So it is that time of the year again when all the football action of the NFL is clicking on all cylinders. Having fun watching the games is not enough for many of the viewers and most folks like spicing their games up.
How do you do that? Well, by placing a wager on the game, of course. In 2018, the USA Supreme Court lifted the ban on online gambling in the country and ever since, bookmakers have been preparing for the nation-wide start of online sports betting.
It is finally here, and the operators are numerous. Picking the right one is perhaps the first of our suggestions. A good NFL bettor (or handicapper) will always make sure to compare the betting lines that the various bookies offer to maximize their chance of winning the wager. If you feel like we're already starting to use too much NFL betting slang, we advise you to check out our unique NFL glossary of terms where you will learn the essential terms used by NFL handicappers.
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Know those NFL teams when you bet them
Our first and most important tip is to tell you that knowledge is your best friend. This is not something that will improve on its overnight, so you will need to put in some effort to know the players and the coaches of the teams, to understand their tendencies, their style of play and some other similar things.
The chances are that if you are already a fan of the sport, you likely know most players and the way they play the game. We can all make a simple differentiation between good and bad players even though these terms are relative.
Playing Fantasy Football will help you tremendously in that department as you will likely be aware of the stats and the skills of most offensive players. The good news is that most fantasy football websites also offer sports betting now. Make yourself familiar with the top sports betting apps out there and do your research wherever through your mobile device you are. Pay attention to some of the most important stats:
- Yards per game
- Yards per play
- Yards per pass
- Yards allowed per play
As you can see, those stats revolve around yards won or lost. A key thing to remember here is that the pro bettors are rarely concerned about how many points a team scores per game. They care about yards the most because it is a consistent stat that shows the true form and tendencies of the team. As the saying goes: “Pro bettors don't bet teams, they bet numbers.”
This has to urge you to find the most appropriate NFL statistics websites out there so that you can always stay on top of the numbers.
Don’t be subjective when betting the NFL
Once you know how the teams play and find out which their superstars are, it is easy to fall in love with certain organizations. Well, don't. Leave your biases at the door because fandom will cloud your judgment.
When your favorite team is involved in a game that you are looking to bet, this may be a problem. Some bettors avoid betting on their teams just because they are afraid that they will either overestimate or underestimate a factor in that game. Objectivity is key. Let’s face it – not everyone’s favorite team will win the Super Bowl. So bet against your team if you feel like it.
Location, location, location
You’ve probably heard that location matter a lot when buying real estate. Well, when “buying” NFL betting lines, location also matters. There is one golden rule that sharps (professional handicappers) have followed for decades. They “give” 3 points to the home team. In other words, this is known as a home-field advantage.
It is important to note that some teams are considered to have a better home-field advantage than others. For instance, the consensus is that the Green Bay Packers have a 4-point home-field advantage while organizations such as the LA chargers have only a 2-point one.
If you play versus the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs (January), then their home-field advantage can go as high as 4.5.
Another critical NFL handicapping angle is related to the travel schedule of NFL teams. As you know, there are 4 timezones in the USA:
Teams traveling from Pacific to Eastern face a very tough biological clock disadvantage. Historically, such teams have had bad games on the East Coast. Furthermore, pay attention to how many times a team travels or will travel in the span of two weeks.
For instance, The Seattle Seahawks may have to travel to Miami for a game on one Sunday and then go back home to play a Thursday night home game versus the LA Rams. This Thursday night game is a potential flat spot for the Seahawks because of the short time between the two games and the number of air miles they will generate. To be prepared for this, we recommend that you check out the full NFL Calendar for the 2019/2020 season so that you know where and when teams play.
Understand the matchups
This is an essential part of your NFL betting endeavors. Your main task is not only to know which players are good or bad, but you also need to know the quality of the whole unit. Here's what we mean by that.
If a team has only one star wide receiver, but all their other receivers are mediocre, this means that their whole receiver corpse isn't all that good. Let's take the Giants and their ex-star receiver Odell Beckham Junior. He spent 5 seasons in New York between 2014 and 2018 and the team went 31–39 in that span.
Defenses can focus on and shut down individual star players when they are the only threat. So when you grade a team, grade its units and not just the individual players unless we are talking about quarterbacks.
In that sense, always pay attention to the offensive and defensive lines in any given game. In general, NFL games are won in “the trenches.” This means that whoever controls the line of scrimmage, will have a significant advantage.
