When we talk about NFL betting, most people associate it with betting the games each week. Many sharp bettors, however, devote a lot of time thinking and betting on the NFL outrights. These are also called futures markets.

They are long-term bets which typically become decided at the end of the season. You have surely seen them in your favorite sportsbook. For examples, dome of them may be:

  1. Which team will win the Super Bowl
  2. Which team will win their Division
  3. To make/not make the playoffs
  4. Who will be the regular-season MVP
  5. Total season wins

Of course, there are many more options to bet on but we simply cannot list them here. Furthermore, it is up to each individual sportsbook to decide what sorts of outrights it will offer its customers.

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How does the actual futures NFL betting happen?

Well, first of all, the main differentiation between point spread betting and outright betting is the number of options that you have in each market. When you pick the Super Bowl winner before the season, you have all 32 teams to select from. In other words, you chances are not 50/50 the way they are when you pick totals or sides in single games.

However, your returns are going to be way higher if you manage to win such a market. You have to look at it as a long-term investment of sorts. See, betting every week on spreads and totals is a short-term investment. Once the game is over, you fond out whether you’ve won or lost your stake.

With futures, that’s not the case. Often times, you have to wait till the whole season is over before winning or losing. Essentially, you leave your money with the bookmaker for a season, wait it out, and then score a return of your investment (or not).

The benefits and the downsides of placing outright bets on the NFL

Let’s outline why placing a long-term bet can be quite beneficial. There are also a few negative aspects that we will need to point out.

Benefits

  • The value is there – if you do your homework and compare teams, you may often find out that the bookies present to us incorrect lines. By incorrect lines we mean that some may be inflated, while others will be wrong. It’s best if you look for prices that you think will go down as the season progresses. This will show you that you are on the right track.

For example, in June you pick Patrick Mahomes to be the league MVP at a price of +450. After the first couple of games, the price drops to +350. This shows you that the bookie thinks that Mahomes is more and more likely to win the award. You just got good value at +450.

  • The potential return is huge – if you are a handicapper, you likely bet on odds of -110 or something in that range all the time. With outrights, the payout will be way, way bigger. You have a chance to multiply your stake by a lot. Of course, the probabilities are smaller.
  • You can enjoy these more than the each-week bets – the good thing about outright markets is that they will not have you on the edge of your seat every single week. A player may have a bad game and still be an MVP contender. A team may lose a couple of games and still win enough to cover their season win totals. In other words, you get to enjoy your Sunday games more than when you bet spreads. You don’t have to worry saying: “will this team score on that drive so that they can cover my spread?”
  • An abundance of options – we already mentioned some of the more popular futures markets above. Rest assured that you can get plenty more.

Drawbacks

  • You have to wait a long time – the main reason as to why people don’t bet a lot of money on outrights is because they have to wait for a long time to see if they will win. You have to be of the mindset that the money you are betting will not be available to you for many months. You simply have to think of futures as if you are buying stock. You have to wait it out to bake.
  • Not easy to predict – the problem comes from all the selections and variables that you have in front of you. Betting on obvious favorites is rarely the way to go. But at the end of the year, when the team everyone expected to win the Super Bowl actually wins it you say to yourself “why didn’t I bet this team!?”. Our piece of advice is to not go for the big favorites but betting a lot of money on long shots will not be smart either.
  • The house has a lot of vig – The term “vig” stands for the profit that the bookie makes if there are even money bets on all selections. This is also known as juice. We won’t dabble into that topic as it is very broad. All you need to know is that no matter how good of a price you think you are getting, this price is definitely juiced up.

Types of NFL futures markets

The main way to divide the outrights in the NFL is to do so by team and player markets.

Team Bets

 

To win the Super Bowl – this is the ultimate goal of every team in the league and since the Super Bowl is the last game of the season, the prices for each team will be high. To adequately predict who will be the champion, you will need to take many things into account some of which are:

  • Culture and traditions of the team
  • Coaching staff
  • Player talent

The problem with this bet typically comes when it is time for the payoffs. The playoff format in the NFL is “win or go home”. This means that teams play just 1 game and winners moves on while the loser goes home (it even rhymes). Many people avoid betting on that market altogether and instead focus on the so called “prop bets”. 

