The NFL is the biggest betting market in North America and generally the Super Bowl is the most bet single game event of the year. To get to those levels NFL invites a ton of professioal handicappers as well as recreational bettors. It is the most mature market, for better or worse, and when you hear about big six and seven figure bets they are usually on NFL action. Betting the NFL can be a hobby or a profession depending on if you are any good at it. And eveyone thinks they are.
Best Ways to Bet NFL
The NFL is the rare sport where money lines are not very popular, it is all about the spread, or the predicted margin of victory. This creation helps the sportsbooks balance the wagers on both sides (and make money) and encourages bettors to consider both teams for every contest. No matter how much better one team may be, if they are forced to win by a lot of points to cash a wager, suddenly the underdog becomes interesting.
It is the spread that is most often referenced in general sports media, and used in contests, some of which are season long and can bring 6 or 7 figure pots to the winners. The spread often includes half points to reduce voided bets and is usually expressed as such: Cleveland -6.5 (-110), New England +6.5 (-110). Those are bets where you wager 110 to win back 100.
The second largest market for NFL betting is the game total. I am not sure of the ratio, but bets on the game total are a smaller percentage of the marketplace and actually my preferred method of betting because bettors don’t have to be as accurate. I say that because a game can be handicapped wrong in terms of the winner, and the spread, yet still cash a ticket.
On the total let’s say you have a contest where the favourite is expected to win by 6.5 points, a very common occurrence, and the total is 40.5, essentially predicting a 24-17 outcome. If you back the total you can win with that expectation, or a flip of it where the underdog wins by that score, or a 35-10 rout either way and so on. Since predicting the game winner is not required there is more room for winning even when the outcome is not what was predicted. When you are paying -110 to win 100 every bit helps.
Props (or Propositions)
NFL betting has the most diverse and mature betting markets for props or propositions (sometimes referred to as derivatives). These are usually yes/no or over/under wagers that can be made on elements of the game that may have no effect on who wins or how many points are scored. The Super Bowl is famous for this and at this major event you can usually find action on whether the initial coin flip will be heads or tails and what the colour of the Gatorade will be that the winning team showers its coach with.
More common wagers could be on the total passing yards of a quarterback or will there be overtime. Most anything that can be empirically measured can be a prop bet. Most start at -110 but that number often moves based on market action.
Tips on How to Pick the Best Sportsbook
Most books are pretty solid when it comes to the NFL because there is so much market interest. Beyond reputation, one factor I would look closely at is the target customer, and whether that target customer is based in North America or not. If it is, you get a broader menu of options than if the target customer is European or Asian, both huge markets, but ones where other sports might have larger takes than the NFL. Usually you draw a line in the ocean and be pretty sure which side you are on.
Another thing I am looking for with the NFL is line release. If you are doing your homework well sometimes the best value is when a line opens. In fact, some sportsbooks use that as a barometer of whether they have handicapped the event correctly. I am looking for sportsbooks that release the lines with a much time as possible to bet into them. Sure, the earlier you make a bet the more risk to take of an injury or other news, but those are often the best values too.
Overall Strategy and Betting Tips
Yes, coaching matters in all sports but in football there are some subleties to the game that can really affect wagering wins and losses even if the true outcome is not affected. Some coaches are bigger risk takers than others, but even more importantly some are good, and bad, at managing the clock, which is especially important in late game situations. When you are power rating your teams be sure that you account for coaching. Further, when you handicap the game try picture how it is going to play out and include that in your handicapping. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Bad Teams Cover
Every level of sport has good teams and bad teams. The NFL is no different but that spread is much more efficient on the gridiron than in other sports. It seems like so many games are so close to it which means that the bad team deserve just as much consideration as the good teams.
In some games the larger the spread the more confidence I might have in the underdog even though that number says they are not very good. Talent matters in all sports but funny things happen on a football field and the game is constrained by time. Turnovers can make any team look good,or bad, and are the hardest part of the game to predict. Just don’t dismiss those big line. Some end in blowouts but in the long run they are profitable.
Don’t Forget About Travel
Football is played once a week, so you would think that travel might not matter much, but it does. Coaches try to do everything they can to prepare for a game and are more regimented in their approach than in other sports. At the same time the NFL is the rare sport where a team can travel multiple time zones and play a game at a time when players would normally be in bed.
In a game where any edge can make a difference, you want to be aware of where a game is being played and how much effort it too to get there for the visitor. Additionally you will want to know whether a team has traveled a couple of weeks in a row, or even the rarer three. These things matter.
The NFL is a great market for bettors, both professional and recreational. I hope this piece helps get you into the game.