The NFL (National Football League) is a professional football league consisting of 32 teams. The teams are split between the two major conferences (AFC & NFC) which is then divided into four different divisions (East, North, South, and West). The NFL consists of an 18-week regular season with each team playing 17 games and having 1 bye week (a week where they don’t play a game). After the regular season, 7 teams from each conference go to the playoffs in a single-elimination tournament which ends with the top team in each conference making it to the Super Bowl, which is played in February. Football Betting is by far the more popular sport among American bettors.
During the second week in January, Wild Card games pit the second and third seeds from each conference against their divisions’ third and fourth seeds. The top seeds get the week off. Winners advance. During the Divisional Round, the top-seeded teams play the Wild Card winners, with the top-seeded teams getting a home-field advantage. That’s when the Conference Championships start. Conference Champions decide the winner of each conference. The NFC and AFC Conference champions are determined by the winner of these two games (two from each conference). The two winning teams will go head-to-head for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the Super Bowl.
Understanding Value in the NFL
Like most sportsbook betting, the best way to achieve success is knowing where to find the value in the odds and beyond. The first thing to be aware of is how external factors can determine the betting odds. For example, there are teams in the NFL that are a lot more popular than others. The Dallas Cowboys are known internationally while the Jacksonville Jaguars are barely recognized to fair-weather football fans. This popularity discrepancy can be the first place where a bettor can find value. As the more popular a team is, the greater the likelihood that they’ll receive more sports betting action as opposed to the less popular team. This could mean that the popular teams may be overvalued on any given week, thus creating an opportunity for a smart wager.
Pay Attention to Where the Game Is Played
As any NFL fan will tell you, home-field advantage is incredibly important in the game of football. There’s a reason why the Seattle Seahawks have a “12th man”. It’s because their crowd is so loud it’s like having the advantage of another player on the field. While we can’t speak for the edge it gives the home-field players, the advantage may not be as strong when it comes to sports betting. The rule of thumb for a home-field advantage in the point spread is 3 points. For example, if two teams seem evenly matched on paper, the home team will have a -3 spread on their end. The historical data has shown that home-field advantage does not match the 3 point spread which is typically given by sportsbooks. For some teams, like the Rams or Chargers, their home-field advantage can be almost entirely ignored as fanbases from the opposing teams have a significant presence at the Ram and Charger home games.
Recency Bias Can Be Deadly (For The Sportsbook)
The NFL may have the quickest cycling through of team and player success and defeat. It’s very hard to stay relevant as a top team or player in the league, with the thoughts of dynasty teams dwindling away. Todd Gurley for example, was arguably the best running back in the league around age 23-24. By age 27, he was out of the league. The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars were a touchdown away from the Super Bowl. Since then, they haven’t had more than 6 wins in a season. This is a long way to say that anything can happen in the NFL and to not always have last year’s success or failures impact what you’re seeing in the current season. The Super Bowl champion from the previous year may be having an off-year in the following season. However, the sportsbook odds will typically land them as the favorite for the first few matchups of the season until they catch on that something’s wrong. If you can spot the value of the quick downfall of a good team or the early success of a bad one, you’ll be landing great value.
Check The Injury Reports
Paying attention to whether a key player is playing in next week’s game is a super helpful way to find value on a week by week basis. The best/worst word to have on an injury report is “questionable”. This usually means that they’ll know right before the game starts whether or not the player is playing. Sometimes the player won’t have too much of an impact on the line, like a backup Cornerback or a Fullback. But an injury to a player like a Quarterback or star Defensive End can shift the betting odds, so be prepared to jump on the odds to find the best value possible.
Shop For Lines
You’ve done the research. You are very, very certain of how the next game is going to play out. Before you place your bet, make sure you look at a few different accredited online sportsbooks. While Draftkings may be giving out basic odds for your next win, BetMGM may have an even better payout for you if you wager with them. Whether Draftkings knows something that BetMGM doesn’t, odds can differ from sportsbook to sportsbook and that’s a very easy way to create value when making your NFL wagers.
Look Into Positional Matchups
Although a team sport, there are many positional matchups that can make or break not only a game but the overall wagering spread. We see it every year, there’s a new top cornerback in the league that shuts down opposing wide receivers. When DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, averages over 100 yards receiving a game, gets stopped by Jalen Ramsey, cornerback for the Los Angeles Rams, it has a large impact on the outcome of the game and the betting outcomes. The main players to look at when looking at matchups are the quarterback, left and right offensive tackle, and defensive ends. They can truly make or break the outcome of the game.
Be Realistic & Keep A Budget
Like everything in life, practice makes perfect. Know right off the bat that you won’t win every bet. In fact, most seasoned sports bettors have a W/L percentage of around 55%. This means betting with your head and making smart decisions. While you can wager for every game, you shouldn’t and limit your wagers to the odds that make the most sense. While starting out, you need to have a budget and stick to it. Never wager over your head or more than you feel comfortable losing. While yes, the results of gambling can be very enticing, don’t let it cloud your judgment and make a wager that you can’t afford. Having a budget and sticking to it is the best way to ensure that you don’t bet more than you can afford. Another thing to help you along your NFL betting journey is to keep records of everything you’ve done. What kind of wagers you’ve made, what kind of bets, the results, amount wagered. Consider it a diary of your sports betting career. Keep this along with you and analyze before your next bet and you’ll continue to be in better shape than you were for the previous bet. And finally, like Kenny Rogers said “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run.” Eventually you should take your winnings with you and have an amount that you know you’ll be happy to leave with. The whole point of sportsbetting is to make a profit after all.