Welcome to our football betting strategy for experts page! In this article, we’ll unveil some of the advanced strategies professional football bettors use to stay one step ahead of the bookmakers and turn a profit on the gridiron.
Before we get started, we need to emphasize that this article is designed for advanced football bettors, so we’ve written it with the assumption that you already understand the main concepts of football betting. If you aren’t familiar with terms like point spreads, teasers, parlays, key numbers, and buying points, we strongly recommend you give our football betting strategy for beginners article a read first.
Still with us? Great! Let’s dig into seven strategies that separate the expert football bettors from the average pigskin gamblers.
Teasers (when you move the point spread in your favor in exchange for combining multiple games on one ticket) are the best way to consistently get on the right side of these key numbers. However, they don’t add much value at all if you aren’t using them correctly.
That’s because teasers allow you to move the point spread by a set amount (usually six points) for a set price. As we know, certain point spreads (3 and 7 in particular) are “key numbers” in football betting, so moving the point spread past as many of those numbers as possible is extremely valuable.
If you’ve ever bought points to move the point spread from -3.5 to -2.5 or from +6.5 to +7.5, you know exactly what we’re talking about. It costs you a fortune to buy that single point, since it increases your chances of winning that much more. But if you bought a point to go from +4.5 to +5.5 or from -12 to -11, you’re getting that extra point at a much cheaper price because it doesn’t increase your probability of winning by very much.
The best times to use a 6-point teaser is when betting on favorites in the point spread range of 7.5-8.5 (you’ll now get them at -2.5 or better, successfully crossing the key numbers of 3 and 7) and underdogs in the range of 1.5-2.5 points (you’ll now get them at +7.5 or better, again crossing the key numbers of 3 and 7). It also makes sense to tease favorites of 11-13 points down under a touchdown (you’ll also cross the key number of 10 in the process) or to tease underdogs of 4-6 points up over 10 (crossing 7 in the process).
And never, ever use teasers on teams who are favored by less than 4 points. You’re going to “waste” 2 of your points crossing the number zero, and not enough games in football are decided by 2 points or less to justify playing a teaser in this situation.
Parlays are always tempting because of how they drastically increase your potential win on a wager. However, there’s a reason that parlays pay a lot more than a wager on one individual game: they’re a lot more difficult to win.
Let’s say that you have three point spread bets that you like for this week, each of them at -110 odds. If you were to bet $110 to win $100 on each of them individually, you’d only have to go 2-1 to turn a $90 profit ($100 plus $100 minus $110). But if you were to parlay them all together, a 2-1 performance would result in a $100 loss. And assuming that you have a 55% chance of winning each of those point spread bets (which is an excellent winning percentage for point spread wagers), your chances of going a perfect 3-0 are less than 17% (0.55 x 0.55 x 0.55).
For that reason, you should limit your parlays as much as possible. And while it may occasionally make sense to parlay a couple of big moneyline favorites together in order to reduce your risk, there is one situation in particular where parlays can actually be to your advantage:
Correlated parlays are when you combine outcomes that are related to each other. In other words, if one of the legs of your parlay is going to win, it would also mean that the other leg would have a much better chance of winning as well.
An obvious example of a correlated parlay is parlaying a favorite on the moneyline and on the point spread. After all, if the favorite were to cover the point spread, they’d be guaranteed to also win the moneyline. However, this is so obvious that betting sites won’t allow you to parlay these two outcomes together.
So what is a correlated parlay that you can take advantage of? Well, if you’re betting on a team to cover a point spread, try to anticipate the type of game they’d need to play in order to be successful. For example, if an underdog’s only chance of keeping things close is by scoring a lot of points, you might parlay the underdog with the Over. Or if you think the favorite is most likely to cover the spread by smothering its opponent defensively, parlay the favorite with the Under.
As you know by now, every point matters on the football point spread. Some points matter more than others (we’re once again referring to key numbers), but with so many football games decided within a point or two of the point spread, it’s always tempting to “buy points” and move the point spread in your favor.
The problem with buying points, however, is the poorer odds that you’ll be offered on your wager. It may not seem like a big difference between betting -6 at -110 odds and -4 at -140, but the extra juice means that you’re now increasing your break-even percentage on the wager. (The break-even percentage refers to how often you’d have to win a particular bet in order to profit in the long run. At -110 odds, the break-even percentage is 52.48%.)
Using the above example, if you’re getting -140 odds at -4, you now need to win this bet 58.33% of the time simply to break even. Since even the most successful point spread bettors in the world rarely top 55%-56% over an entire season, you’re setting the bar incredibly high for yourself.
Any time that you feel the need to buy points in order to feel comfortable with a wager, you’re better off not betting the game at all. It’ll save you a lot of money in the long run.
