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NFL Betting Strategy

NFL Betting Strategies

Once you get the basics of betting on the NFL you can move on to understanding NFL betting strategy. Our experts have outlined their top NFL betting strategies to help you maximise value .

Read the beginner’s guide here. If you just wants the picks check out our weekly best bets and analysis, where we put this knowledge to work.

1. Be patient

The first NFL betting strategy is to be patient. You don’t have to bet every game every week. In fact, if you do you will struggle to come out on top…

That’s because sportsbooks have an in-built advantage on every market. They do this by offering odds slightly worse than the perceived chance of an event occurring. For example, in pick ’ems they normally offer -110. That means if you stake $110 you will either lose $110 or win $100.

This discrepancy gives sportsbooks their margin. Accounting for this margin means you have to win 52.38% of your bets (at -110) to break even. Effectively you need to win 11 in every 21 bets.

But, while sportsbooks have their edge in the margin, they have to create odds and take bets on absolutely everything. Your edge is that you don’t have to bet on everything.

You may think the markets are always right but mistakes happen every day and experts can find an edge. Sportsbooks have to create and manage thousands of markets a day. You could be looking at just one or two. Be patient, use your edge. 

2. Specialise

In all sports you can beat the market by specialising and knowing more about a match-up than the sportsbook. In football you can do this by really understanding a particular team or division or by specialising in a specific bet-type, like totals. 

To specialise in a team you need to watch their games, dig into their stats and understand: which players matter and which are improving or getting worse; which are injured; if teams are playing better than their results suggest; how the team is working with new staff or personnel or a change of system; which opponents they play well against and how well they play under certain conditions.  

If you specialise you will spot weakness in the markets. It is possible to know more than the sportsbook if you specialise.

3. Be objective

One note of caution over specializing is not to be drawn into betting ‘your’ team every week. We all have favorite teams or players we love to watch, but we don’t have to bet them every time they play.

If you love a team you should factor in your bias before trying to take an objective view. If you are really strong on a team try to make the case for their opponents to see if you’re missing something.

Remember you are not affiliated to any team or sportsbook. You can bet on ANY of them. Until you bet, an objective bettor should have no vested interest in the outcome. The skill of betting is to find the value wherever it may be – even if it’s against your team.

4. Beware the hype

It’s always worth trying to separate hype from performance. This is particularly important as an NFL betting strategy.

That’s because the NFL is a hype circus with 24/7 news coverage. That means a lot of the stuff we hear about has nothing to do with what might happen on the field. Much more so than in other sports, when betting on the NFL you really need to be aware of and account for hype.

Other people will buy in to the overly positive or negative coverage around certain teams and players and that will affect the markets. The more you can insulate yourself from the noise, the clearer it will be for you to see when there is value out there.

It’s worth remembering that the salary cap and draft system mean this league is competitive by design and any team can lose week to week. Don’t buy into a team being unbeatable, or one being completely unable to win.

5. Watch the crowd

Some teams are made favorite for reasons other than their ability. Exciting teams are always over-bet and, because sportsbooks are only available/legal in some states, the markets can be skewed toward some local teams.

You should be aware of this as it helps you find value. For example, if you started betting the money lines on the Kansas City Chiefs at any point after week two in 2018 you’d have made an overall loss on the season.

That’s because everyone was betting them; they were a red hot team with an exciting QB. But in the real world they lost games – and when they won the odds were too short to compensate their losses.

6. Parlay limits

Parlays are a great way to increase your winnings but it’s easy to get greedy. The ideal number of teams to parlay as an NFL betting strategy is two to five. That’s because you’re unlikely to have an edge in six or more games or markets at the same time and, therefore, you’re reducing the overall value of your bet the more teams you include.

Every selection added to a parlay brings another chance that the whole bet will fail. For a parlay to pay off ALL selections need to be successful. If you parlay 16 pick ‘ems in a week your actual chance of success is around 65535-1. In other words it’s very unlikely.

To make matters worse because each selection has odds of -110 (and not even money) you would only be paid at 31370-1 even if you did manage to get 16 correct. This example highlights both the improbability and the value-loss involved when parlays get too big.

The best use of parlays as an NFL betting strategy is to lock onto the value of one selection you have a lot of confidence in and use it to effectively add value to any other picks you may have in small, two- or three-team parlays.

7. Caution over in-play

In-play betting is the next big thing according to the media. It may well prove popular but responsible bettors need to know the risks.

When betting ‘live’ the pictures you are watching may be delayed by a few seconds (often up to 7 seconds). This is called broadcast delay. It happens all over the world with most TV stations. The problem is obvious – when betting on these pictures you may be putting money on something which has already lost.

Broadcast delay is so commonplace a new breed of bettors known as ‘courtsiders’ have cropped up. They attend sporting events to pass live information to their buddies on the outside to lay money on things which have already happened.

They are ahead of the market but if you’re betting on delayed pictures (which most are) you are behind the market.

8. Ignore trends

Trends are statistical aberrations that people often confuse as worthwhile statistics. You might hear someone say something along the lines of ‘home underdogs in Week 2 are 2-12 against the spread’.

Although the 2-12 makes the information sound relevant it isn’t. Even if the aberration stretched to 0-20 you still have to question the relevance of the information.

Any group of random data will have interesting statistical flurries. A ‘trend’ is simply a flurry which someone has recognised and brought to your attention. But it has no real world meaning and will disappear as quickly as it arose.

If you hear a statistic ask yourself how relevant it is to the two groups of players and staff involved in the game you are interesting in betting. More often than not it will be meaningless.

9. Understand the terms

When you sign up to a sportsbook, or make any bet, you need to understand the terms of the wager and the limits they put in place. 

Every bet is a financial transaction. You give money if something happens and you receive money if something else happens. You need to understand what the terms of the bet are and whether there are any limits on the amounts you will bet or receive.

For example, sportsbooks have maximum payouts that vary by event. It might be that their maximum payout on an event is $10,000. If you create a parlay which pays at +12000 and you bet $100, the book will take your full $100 stake but your payout would be capped at the maximum $10,000.

Some online sportsbooks have software which combats this by limiting your stake when you attempt to place the wager but others don’t. In the example above you could have saved $16 by betting $84 and still getting the same $10,000 return, so it’s always best to check the limits.