in the NFL right off the bat: sportsbooks post a line for every single game, all season long - side and total. Bettors, on the other hand, get to pick and choose which games to wager on.
Photo By - USA Today Images
There’s one natural edge that bettors have in the NFL right off the bat: sportsbooks post a line for every single game, all season long - side and total. Bettors, on the other hand, get to pick and choose which games to wager on.
Photo By - USA Today Images

No other sport has come close to attracting the level of attention that NFL betting gets, bringing casual fans and casual bettors into the sports betting world. For the majority of U.S. based bettors, the NFL is the first sport that they get involved with.

NFL betting is not an everyday endeavor, in comparison to the other top betting sports in the USA: basketball and baseball. Bettors have the opportunity to regroup and re-assess following every weekend throughout the course of the regular season, into the playoffs. 

And the NFL has a relatively short season, with a grand total of only 256 regular season games and 11 in the playoffs, compared to 2,430 regular season games in MLB and 1,230 in NBA. Those two factors — more time between games and fewer games to choose from — allow bettors to be prepared every single weekend for the upcoming action.

There’s one natural edge that bettors have in the NFL right off the bat: sportsbooks post a line for every single game, all season long - side and total. Bettors, on the other hand, get to pick and choose which games to wager on. That’s a bigger edge than many beginner bettors realize. You have the ability to look for and isolate a small handful of “positive expectation” bets - the type of bets that should return a profit over the course of a season.

Here are some basic handicapping tips and tactics to follow when wagering on the NFL betting odds:

Current form

The betting markets react primarily to two factors: preseason expectations and current form. In early season NFL, preseason expectations are key. In fact, for Week 1 pointspreads, preseason expectations are everything. Remember, though we’re talking about the preseason expectations in Vegas, not preseason expectations coming from mainstream media sources. Las Vegas tends to be a lot more accurate with their preseason assessments than your standard talking head on TV.

But as the season progresses, preseason expectations matter less and less, while current form matters more. Bookmakers must adjust the pointspreads significantly in an attempt to avoid getting swamped with money backing the hot teams. When the markets are slow to adjust, bettors make the bookies pay for their inability to react to current form quickly enough.  Hot teams with low preseason expectations tend to be very good moneymakers to open up the NFL campaign.

Spot bets/Situational capping


The markets react to much more than just preseason expectations and current form. One of the biggest issues for newbie bettors is the inability to recognize good or bad spots for any given team.

An example of a good spot is a decent team off a bad performance (or two) returning home to face an inferior foe. An example of a bad spot is a team coming off a huge statement win, with another big game on tap after this one. The game in between is referred to as a sandwich spot between the two big games, and often a time where quality teams tend to let down. Beginner bettors are often surprised to see how much a bad spot can influence a pointspread.

Quarterbacks

Good quarterbacks cover pointspreads. Bad quarterbacks? Not so much. And this is one area where the betting markets often under-react to the difference between the two. Quality QBs don’t make many spread-killing turnovers. They engineer game-winning drives with the spread on the line in the fourth quarter. And they inspire confidence in their teammates around them, helping to turn their teams into “bet-on” squads.

The bad quarterbacks don’t inspire much confidence in their teammates. They take sacks and throw interceptions at what seem to be the most inopportune times. And bad QBs tend to have bad pointspread results. Newbies can often turn a profit in the NFL simply by focusing on the most important player on the field, while the broader markets factor in far more superfluous information.

Injuries

Nothing wrecks an NFL team’s season like a barrage of key injuries. And it’s not just a quarterback issue - not even close. The mainstream media tends to focus on injuries to the skill position players, the guys who have more name recognition (and fantasy hype) than your average lineman or defensive back. But it’s the guys in the trenches and the guys defending passes who often have a bigger impact on the final score.

“Cluster” injuries are truly devastating for pointspread results. When a team loses multiple starters on the same unit — offensive line, defensive line, secondary, linebackers, receiving corps —it’s a much bigger deal than simply losing one top guy. And when three or four guys get hurt from the same unit, even their practices during the week are adversely affected. Cluster injuries are a big “bettor beware” sign, and you find a handful of teams dealing with cluster injury issues every single year.

Money management


Sports betting is a marathon, not a sprint. Inevitably, bettors will have some great weeks and some miserable ones. But the only way to stay in action and have a legitimate chance to earn a profit is by avoiding the type of money management mistakes that will bankrupt your bankroll before the halfway point of the season.

There are two key concepts here: bettors should settle on a unit size at the beginning of the season and adjust only moderately from there. The time to increase your wager size (incrementally, not doubling or tripling it) is when you are winning, seeing things clearly and cashing plenty of winners. The time not to increase your wager size is when you are struggling, not seeing things clearly and suffering more “wrong side” losers than “right side” winners.

Many newbie bettors do the exact opposite. They decrease their wager size off a big weekend, seeking to lock in a profit. And, even worse, they’ll increase their wager size when losing, trying to get it all back at one. This concept — also known as chasing losses — has been the ruin of many a gambler. Be smart with your bankroll and you’re live to make money this football season.


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