Since American football NFL is one of the most popular competitions, not only in the United States, but also beyond, this text is not only intended for US-based NFL fans, but for everyone who carries this sport in their hearts.
As you all are aware, the popularity of the NFL is growing from season to season, which makes it the dominant sports league in the United States – more popular than MLB, NBA, and NHL. Due to the short duration of the season (compared to most other leagues), the NFL can be a challenge for those who like to bet because the limited number of games and opposing teams makes it difficult to assess the true potential that teams have. But it is a challenge that everyone faces and can become an advantage for those who are well prepared.
The most popular form of betting in the NFL is a kind called “spread” or “line”. Although it is named something else, this is basically a handicap bet. You will often see on the NFL sportsbook at the best online casinos, that have an offer for this league and can be seen here, something similar to the following example:
CHICAGO BEARS -3.5 VS DALLAS COWBOYS +3.5
This means that the Bears, in order to beat the spread, must win with a minimum of 3.5 points advantage or, in other words, with 4 points or more. On the other hand, if you bet on the Cowboys, you will win if they win or if they lose by 3 at most.
In essence, the casino/bookmaker has thus estimated the margin that makes the match at 50-50. In our example, the spread determined for Chicago is -3.5 because it is believed that there is a 50 % chance that Chicago will win with a 4 point difference, at least, or a 50 % chance that it will not.
Unfortunately, if we know that casinos do not offer “even money” odds of 2.00 and that they are mostly odds of 1.91 on spread betting, it means that you need to win at least 52.5 % of your bets to achieve a tie. This is harder than it seems. Either way, to be successful in the long run, the ‘golden’ ratio would be 55.5 %. As you can see, the margins between misses and goals in the NFL are very thin, and that makes finding the best odds even more important.
Key Numbers in NFL Betting
What is very important to keep in mind when betting on the NFL is something called “key numbers”. What are key numbers? These are the most common margins of victories in NFL games. In order of appearance, those are 3 points, 7 points, and 10 points. In the last 20 seasons, almost a third of the games have ended with one of these three margins.
So, why would you keep key numbers in mind? Well, if we assume that 16 % of games ended with a margin of 3 points in the last 20 seasons, it is important that if you bet on the NFL spread, you understand the difference between lines 2.5 and 3.5, or 6.5 and 7.5. Since so many games end up on these margins, it means that a one-point difference between a 2.5 and 3.5 spread is much more significant than a one-point difference between a 4.5 and 5.5 point spread, or even a 2-point difference between a spread from 10.5 to 12.5 points.
To simplify things: let’s say the Washington Redskins got a spread of +3.5 points. Since the 3-point margin is so steady and frequent, 0.5 more the Redskins got above, is far more valuable than some 0.5 points in the case where the margin is 5 or 8 points because they appear far less often.
Home Field Advantage
The home-field advantage is traditionally worth 3 points in the NFL. What does this mean? Essentially, when you see a team playing at home with a spread of -3 on the list, it means that the casino/bookmaker considers the opponents to be equal to each other, and gives one team an advantage just because it plays at home. All of this means that, in the NFL, when we talk about the spread, there is basically a range of 6 points depending on whether you play at home or away. For example, a team playing at home with a spread of -3 would have +3 for the same game, only if they played away.
One of the simpler ways to assess whether a team is profitable to bet on or not when it comes to the spread betting is to simply reverse the place where the match takes place. You will do this by applying a total of 6 points in the spread to the one on the list. For example: let’s say Miami plays at home against Cleveland and the spread is Miami -4.5. To reverse the venue of the match, you will apply a 6-point advantage of playing at home. If you do this, it means the game is being played in Cleveland and Miami would then have a +1.5 spread.
By changing the venue of the match in this way, you get a different perspective for a certain spread that the bookmaker offers you, and this helps you determine whether a given spread is profitable or not.
Betting On Underdog
The fact is, most NFL punters are betting on favorites. This often leads to great opportunities for those who have the nerve to bet on underdogs, especially those underdogs who get a good spread. Let’s look at a couple of simple numbers.
Over the last 10 seasons, underdogs who play away and get a spread of +10 or more have beaten handicap expectations in 54 % of games. Now, of course, betting only on these teams will not make you rich, but their success in beating the expectations of the spread shows how common prejudices are against such teams and how much it affects the betting market, i.e. the lists. The average NFL bettor does not like to bet on the weaker ones, especially the badly weaker ones.
We can see a similar prejudice for underdogs who play at home and get a spread of +7 points or more. Over the last 10 seasons, such teams have exceeded spread expectations in almost 59 % of cases. This is a pretty amazing statistic and, again, it shows us the value in considering betting on an underdog who no one thinks has a chance of winning the game or even getting close to it.
Teams Recovering From Heavy Defeats
Another situation that should be considered when betting on NFL is when the team suffered a heavy defeat in the previous clash. If we look at data from at least 10 seasons back, we will see that teams after losing a game with 14 or more points have a 54 % success rate in beating the spread expectations in the next away game. This is a simple reaction to a previously poorly played game and to playing away.
This can be elaborated on further so, consider teams that are recovering from a lost game with a difference of 14 or more points when they later play away as outsiders. These teams have a spread winning success rate of over 56 % in the last 10 seasons – again a typical overreaction of the market to their weak game from the previous encounter.
We hope that we have prepared you well to join the NFL betting world…