12 NFL Handicapping Tips from 12 Different Expert NFL Handicappers
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Here are 12 NFL handicapping tips from our team of experts:
DOC'S SPORTS - NFL is one of the hardest sports to handicap because of the amount of information available on each of the 32 teams. One of the best things to remember when handicapping NFL games is that all players are professionals and there just is not much carryover from week to week. Oftentimes a team will get blown out the prior week, and a novice gambler will go against them the next week expecting a similar performance. That is usually a bad bet as professional players' pride sets in and the team plays much better the following week. Often you get an over-adjusted line, and I always like to play a team coming off an embarrassing performance the week prior.
ROBERT FERRINGO - I absolutely love betting the NFL. A lot of people think it is one of the hardest sports to crack and they try to make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be. My main tip to anyone that is just starting out betting football is don't worry about the spread - just pick a winner. Too often people talk themselves out of a good bet because they don't like the spread. Over a 10-year period from 2004-2014 the NFL favorites went 1283-1210-67 against the spread. That's almost exactly 50 percent (49.5 to be exact). However, the final score of NFL games differed from the spread by more than 10 points a game, and the outright winner of the game covered the spread 84.1 percent of the time. That means that the number only comes into play once every six or seven games (or about twice a week). Don't bet an underdog that you think can "keep it close," and don't get scared off a favorite because the line is 8.5 and you wanted 7.0. If you pick the outright winner there's a great chance your bet will cover.
GRIFFIN MURPHY - NFL is one of my favorite sports to bet on. Quarterbacks are gigantic when it comes to football. The matchup is always going to depend on whether the quarterback you are betting on is fast or not. Then it's between how the defense contends rushing or passing quarterbacks. You can find many trap bets in the NFL. Sometimes the lines are obvious in favor of one team, in which case this causes the public to chase that line. This usually affirms into a mismatch trap bet. I love rushing quarterbacks in the NFL, and I tend to favor spreads over moneyline plays.
RAPHAEL ESPARZA - Look for the second batch of line movements. Most oddsmakers put out NFL numbers around the time of the late Sunday NBC game. Right away the numbers will move, and after the late Sunday NFL game ends usually gamblers are ready to bet the next week of football games. Sometime between Wednesday and Thursday the NFL numbers will generally move again and that is when I really start looking into the games I have circled. Sometimes the line movement helps and sometimes the line movement kills me. But at least I can recognize how the number will move throughout the weekend. Also, waiting for that second line movement will tell you things such as how the weather will be that Sunday, and the injury list will be clarified a bit better than earlier in the week.
STRIKE POINT SPORTS - Some teams in the NFL just do not play well as a favorite. It could be that they are overrated in the eyes of the public or it could be poor coaching or inconsistent quarterback play. But there are some teams that you want to stay far away from when they are dressed up in the role of the big favorite. The Dallas Cowboys usually fall into this category. Some other teams – usually teams that are built on a strong running game and tough defense – are always much better in the underdog role than they are laying points. Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans have been a great example, thriving when they are taking points and winning several games outright as underdogs of 4.0 or more. Don't try too hard to buck the odds with these teams. Either stay away completely or hold your nose and take the points.
ARUN SHIVA (INDIAN COWBOY) - We want to focus and share one main theory that we use in handicapping the NFL. It is called the "active underdog over theory". The active underdog theory is essentially taking an underdog that you believe will be an active underdog (either due to revenge against a team from an earlier season loss, coming off a double-digit loss, losing outright to a team they were heavily favored against, etc.) and taking the 'over' with this team. So you expect a team that is looking to exceed expectations over the line currently constructed for them. So anytime that you think a team that is an underdog is going to exceed expectations against a team then take the 'over'. This is because if the underdog is highly motivated as we discussed for revenge, coming off a double-digit loss, or losing outright to a team they were favored straight up against, then certainly they will be motivated to exceed the amount of points they are expected to score in their next game.