Bookmakers offer a wide variety of prop bets for the Super Bowl every year and you can get more insight on how to approach these markets after you read our article on **betting the Super Bowl and comparing lines**.

  • To win the conference – here goes another playoff market in which you predict whether a team will essentially make it to the Super Bowl. The 2 conference champions meet at the Super Bowl. Needless to say, you will get much lower odds here. Maybe even twice as low for each team.

  • To win the division – This is a futures market which does not involve the playoffs. In fact, it is somewhat tied with the “To make the playoffs” market but not exactly. The odds here depend heavily on the teams’ quality within the division. As you know, the divisions in the NFL are fixed and teams play between one another twice a year.

If a team is historically good, it will win the division regularly, thus the price will be driven down. However, there are divisions in which 2 or 3 teams will fight for the division title. So the odds there will be somewhat even.

What many bettors do here, is they parlay their division bets. We do not recommend that because betting on multiple division winners on one slip is definitely not going to yield good long-term results.

There is barely any value when you bet favorites here. For instance, The New England patriots are often a -500 favorite to win the AFC East. It won’t do you any good to bet them and wait for the whole regular season to pass before you can claim your winnings. Not to mention that a surprise run by the Bills or the Jets is always possible.

  • To make/not make the playoffs – this one is very close in its meaning to the previous market that we outlined. However, there are only 4 division winners per conference and 6 teams making the playoffs. 

This means that the odds for a team to make the playoffs will be lower than the ones for that team to win its division. The cool counterpart of this bet is the “to not make the playoffs” market. People rarely bet that one because it suggests that you are betting on a team that you hope to have a bad season. With the proper research, such a bet can also be profitable.

  • Season win totals – bookmakers will also offer win totals markets for each team. The offered numbers will be different for the different teams. For instance, the bookie may offer just a Over/Under 4.5 wins for the Miami Dolphins but an Over/Under 11.5 wins for the Los Angeles Rams.

To bet this market you need to study the schedule of each team carefully. You have to see how many “flat spots” there might be for each team during the year. 

Player markets

This is where you get to bet on whoever you think will have an excellent season in what they do”

  • Regular season MVP – Over the last 14 years, this award has been won by a position different than a quarterback just twice. Your safest bet would be to go with the star quarterback of a halfway good team that is due for a breakout season.
  • Most sacks in the season – bet on the best players that get to the quarterback the most.
  • Rookie of the year – this is a very self-explanatory market but be careful with it. Sometimes very good rookies sit out their first season behind a veteran so that they can learn the game.

When to bet on NFL outrights

You got 3 convenient times during which to bet on outright markets. Being familiar with all 3 of them is an essential part of your **general NFL betting strategy**. If you want more insight on that, make sure you check out our article on the basics of NFL wagering.

When the lines come out

This typically happens very early in the summer or late spring. The teams are yet to even have practices and organized team activities. Very few players are actually signed and the trades are yet to come. At that time, bookies know as much as you do. If a certain line seems lucrative to you, you might as well bet it. 

It is a risky endeavour, though, because as time goes by you may look very smart betting on that price. On the other hand, injuries and transactions occur before the season and teams can go from good to bad before they’ve even played one game.

Right before the season

This is also a very convenient tome to place your futures bets. Right before the season begins is the time during which teams have settled down when it comes to roster moves, scheme, and practices. You will definitely have a better idea about who’s good and who isn’t.

The season is unpredictable, but you can definitely still get very good prices before week 1.

During the regular season

Let’s be clear here, you will get bad prices on teams that have had a strong start of the season. Betting on outrights during the season is all about picking teams that you think will make a comeback over the next weeks.

Final tips on placing NFL long-term bets

We got a few final thoughts for you to keep in mind:

  • Don’t contradict yourself

If you’ve picked the Steelers to win the Super Bowl, you don’t want to bet any other team to win the AFC. It sounds simple but you will be amazed to find out that people actually make such mistakes.

  • Hedge whenever you can

When you are sure to score a profit, by all means place a bet that goes against your outright prediction. For instance, you have the Chargers to win over 8.5 games in the season. It is week 17 and the Chargers are 8-7. If they win that last game, they advance to 9-7 making your outright bet a winner. This is a good spot to place a little wager against them. If they lose that game, you win your game bet anyway.

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