Professional Football Betting
NFL Betting and Handicapping
The National Football League is one of the most-popular pro sports leagues in the world, and the most-popular in the United States. Betting on NFL games is big business, and the NFL season (from early September all the way to the Pro Bowl in January) is one of the busiest times for sportsbooks. Casual NFL betting, especially office pools or wagers between friends, is easily the most common type of sports betting outside of the NCAA March Madness season.
Each NFL team plays 16 games in a 17 week season. That means each team gets a bye week to rest up for the next week’s game. That’s a long season, and doesn’t even include the playoffs. The playoffs feature six teams from each NFL conference, with the Super Bowl deciding the ultimate champion from between the two. Super Bowl Sunday is an American institution, and land-based sportsbooks see more activity from casual bettors than at any other time of year. But sports bettors who wager across the entire season are also common; for those gamblers, the long regular season provides lots of player and team stats and past performances to help handicap games. Long-term contracts mean some players spend years with the same squad, and the parity in the league makes betting on NFL games intriguing, even if a little more difficult.
Handicapping Pro Football Games
The life-span of NFL athletes is short; besides the league’s superstars, some of whom play at a dominant level in the NFL for decades, the average length for an NFL player’s professional career is about five years. This can make handicappers’ jobs a lot harder; luckily, NFL players drafted in the first round, considered the best of the best, have an average career of more than ten seasons.
Handicapping a sport is a way for sports gamblers to look for betting opportunities that provide value – more bang for the buck. The idea behind handicapping is to gain an in-depth understanding of two NFL teams set to play against each other, and use that hard statistical data to make a bet.
Sportsbooks have their own handicappers, often among the best such minds in the world. This isn’t to suggest that looking at player stats and keeping track of team performance is a bad idea; smart gambling strategy involves some blend of handicapping games and shopping for the best lines. Remember, the world’s best sports gamblers have a success rate of around 60% – the difference between successful smart bets and losing money gambling on the NFL is often just a few percentage points. Looking around to make sure you’re getting the best possible lines to wager on is just as important as your statistical understanding of the league’s backup QBs on 3rd and long.
How to Read NFL Odds
Each NFL game you bet on will probably have four numbers associated with it; each game has what’s called a rotation number, followed usually by a point spread, a money line, and an over/under or totals number. The NFL is known as an “any given Sunday” league, with enough parity in player skill that any team can beat any other team on any given day. Still, every year some teams are easy favorites and others struggle to points on the board.
Located to the right of the team names are the various odds you can use for betting.
Traditionally, the point spread amount is first, followed by the money line, and finally a totals number. This system lets the book represent all possible odds for each team in a short series of numbers.
NFL Point Spread Wagering
Point spread bets tell you which team is the favorite by placing a minus sign in front of that team’s spread number. The number tells how much the favorite has to win by so that bets on that team to win pay off. An NFL underdog team’s point spread will have a plus sign in front of it, indicated how much they have to lose by (or win outright) in order for an underdog bet to win.
NFL odds are sometimes written as decimals or fractions to help ensure there won’t be a tie – otherwise, games the book isn’t comfortable giving a point spread to will indicate with the word PICK, in which you simply pick the outright winner without a spread. Tie bets are push, meaning the bettor wins his wager back but no additional money. Point spread odds written into the decimal places, such as 5.5, ensure that no push bets occur, requiring a team to either win or lose by 6 points.
NFL & Money Line Bets
The main difference in placing pro football money line bets and bets that use spreads is that money line wagers pay out based on which team wins, with no spread in place. Favorites and underdogs are again identified – gamblers will have to lay bigger bets in order to win less money if they want to bet on the favorite. NFL money line favorites are marked with a minus sign and a number that tells the bettor how much cash they have to lay down to win $100. The underdog’s money line number will have a plus sign in front of it, and indicated how much you’ll win if you bet $100.
Over/Under Bets on Pro Football
The over/under number is a prediction made by a sportsbook about the total number of points that both teams will score, combined. To avoid ties, this number is usually shown with a fraction or a decimal point, such as 42.5. Stakes are the same as point spread bets, telling the bettor how much a wager on either side of the line will cost them as a whole number, such as -110. Over/Under in the NFL reflects the league’s equality – most totals are between 35 and 47 points, no matter the teams involved.
Making Picks on NFL Games
As with any sport, plenty of touts are out there who want you to subscribe to their NFL picking service. You can make your own NFL picks that are probably just as good as the picks you’d pay $0.99/minute for. The NFL has a long season, which gives you plenty of data to mine. Besides, we’ve already said that shopping for the best lines is more important than having inside info on all of the NFL’s teams.
Super Bowl betting is probably the biggest sports wagering day in the US, and has a big worldwide following as well. The NFL is now among the most popular pro sports leagues in the world, and any of the world’s best sportsbooks will run lines for NFL games. Do a little research into teams you place bets on, look around for the best possible odds you can find, and remember that the NFL can be a bit frustrating thanks to sportsbooks’ vast knowledge of the sport and the sometimes close-call wagers you have to make.