- A strong offensive line will be able to push around a weak defensive line and will thus open running lanes for its running backs and will allow its quarterback to pass frequently and quickly.
- A strong defensive line against a weak offensive line will create quarterback pressure and will shut down the running game too.
In the first scenario, you can expect a higher scoring game, while in the second scenario, you might want to bet under the total points.
- If both lines are good, the defensive line generally has a slight advantage because of the rules in the NFL.
Keep an eye on the injuries
Matchups in the NFL are nothing if we don’t know who’s injured and who isn’t. A strong offensive line can very quickly become weak if 2 of the 5 starters all of a sudden are injured. It is important to watch for these angles during the games.
This is a good time for you to be in-play since many sportsbooks have that option. See which are the leading NFL betting websites and get familiar with their in-play betting rules.
Another way to be completely aware of all the live-action during NFL Sundays is to get your hands on the top NFL legal streaming sites in the USA. You will be able to select which game to watch without missing a live touchdown.
Also, pay attention to the injury reports that teams submit during the week. Some critical injuries will definitely move the betting lines one way or another. Needless to say, quarterback injuries affect games the most. Some of the best quarterbacks in the league (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes) may be “worth” up to 7 points. So, if the Chiefs are a 2 -point favorite to win over the Saints but news comes out that Mahomes will sit the game out, this line may move, making the Chiefs a 5-point underdog.
Identify trends and patterns
Here it gets really serious because identifying trends is something that everyone needs help with. Most of the time, you will find yourself looking for trends online because keeping your stats is going to be grueling if not straight impossible.
For example, Mike Zimmer, who is historically among the top coaches in the NFL against the spread (more than 60% ATS), is actually only 52.6% (10-9-1) against the spread since Kirk Cousins become his quarterback. Is that a trend? Maybe, but the sample size is too small to tell.
Some key trends that you should always follow when betting teams:
- ATS stats of teams after a bye week
- ATS on Thanksgiving Day
- ATS on Monday night football
- ATS after a home loss
- ATS on a short week (Thursday night football)
- ATS on turf or grass
- ATS on outdoor and indoor stadiums
Such numbers may help you greatly when wondering who to bet. For instance, if you know that Team A is only 3-13 over the past 16 seasons when they play on Monday night, you will likely bet against them. Of course, you should never neglect all other factors that may come into play.
There are also trend killers that we need to take into consideration. Typically, these revolve around radical changes about a team:
- A new head coach – it is impossible to know right away what a new head coach can do with a team. Because of the lack of information, many sharps avoid putting money on such sides. There is, however, a group of people who do the exact opposite. They like putting money on new coaches because they think that the opposing side has very little if any, information to create a game plan against that coach.
- A new quarterback – being the most crucial position of the field, a new quarterback matters just as much as a new head coach. The logic is pretty much the same as what we just described above. Some people avoid putting money, but others are eager to back a new QB because the other team has no film on them.
- A new stadium – new venues also matter. Home teams rarely feel at home during the first two games in a new stadium. Furthermore, the surface may be different. If a team has played on grass, but all of a sudden they start playing on turf, all the trends regarding their record on grass must be thrown out of the window.
Trends and patterns will also help you make your NFL predictions on outrights and futures markets. If you want to bet the season win total of a team, go back a few seasons and see how many wins they’ve accumulated.
If you want to back a player to win the MVP award, see what stats they’ve generated over the past few seasons.
Division matchups are important
Any NFL bettor will tell you that division games are the most significant games for any team during the regular season. Divisions in the NFL matter way more than in other sports. If you want to do some betting on college football, you still need to take divisions into account but the chasm between the teams there is too big in terms of quality for divisions to matter that much.
In the NFL, division winners go automatically to the playoffs, and this is significant. Furthermore, division opponents meet twice per season, and this allows them to get to know each other very well.
Betting on a division game can be tricky because you know that both teams will play harder than usual. This gives the underdog a slight advantage because such games tend to be close generally.
But division games matter even during the previous or the next week. For example, if team A travels to the other side of the country to play an opponent they rarely meet, they might not perform as hard if next week they have to face a division opponent. This is called a “lookahead game.”
Then, after a division game, teams are often exhausted or injured. You might want to bet against such teams the week after a tough division game.