Wagering on the NFL
by Trevor Whenham
Betting on the NFL is practically a national obsession in the United States. Whether it is betting at a casino sports book or online, playing in a pool, betting with friends or even fantasy football, chances are pretty good that a lot of people you know will have some kind of action during the football season. In the playoffs it's virtually guaranteed that everyone will have a bet of some kind. If you don't spend any time wagering on the NFL then, well, you're missing out. You really should get started, and here are six things you should keep in mind to do just that:
1. The most common form of betting in the NFL is on the point spread. It's not enough to just pick the winning team, you have to pick the team that is going to cover the spread. Because of this, it is very important that you don't get trapped into handicapping which team is likely to win the game. A team can easily win the game and not cover the spread, and consistently picking those teams is a quick way to go broke. You need to be very aware of the point spread in order to successfully handicap.
2. If you don't like to deal with the point spread, you can bet the money line. Betting a football money line is exactly the same as betting a baseball money line. You just have to pick the winner of the game, and you don't have to worry about the spread. The difference is in the profit you receive when you win. The more favored a team is the less money you will make, and the more a team is an underdog, the more money you will make. When you bet on a favorite you will get back less money than you bet, and when you bet on the underdog you will almost always get back more money than you bet. The only real difference between baseball and football on the money line is that a tie is impossible in baseball, while it is possible, though rare, in football.
3. You don't always have to pick a winner. By betting the totals you can wager on the number of points that both teams will combine to score. Oddsmakers will set a total for almost every game, and you can bet on whether the teams will score more or fewer points than that total. You may, for example, bet over the total if you think that the offenses are particularly strong or that the defenses will struggle to control the play, or you may bet the under if you feel that the defenses are superior to the offenses or if the weather will impact the ability of the teams to score.
4. Home field advantage is real. It's generally accepted that the home field advantage is worth about three points. That means if the two teams were perfectly matched then, all things being equal, the home team would win by a field goal. Of course, like all generalizations, this one is more or less true depending upon the circumstances. Some teams play better at home than other teams, and some teams have a much bigger advantage at home than other teams. There is a balance you have to strike, then - you have to keep in mind that the home team has an edge, but you can't overcompensate and give the home team too much credit.
5. Shopping around is crucial. You can save literally hundreds of dollars over the course of the NFL season by shopping around for the best odds on every bet that you make. It is regularly possible to find an extra half point or more in your favor on a spread by looking at what is being offered at several sports books and betting outlets. Those few extra points will turn into an extra win or two during the season, and that alone could be the difference between profitability and a loss during the season. Similarly, the difference between betting $110 to win $100 on every bet you make and betting $107 to win $100 may seem small in a single case, but when it is added up over the large number of bets you make over the season it could make a huge impact to your bottom line.
6. Manage your money. If you only focus on one thing in order to succeed at wagering on the NFL it should be money management. It doesn't matter how many winners you can pick if you can't manage your money to minimize your losses and preserve your bankroll. There is no such thing as a lock, and you are going to lose many games that you feel confident about. Even the best handicappers will lose 40 percent of their games or more. There are lots of different ways to manage your money effectively, but you have to settle on an approach that will let you overcome those losses and earn a profit. Effective NFL wagering is about making a profit over the long term at minimal risk, not trying to hit the jackpot in the short term at high risk.