JASON SHARPE - When it comes to winning at betting on the NFL, the most important thing you want to do is to try and think outside the box. The NFL betting market is considered by most to be the toughest for a sports bettors to beat as no other sport is more picked apart and looked at closer by the fans/media than the NFL. If you find yourself having the same opinion of an NFL team as everyone else then you most likely shouldn't be betting for or against that team. They say 95 percent of the NFL bettors will lose money betting during the regular season. Thinking like everyone else is setting you up for failure when it comes to the NFL. Find good reasons to try and go against the public perception in the NFL as the betting public heavily influences the lines. The best strategy is to bet against the public in the NFL. So if you see a spread that is -4 at the beginning of the week then all week long all you hear is everyone saying how this team will win easily and if the -4 team and is now up to -7 on game day, it's a lot smarter to bet against this team as the value will come from taking the other side at +7.
DOUG UPSTONE – One of the biggest keys to beating the books in the NFL is not overreacting. Time and again, Team A either dramatically exceeds expectations or falls well short of what the market presumed. Oddsmakers understand, especially on public teams, that the marketplace (average bettors) will place too much emphasis on what they just witnessed and release a line for the next game knowing they will take the bait and leave them vulnerable again. A way to avoid this type of reactionary betting is to understand why either instance occurred. Was the turnover battle one-sided and Team A cashed in on short fields repeatedly? Did Team B actually outgain their opponent by more than 100 yards but fumbled three times (without losing the ball, just no yardage gained) or pile up 100 yards of penalties, which left them behind the chains the entire game? Or, did one club have a terrific or awful game that had all the makings of an outlier performance, and chances are they will return to normal in the next game? Study the box scores to better understand unusual outcomes and place the odds in your favor and avoid being a square bettor.
AUGUST YOUNG - The NFL market is extremely efficient, so it’s important to pick your spots and tread carefully. Finding situational spots can be the key to coming out ahead. This is often a better strategy than attempting to create true lines that are more accurate than the Vegas odds. Situational trends can be profitable, as long as they are relevant and predictive, instead of descriptive. Here is an example of a predictive trend: Early-season (September), small road dogs (less than +7) that are coming off a poor season (winning 6 or less games) excluding high totals (44 or less) went 63.4% ATS for +9,040 between 2011-2020. When assessing such a trend, it makes complete sense. The public are always going to come in heavy against these bad teams from last season and the oddsmakers know this. As we just mentioned -- the NFL market is extremely efficient, so you can take advantage in this instance by being on the same side as the book and winning long-term without ever having to worry about traditional handicapping methods. An example of a descriptive trend which you will want to stay away from at all costs would be something like this: Aaron Rodgers is 10-3 on Thursday Night Football. First of all, this is a tiny sample size. It is also completely descriptive and provides no future predictive value.
VERNON CROY - The NFL is one of the toughest sports in the world to be successful betting at, and that is because the lines are usually very sharp. The oddsmakers spend more time than any other sport adjusting the lines because of the huge draw the NFL brings to the books. The books can't afford to be putting out weak lines, especially on featured games. The best tip I can give you when betting the NFL is to always - and I repeat always - buy the hook or half point on key numbers: 3.5, 7.5, 10.5, 14.5. Buy those points and this would give you 3, 7, 10, 14, and more times than not it will be the difference between losing or at least pushing because the lines are very tight. Also, almost always bet the public favorites as soon as the lines come out and non-public dogs closer to game time, so you get the best lines possible. The lines will change a lot with the action coming in during the week, so take advantage of this when you can.
TONY GEORGE - Remember one thing about the NFL: the line is everything. You are not betting teams or games, you are betting into a number. There are key numbers, or what we call fall numbers in the NFL. Those are numbers games are likely to land on in the final score. Numbers like 3, 6, 7 and 10 are numbers I do not want to be on. The value of a half a point over or under these key numbers depending on whom you are handicapping will be crucial. A three-point home underdog is not as nearly as attractive as a 3.5-point home dog. The value of a half a point in the NFL cannot be stressed enough, especially around these crucial numbers.
SCOTT SPREITZER - The best piece of advice I got from a Vegas sports bettor when I began my sports betting journey happened about 25 years ago, and I use it to this very day. Learn to make your own lines a week in advance. Let's say Pittsburgh is hosting the Ravens on October 15 after playing the Bengals on October 8. I make my line for the October 15 game before the game on October 8. I set my numbers on a Wednesday, eight days before the next NFL week is played. This will keep you from overreacting when teams play far from their norm. Learning to think like a bookmaker is the key to beating the books. This particular handicapping tool has been instrumental in my NFL success, including placing in the Top 20 in the Westgate NFL Super Contest. Remember, we bet on and against numbers, not teams.
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