NFL Betting Strategy
Contrary to popular belief, NFL betting markets are among the sharpest in the world. Due to the amount bet on NFL games, sportsbooks have to keep their lines efficient, or they risk significant losses. Nevertheless, beating the NFL is not only possible but highly profitable for those that understand the sport and target +EV markets and bets.
This article is by no means a one-stop shop when it comes to becoming a profitable bettor, but it is an excellent start. We go much deeper in-depth on many of the subjects touched on in this article, and we encourage bettors to read our full list of content on our NFL betting guide.
Best NFL Betting Sites 2017
Lean Towards Betting Underdogs and Unders
Favorites and overs in the NFL are where the sportsbooks make a tremendous amount of their profits. The average NFL bettor, year after year is much fonder of betting favorites than underdogs due to the false safety associated with betting favorites. They also disproportionally take the over, most likely because it’s much more exciting to cheer for points to be scored rather than root for a defensive struggle.
We don’t advocate fading the public blindly, as a profitable betting strategy, but it is worth avoiding the wagers that the bookies clean up on when it comes to the betting masses. Many sportsbooks shade favorites and overs to increase their edge over the squares, making them even less desirable.
Unlike college contests, the NFL doesn’t have a massive disparity in talent. Although the best team in the league is much better than the worst team, the difference between these two franchises isn’t anything close to the best and worst college teams.
Any Given Sunday…
“Any Given Sunday” isn’t just a 1999 football movie starring Al Pacino. It’s the reality of the NFL. Any team can surprise or shock even the best teams in the NFL, “on any given Sunday.” This can’t be said for the college game where lowly schools have no chance of competing with some of college football’s powerhouses.
NFL teams also have little reason to run up the score and will often run the ball to run out the clock later in games and occasionally pull their starters when they have a significant lead. It’s considered poor sportsmanship to run up the score in the league, but the situation is not quite the same as in college.
Many coaches have no issues doing the same in the college game. The BCS computers no longer include the margin of victory as a component, but it’s still regularly done to influence voters in the AP Poll or Coaches Poll.
Home underdogs and more specifically, double-digit underdogs in the NFL have been particularly successful. Historical averages for home underdogs covering the spread hovers around 60% and this number is even higher when the spread is double-digits.
Double-digit spreads, regardless of if the underdog is home also provide an opportunity for to bet underdogs. The talent gap is just too narrow in the NFL, even in games that would seem lopsided from the oddsmakers’ number.
With all of that said, this doesn’t mean bettors should shy away from betting a favorite that they think is a good bet. Nor should they relentlessly bet underdogs without having a solid reasoning behind their wagers.
Reverse Line Movement
We also touched on this in our fading the public article, but it bears repeating in this space. There are few better opportunities in larger markets, such as NFL sides, totals, and moneylines than reverse line movement situations. It’s basically a perfect storm of +EV for NFL bettors.
Reverse line movement occurs when the public is heavily invested on side or total, but the sharp bettors have gone the opposite direction. Instead of the line moving in response to the massive public betting action or simply not moving at all – it moves in favor of the sharp action.
For instance, say the Seahawks opens as -5 favorites against the Rams. The public is in love with Seattle in this particular game and has bet the Seahawks heavily. The sharps have gone the other way and have taken the Rams to cover.
Instead of the line moving in favor of the public or not moving at all, major sportsbooks that take plenty of high volume action move the line to -4 before game time. The rest of the market follows.
If we can catch the move quickly, we can chase the steam and perhaps grab -5 before the rest of the market adjusts. However, even with the full point move and market adjustment, -4 is still worth taking due to the significance of the situation.
Reverse line movement is something that frequently happens in NFL markets due to broad public betting action and the sharp bettors’ disagreement with the masses. Bettors will usually have 30-35 bets per year that fall under the reverse line movement criteria, and they shouldn’t hesitate to pounce when these opportunities arise.
Focus On Smaller Markets
There’s plenty of money to be made betting NFL sides, totals, and moneylines, but one area that profitable bettors forget about is smaller markets. The bigger markets will garner a lot more attention from management due to a large amount of bets coming in, and that means sharper lines.
Due to the NFL’s extreme popularity, oddsmakers offer a large assortment of bets aside from the major markets. Some of our favorite markets to attack are player and team props. These markets are often posted with little research behind them and are geared towards recreational bettors who naturally want to root for their favorite players. Although, both sides of these bets often have -115 juice. They can be extremely profitable for the average sports bettor.
The amount bet on propositions is a fraction of what sportsbooks receive on sides, totals, and moneylines. They’re not watched carefully by the oddsmakers. They will occasionally pull props, but most of the line movements on these markets are automated.
With a little research, bettors can find edges in these markets that are not heavily researched before they are posted. The maximum bet on props, almost across the board is $500, but some are as low as $150.
This doesn’t make them applicable for higher limit bettors, but they’re excellent for those looking to build a bankroll or for people who like money and picking off soft lines. It would also be possible to get bet similar props at multiple sportsbooks and get several thousand dollars down on these markets.
Halftime lines and alternate point spreads are also areas that bettors may want to consider attacking as well. Propositions are derivative markets of full game sides and totals, but they don’t always move in unison with significant market changes.
Even though these are markets are highly juiced, their recreational focus and automated odds make them excellent targets for savvy bettors who take the time to handicap them.
A dirty secret of online sportsbooks is that they almost all lose money on propositions because of the sharp bettors that come in and attack these soft lines.
Attack Recreational Sportsbooks
Bettors have little reason to fund accounts at professional level sportsbooks with high limits as they start their NFL betting career. Their lines, across the board, are much sharper than those focused on public bettors or squares.
Although we highly recommend professional betting sites like Bookmaker.eu for their reduced juice and high limits, respectively, they’re not the sportsbooks we recommend bettors deposit at first. Sportsbooks like Bovada.lv and BetOnline offer much lower limits, but they cater to recreational gamblers and still offer tons of different markets, including props, futures, and live betting.
They’re much more apt to shade their lines to public betting patterns and go against the lines offered at other sportsbooks. This allows bettors to get better prices on underdogs and unders and will in general offer softer lines that shops that take larger bets.
If you’re successfully attacking their weaker markets, there’s little doubt that they will tire of your action rather quickly, and it won’t be long before your betting limits are severely cut. It’s unfortunate that you will likely have to move on to another sportsbook, but it’s a rite of passage as a bettor and one that only comes after you’ve beaten them for quite a bit of money.