NFL key numbers can be a sports bettor’s best friend. NFL lines can often be as confusing as shopping at Ikea (it’s like a maze in there) — and understanding those key numbers can, at times, point to the strongest side of a wager. So, let’s take a minute, and refresh our NFL key numbers knowledge and see what lessons we can take away in order to get the best of the books.
What are NFL key numbers
NFL key numbers are the most common margin of victory during football games. Professional sports gamblers and analysts from far and wide have poured over years of NFL scores, and they have found the most common margins of victory to be three and seven. There are many studies on key numbers, but the most common information you can find will state that a final margin of three will happen 16 percent of the time and a margin of seven will happen nine percent of the time.
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The next most common key numbers, depending on the study, are margins of victory of 10 and four, which hit six percent and five percent of the time, respectively. Together, the top four key numbers occur 36 percent of the time, which is a little more than one in three games.
During the 2012 season three and seven have followed suit and been the most frequent key numbers, but they have appeared at a lower rate than in years past. The most common key number of three has only appeared 13 percent of the time, while seven has appeared nine percent of the time.
2012 season stats
Heading into Week 13 of the 2012 NFL season, there have been 178 games played. Here is a quick rundown of the frequency of every margin of victory from one to 14 points.
1 point: 0.05 percent
2 pts: 0.039 percent
3 pts: 0.134 percent
4 pts: 0.056 percent
5 pts: 0.028 percent
6 pts: 0.078 percent
7 pts: 0.089 percent
8 pts: 0.056 percent
9 pts: 0.005 percent
10 pts: 0.061 percent
11 pts: 0.005 percent
12 pts: 0.011 percent
13 pts: 0.011 percent
14 pts: 0.016 percent
Looking at the numbers, you realize that games will be decided by 14 points or less 64 percent of the time. The numbers also show that blowouts happen more frequently than one might expect. A game will be decided by more than two touchdowns 36 percent of the time, which is roughly one in three games. Massive blowouts of three touchdowns or more happen about 18 percent of the time, and extremely close games decided by three points or less happen just over 22 percent of the time.
How to bet key numbers
Sportsbooks are keenly aware of NFL key numbers and oftentimes base their lines on them. Many sports bettors realize this and have become extremely skeptical of lines that are a half point off the strongest key numbers of three and seven. Favorites that are set at 2.5 and 6.5 or dogs at 3.5 and 7.5 feel like lines that are begging to be wagered on. Many bettors tend to avoid these wagers on the belief that the sportbooks are hoping to entice you into a wager that they are expecting to go the opposite way.
One of the strongest wagers involving NLF key numbers is a basic strategy or Wong teaser. The concept was popularized by professional sports bettor and blackjack expert Stanford Wong in 2001. The idea behind the wager is to use a teaser (a wager in which you can add six points to a line) to move spreads through the strongest key numbers of three and seven.
For example, basic strategy teasers take 1.5-point to 2.5-point underdogs and 7.5-point to 8.5-point favorites and add six points to the spread in order to move the lines past three and seven. Historically the wagers have had positive expected value, and are winning at an 85 percent rate through Week 13 of the 2012 NFL season.
NFL key numbers are not some magical concept that will help you get the better of the books every week, but they are one piece of the betting puzzle that any serious bettor should know and understand. Just remember that three and seven are the strongest and most common key numbers. Teasers are another great way to take advantage of key numbers, so if you are interested in learning more, come back to Doc’s Sports for our weekly NFL basic strategy teaser analysis.
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