6 min read

Keys to NFL Betting

Keys to NFL Betting

Betting on NFL football can be a thrilling experience. 

America’s most popular sport only gets more exciting when there’s a full slate of action and you own a full card of wagers heading into Sunday. Unfortunately, winning long-term is no easy endeavor. Sportsbooks know that the NFL brings in the most customers, by far and they act accordingly. No lines are sharper than NFL lines which, in layperson terms, just means that Sportsbooks are exceptional at capitalizing on public perception and luring bettors into losses. 

Don’t let that happen to you this year. 

While it’s inevitable that we’ll have some rocky points during the season, utilizing the five keys below can make a huge difference in your bankroll come February. 

Work on Anticipating Line Movement

This one may seem obvious, but it’s arguably the most important factor; just ask legendary NFL contest bettor Las Vegas Cris. Weekly NFL betting lines are usually released either later on Monday or early Tuesday morning. This is where your own power ratings matter. 

How you measure the talent of every team is up to you, but it’s important that you maintain some type of measurement to compare your perspectives on each franchise. Then, when the lines are released, you’ll have an immediate idea of which side you favor. If you find value on an early line, you can execute your wager immediately. This is even more beneficial if the line moves in the direction you anticipate during the week. If you understand the market well, it will. Then you can “middle” your bets, guaranteeing at least one win and creating an opportunity to double your investment.

Here’s an example:

  • It’s the Monday before Week 2. The Seahawks somehow beat the Broncos and the Bears somehow beat the 49ers in Week 1. Sportsbooks release Week 2 lines and the Seahawks are only 2 point dogs, on the road, in San Francisco. This feels wrong and it should.
  • You immediately bet the 49ers -2, knowing you snagged a great line.
  • By Friday, the line moves to 49ers -6. You play Seattle +6, too.
  • Now you have two bets and both could feasibly win. 
  • You feel sharp. You are.

Grab the Right Side of a Key Number

Key Numbers in the NFL are 3, 6, and 7. All that means is that more games end by margins of 3, 6, and 7 than any other number. Ergo, they matter. Don’t find yourself on the wrong side of a key number. NFL games are volatile and filled with enough inherent variance; why add the possibility of another enemy factor? Shop around at different sportsbooks and find the most advantageous line you can. Let’s take a quiz and see if you understand:

  • You like the Titans in Week 12 against the Bengals. They’re +3 underdogs at most sportsbooks. They’re +2.5 or +3.5 at a few others.
  • Drum roll please…which line would you wager on?
  • If you didn’t take the +3.5, I can’t help you.

It’s Okay to Overvalue Quarterbacks

If you’re basing your entire handicap on a quarterback, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. Would I do that? No. But there’s little doubt that the quarterback is the single most important position in the NFL.

Check out the exponential increase in passing attempts and yards over the course of NFL history, via Pro Football Reference:

More than simply production, quarterbacks can alter a game in an instant with their given intangibles, or lack thereof. Let’s put it this way: Who would you want in the final two minutes of a game, Tom Brady or Kirk Cousins? Who would you want against a malicious blitzing attack, Patrick Mahomes or Baker Mayfield? Who do you think is a better leader, Josh Allen or Kyler Murray? We can go on and on. 

Dissecting the many personalities that play quarterback and picking up on their behavior patterns is one of the most crucial aspects of successful NFL handicapping.

Fade Public Perception

Since the NFL is incredibly popular and because sports betting is exploding across America, the vast majority of bettors are not experts. In fact, most bettors are just lining up with their buddies at a local bar, filling a bucket of brewskies and praying for the results they want to happen—not exactly a pro’s perspective. That’s why it’s really important that you pay attention to public perception.

Right now is a great time to observe inflating perceptions across the league. Highlights in social media like the one below are a dime-a-dozen today.

And since they’re proliferated in front of us on a constant basis, there’s zero chance they have no effect on NFL betting lines. Sportsbooks realize that public bettors religiously follow social media and other forms of “infotainment.” When you see the ESPNs of the world hyper-focused on a particular narrative, it’s probably smart to look deeper and reconsider its validity. My wagers are often counter to popular opinion, and it feels pretty damn good when they hit.

5. Minimize Your Exposure and Go Niche

This may be the most difficult suggestion to apply, but it’s really important. 

Take it from someone who learned the hard way: do not overinvest your bankroll on a given Sunday. Every key above is a reflection of how difficult NFL betting can be. Add the variance and erratic nature of 22 players on a 120 x 160 football field, and there’s a silly amount of random results that could come from a week of NFL action.

You may think you’re an NFL expert (we all do), but it’s really tough to beat the books if you’re wagering on games that you don’t feel confident about. That’s where sportsbooks make their money and that’s where betting careers end. 

Teasers, parlays, survivor leagues, contests, fantasy—there are so many ways to make money on football. It can be difficult knowing how or where to invest your money. Find something you’re good at (a division, a conference, a type of bet, a portion of the season, etc.) and start there.

Sports betting isn’t going anywhere and sometimes, the best bet is the one left off the board.