Bettors Must Adjust to the New NFL
by Robert Ferringo - 9/5/2014
Football, as we know it, is dead. Brute force and physicality are now scolded, rather than rewarded, and sophisticated, pass-first offenses now dictate and dominate the game. The resulting scoring explosion has forever altered the landscape of the sport.
And from its ashes a simulacra of the game I grew up obsessing has risen.
Pro football has "evolved". And football handicappers and bettors have no choice but to adapt to the contemporary challenges the sport possesses or go broke clinging to The Way Things Were.
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Team scoring averages have increased each of the last five years and 2013 was the highest scoring season since the merger. In 1993NFL teams averaged just 18.8 points per game. In 2003 it was 20.8 per game. Andlast year a whopping 23.3 points per game were tallied, the largest spike in three decades.
Various rule changes aimed to increasing scoring and the league's mass appeal, improving player safety, and shielding ownership from financial liability regarding player health have skewed pro football toward offense and, specifically, the passing game. More passes means more plays per game. More plays mean more possessions. More possessions mean more scoring. And more scoring means this chaotic, unpredictable sport has gotten even more deranged and turbulent.
Because the NFL has changed how we wager on it should change as well. Some pros have had a hard time adjusting after following certain gambling methods for decades. Others, like myself, have been able to modify on the fly. Last year I went 95-58 with my NFL picks, a 62.1 percent success rate, while nearly doubling my clients' bankrolls. I can't give away all my tips and tricks - you have to pay for that info! - but here is some analysison how to find your way gambling on the New NFL:
1. Don't Fear The Spread; Just Pick A Winner
NFL favorites have gone 1283-1210-67 against the spread the past 10 seasons. That's a 49.5 percent success rate and the five-year (50.1 percent) and three-year averages (50.5)have followed suit. That is ruthless efficiency from sportsbooks and neither the chalk nor the underdog is better than a 50-50 proposition.
That said, the public still overestimates theprecision of NFL oddsmakers. For the past decade the average NFL spread has varied from the actual final score by an average of just over 10 points per game. (Remember that next time some bitter bettor starts spouting conspiracy theories about Vegas after a bet lost by a half-point.) Last year's differential was no exception andthat's a positive sign for gamblers. It means the books aren't necessarily getting better at setting lines. They're merely relying on the enormous house edge the standard 10 percent vigorishyields.
More encouraging is the fact that over the last 2,600 NFL games the spread has only been a factor 15.9 percent of the time. Over 84 percent of the time the team that wins the game also covers the number. So gamblers obsessing over the spread are doing it wrong. If you can pick the team to win the game outright you should beat the numberat ahealthy clip.
Granted, that's easier said than done. And an emerging trend in today's high-flying NFL is that the spread is becoming a slightly larger factor. In 2013 the team that lost the game covered the spread 16.9 percent of the time. That is up from the 10-year average but was actually one of the lowest marks since 2009. In 2012 the spread came into play 18.1 percent of the time and in 2011 a whopping 21 percent. Over the last five years the spread has been a factor in 19.4 percent of 1,293 games.
Prior to the scoring explosion, from 2004 to 2008 the spread only came into play in 12.3 percent of all games. That means if you picked an outright winner you won your bet nearly 90 percent of the time!
Don't bet on teams you don't think willwinoutright. Don't rely on the spread to save your underdog wager. And don't get scared off a favorite because they are laying 3.5 or 4.5 points, ahead of two key numbers.
2. Home Underdogs Are Lifting Their Legs
It has always been NFL Betting 101: take the home underdog. Any wannabe sharp will opine about the inherent value of home underdogs and rail against the "square" bet on a road favorite. However, in the New NFL taking the points with a home team is now a near-worthless angle.
Home underdogs went just 42-47 against the spread last year. That followed seasons of 43-47 ATS and 43-41 ATS for home puppies and yields a three-year winning percentage of just 49.4. Home underdogs have covered just 48 percent of the time (212-230-13) over the past five seasons.
The home underdog angle may not have been profitable prior to the rule changes but it was at least viable. From 2004 to 2008 home underdogs covered the spread 52.7 percent of the time (205-184-9). That is no more.
However, over the last three years just 10.6 percent of games featuring a home underdog resulted in an outright loss by the host but a win against the spread. That's a much lower rate than all other NFL games. So if you are thinking about backing the home puppy you may get value putting cash on the moneyline as well.
3. If The Total's High Then Let It Fly
Last year NFL teams went 138-127 against the total. That's just a 52.1 win rate for 'over' bettors and not enough to show long-term profit.
The books have begun setting totals higher than any other point in league history. In 2013 there were 43 games with a total that closed at 50.0 or higher. That is up from a previous high of 34 in 2012 and double the 21 games with a total of 50 or above in 2011. Totals are now routinely set in the 50's and within the next two years we may see the first total of 60.0 in league history.
How astronomical are those numbers compared to pre-Super Scoring NFL seasons? In 2010 just six games had a total of 50.0 or higher and in the five years prior there were only a combined 41 such games.
Not only has the frequency of these mega-totals increased but the results have done a 180 as well. From 2005 to 2010 teams went just 19-34 against totals of 50.0 or above. That's an incredible 64.2 percent success rate for bettors who went against the grain and bet those contests 'under'. Only once, a 9-3 'over' mark in 2008, would gamblers have failed to turn a season profit by blindly betting those games 'under'. It was one of the best totals betting systems around.
However, games with a total of 50.0 or higher have actually resulted in expected shootouts the past three years. Teams have gone 54-44 against the total in those contests, good for a 55.1 percent success rate on the 'over'. If you add in games that closed with a total of 49.5 the mark increases to a fantastic 58.2 success rate on the 'over' (71-51). So don't be afraid to expect points when the books post a total that looks comically high.
There will always be ebbs and flows to NFL betting. And the best handicappers and most successful bettors can roll with the tide. Nothing is easy in this business. But if you stay abreast of changing trends and stick to the core principles of successful sports betting - money management, long-term goals, fundamental betting angles - then NFL betting will continue to be one of the most enjoyable and most lucrative ways that you can earn a buck.
Carpe diem. And good luck.
Doc's Sports has been successfully handicapping the NFL for years - more than four decades in the business - and wants to give new clients a chance to try our service for free. Click here for the hassle-free sign up and get $60 in free NFL picks today . Also, get three handicappers for the price of one when you sign up for a full-season football package! Click Here for details.
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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