A Beginner’s Guide To NFL Betting
Betting on an NFL game will always be a gamble and regardless of what any online guide tells you, knowing that nothing is a sure bet is the first step to success. Every game played in the NFL is unpredictable but weighing the odds and knowing the requirement your wager needs to meet to have a payout is vital to adding money to your bankroll over the course of any given season.
When betting on NFL games, it’s important to know a few things before putting money on any teams, players, or outcomes. Here are five tips to know when it comes to betting on the NFL.
Getting Over NFL Fandom
This one may be the hardest to get over, since a lot of fans in the NFL have their favorite team or player and want to believe in their heart they are rooting for the best team or the best player in the league. This is why so many players place a futures bet on their favorite team to win the super bowl.
However, gambling doesn’t test your heart but tests your mind instead. Having an objective point of view is the only way to have success when betting on professional football. Having bias before placing a bet leads to a shift in point of view and clouds your perception of deciding outcomes, which is the entire point of betting on the NFL. Instead, researching trends, knowing team performance against the opponent, and gaining general historical knowledge should be one of your top priorities.
Sportsbooks do not pledge allegiance to any particular team, so neither should you. The goal here isn’t for your favorite team to beat all other teams, but instead, the goal here is to beat the odds a sportsbook gives you.
Choosing the Type of Bet
There are many types of betting options when it comes to the NFL, but for beginners, focusing on only one may be the best course of action. Once you become comfortable with how sportsbooks make odds, you can then expand and diversify your bets even further as more knowledge is gained not only concerning sportsbooks but on the NFL as well. Let’s focus on the most common type of bet placed on NFL games: The point spread.
During an NFL season you may see a line that looks like this:
- New England Patriots (-7.5) vs. New York Jets (+7.5)
This line indicates where the two sides of the point spread is currently sitting at. If you bet on the Patriots, this line indicates the Patriots must win by more than 7.5 (which would be 8 points since the NFL does not award half points in the scoring rules) or more for you to win. If you bet on the Jets, the line indicates the Patriots must win by less than 7.5 (7 points due to no half points) or the Jets win outright.
The key takeaway here is that you aren’t simply betting on who wins or loses but also must factor in the margin of victory. One final note: For beginners, it’s important to not look at the payout and try to factor that into the equation as well. In the example, just because the Jets are +7.5 and have, say, a +200 (betting $100 wins $200) payout shouldn’t sway your decision either way. Winning is the most important goal, regardless of the payout.
Factoring in NFL Home-Field Advantage
Traditionally, Las Vegas and online sportsbooks have home-field advantage accounting for 2.5 points when it comes to NFL games. Take this scenario below as an example:
- New Orleans Saints (+4.0) vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.0)
Since the second team displayed in the betting line is always the home team, we can gather from this line that the sportsbook is giving you two options: Betting on the Falcons means you think the Falcons will beat the Saints by 4 points or more at home, and betting on the Saints means you think the Falcons will win by 3 or less or the Saints win outright in Atlanta. Taking away the sportsbook home-field advantage of 2.5 means the line is now -1.5 in favor of the Falcons. If you don’t believe the Saints will be affected by the Falcons home field, then the line is even more in your favor since you believe the sportsbook is overvaluing home-field advantage in this scenario.
Keep in mind, the 2.5 (or sometimes even 3 points to some sportsbooks) advantage is an average calculation base on all home games played in NFL history. Since the 2000 NFL season, home teams in the NFL have a 57.1% win rate in the regular season and a 64.7% win rate in the playoffs. Again, this an average, since playing in a dome and playing in the freezing snow should be valued differently.
Monitoring NFL Injury Reports
No one monitors NFL injuries more than the sportsbooks, so you can bet as soon as a report surfaces about an injury to a player, they will quickly change the odds or even temporarily remove the line completely while they readjust the point spread.
The NFL quarterback is often regarded as the most important position in professional football, and maybe all of sports, so a team’s starting quarterback being injured is valued the most out of any position and will cause the biggest shift in a point spread.
The center offensive lineman is the next most valuable position to sportsbooks due to the center being responsible for all the blocking calls on the offensive line and being familiar with how the quarterback likes the ball snapped. In addition to the center, whoever is the best pass rusher on a teams’ defense will be the third-most valuable position after quarterback and center. This is due to pass rushers, such as defensive ends and outside linebackers, heavily influencing a quarterback’s decision making since they are the shortest distance from the ball on defense and can make the biggest game changing plays.
Knowing the Value of NFL Lines, Spreads, and Odds
Regardless of which type of bet you choose, keep one thing in mind: The goal of a sportsbook is to make money and to accomplish this, a sportsbook wants an even number of bets placed on both sides. Doing so ensures the sportsbook will net a profit regardless of which team wins. Sportsbooks have “juice” added into betting lines with 10% typically being the standard amount of juice added to any money line.
Traditionally, the most common juice amount for a point spread wager is -110, which means for every $1.10 wagered, the bettor can win $1.00 from the sportsbook. And let’s say you see this line:
- New York Giants (+7.0) (-110) vs. Dallas Cowboys (-7.0) (-110)
This example gives both sides of the betting line an equal payout, but what if a lot of money starts being bet on one side and not the other?
The sportsbooks will do one of three things:
- They will change the point spread to entice bettors to wager on the side that’s not being bet on.
- They will change the payout to increase or reduce the incentive of betting on a team.
- They do both, changing both the spread and the payout.
As an example, if people begin putting most of the money on the Cowboys, the line could go from:
- New York Giants (+7.0) (-110) vs. Dallas Cowboys (-7.0) (-110)
To this line before kickoff:
- New York Giants (+9.5) (-105) vs. Dallas Cowboys (-9.5) (-115)
Now, because more money is being bet on the Cowboys, the sportsbooks are making a bet on the Cowboys not only hard to win, since they went from having to win by 7 to 9.5 (10), but also making them have a worse payout, going from $1.10 to win $1.00 and now needing $1.15 to win $1.00. On the flip side, the Giants can now lose by 9 or fewer points or win outright and have a payout of $1.05 to win $1.00.
In the end, don’t be fooled by value given from sportsbooks. In the example, if you believe the Cowboys are going to win handedly then you shouldn’t be swayed by bigger payouts since a bigger payout doesn’t matter if you lose because losing nets you nothing, regardless of value. On the flip side, winning the bet is always of most importance, since regardless of payout, it still means you guaranteed a profit.