Fantasy football is wildly popular and is getting to be more so every year. It seems like everyone has a fantasy team or two these days, and information is nearly as widely available as information about the NFL itself. Among the people who play fantasy football are inevitably many people who bet on NFL football as well. There is no real reason why you can’t do both - fantasy football is just another form of gambling for most people, anyway. In fact, in some ways playing fantasy football can make you a better sports bettor. If you aren’t careful, though, fantasy football can have a negative impact on your betting. You really need to be aware of the problems it can cause so you make sure that it isn’t causing those problems for you.
Here are two benefits of fantasy football for sports bettors, and for reasons to be cautious.
Forces you to study players and teams more than you normally would - Up to a certain point far beyond what most bettors do, any studying you do is going to make you a more successful bettor. Fantasy football forces you to get to know the rosters of the teams, what they are capable of and what their shortfalls are, and how players match up against their opponents in a given week. It also forces you to examine the impact of a defense and when a defense is likely to shine or struggle, and it can make you take a closer look at the kicking game than you normally ever would. All of those things are good things.
Makes you pay attention to players and teams you might otherwise ignore - Most NFL bettors have blinders when it comes to certain teams. It can be hard to care about teams that are eternally bad, or teams that are just so underwhelmingly average that it hurts. People may limit their attention to the teams they are fans of and the teams that matter to that team. If you are looking at less than the whole league, though, than you are inevitably missing opportunities. Fantasy football forces you to widen your view and think about the whole league.
Can cause you to focus too much on one aspect of a team - If you play fantasy football then you know the running game is king. Nothing can have a positive impact on your fantasy team more than a stud running back - especially one who gets a lot of touches in the red zone. A good running game is very important to bettors as well, but not nearly as important as it is in fantasy football. If you get into too much of a fantasy football mindset then you can start making betting decisions based on one particular strength - Tennessee’s running game, for example, instead of all that the team brings to the table.
Can cause you to give players too much credit - Chris Johnson is a thrilling, electric, brilliant player. He’s the top pick in most fantasy drafts this year, and you can’t really argue with that too much. As good as he is, though, he can’t single-handedly overcome the shortcomings of his team. He had a season for the ages last year, but his team had all sorts of other issues - including a lack of real offense other than him - and they wound up just 6-10 ATS on the season. Fantasy football’s intense focus on individual performance is contrary in many ways to the more global focus required for betting success.
Can make you more likely to make emotional bets - If Adrian Peterson is your starting running back and your fantasy team is in a big game then you need Peterson and the Vikings to have a good day. More significantly, you are more likely to convince yourself that Peterson is going to have a big day because you need him to. It’s easy for that emotion - the need for a win - to filter over into your betting and cause you to give the Vikings more credit than they may deserve. A player who has been very strong for you for a few weeks in a row can also cause you to be very excited and extraordinarily optimistic about the chances of his team. Objectivity is crucial to effective sports betting, and nothing robs you of objectivity faster than emotion.
Can lead you to make betting decisions based on fantasy rationale - This is really an extension of the three points we have already discussed, but it is important enough to touch on again. The rationale that drives a good fantasy football decision - matchup and opportunity for individual excellence - is often not at all related to the rationale that makes a team a good bet in a game. In many cases they can even be contrary - Chris Johnson got to run so much last year for Tennessee in part because their offense was so bad that they didn’t have other good options. What made Johnson such a good fantasy player, then, was what made his team such a bad bet.