A football scoreboard can be incredibly misleading. One team can dominate the line of scrimmage, time of possession, and yardage totals, only to lose the game because they weren’t effective in the red zone, gave up a special teams touchdown, or committed a couple of turnovers at the most inopportune times.
That’s why you shouldn’t base your football handicapping simply based on a team’s average points per game or average margin of victory. Instead, focus on some of the more advanced statistics that tell a much truer story about each team’s abilities.
Below are a few that football betting experts pay the most attention to.
It’s statistically proven that teams who consistently gain more yards than their opponents tend to win more games than they lose. Meanwhile, the higher average yards per play that a team has on offense means they’re more capable of overcoming deficits, and a low average yards per play on defense shows an ability to protect a lead.
Football’s all about moving the chains to get another new set of downs. Teams who are able to generate a lot of first downs are able to sustain scoring drives while also keeping the ball away from their opponents, preventing them from scoring.
Huge passing numbers get all the attention, but expert football bettors know that many football games are won and lost on the ground. When a team is able to consistently gain yards with the run game, they limit their potential for turnovers, control the clock, keep their opponents off balance, and are better at protecting leads. And teams that excel at shutting down the opponent’s ground game are able to make that offense one-dimensional while limiting their time of possession.
Although defenses deserve some credit for making interceptions and recovering fumbles, the reality is that turnovers are also quite random. So many interceptions come on a deflection or tipped pass at the line of scrimmage, and recovering a fumble can literally come down to which way the ball bounces. If a team is near the league lead in turnover ratio, it indicates that they’ve been quite lucky, and they’re probably overrated. And if a team has committed a lot more turnovers than they’ve forced, their luck is likely due to turn in the near future.
When you factor in the extra point (or two-point convert) following touchdowns, majors are worth more than double the points of a field goal. Red zone percentage tells you how efficient teams are at getting those valuable touchdowns when they get inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, rather than bogging down and settling for three points. Also pay attention to red zone defense, since some teams are content to allow plenty of yardage between the 20s before stiffening near their goal line.
An all-too-common reaction among football bettors is that when a team is missing one of its top stars, there’s no way they can win the next game. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
Even if the player who replaces the star in the lineup isn’t nearly as good, the team’s coaching staff will make adjustments to their game plan that minimize the absence of the star player. The backup will be motivated to play his best in a rare opportunity to crack the starting lineup, and the rest of his teammates usually heighten their intensity as well, knowing that they need to elevate their game to make up for the absence of their injured star.
Running backs are one position in particular where bettors overreact to injuries. A lot of a running back’s success is due to the blocking of the offensive line and receivers, so a backup running back will often put up numbers close to those produced by a big-name star.
And never forget that the injury of a star player will always be factored into the betting line. You’re not outsmarting the bookmaker by betting against a team just because they’re missing one or more of their top regulars. In fact, you’ll often catch more value betting on a team that has suffered some injuries, thanks to inflated lines caused by public perception that that team won’t play as well without its stars.
Another way that experts find value in the NFL betting lines is by monitoring the weather. Various weather conditions can end up having an extreme impact on the way a game is played, particularly on how many points are scored (affecting the Over/Under).
Of all the different types of weather, wind can wreak the most havoc on a football game. Howling winds make it very difficult for quarterbacks to throw the ball accurately (especially on deep throws), and they can also thwart the kicking game. Any time the forecast calls for winds of 20 miles per hour or greater, expert bettors will look to bet the Under.
Extreme temperatures can also affect the outcome of a game, especially if one of the teams involved is not as used to the elements as the other. It’s harder to throw and complete passes in frigid conditions, when the ball is as hard as a rock and when your fingertips are numb. Meanwhile, teams not accustomed to hot temperatures can get dehydrated, cramp up, or simply get tired quicker when the thermometer reaches the high 90s.
However, don’t assume that all inclement weather will lead to poor defense and lower scoring. Rain and snow don’t impact games nearly as much as wind or extreme temperatures. In fact, sometimes the wetter conditions of a field can favor the offense, since offensive players know which routes they are running in advance, while defenders might slip making split-second reactions.
In comparison to other sports, the regular season in football is very short. The 16-game schedule that an NFL team plays is less than 10% of what Major League Baseball teams play, and the college campaign (10-13 games) is even shorter.
But even though they play fewer games, it’s still impossible for football teams to bring maximum effort and intensity every single week. Motivation and focus plays a bigger role in football than in any other sport, so you need to be able to project when teams might be at their best or worst in this department.
Here are some examples of classic motivation and letdown spots in football.
A sandwich game is when a game against a weaker opponent is “sandwiched” between games against tougher foes. When a football team has to give maximum effort the previous week, it’s only natural for them to let down a bit when they feel like they can afford to, especially if they have another tough game to look forward to the following week.
Sandwich games don’t necessarily need to be against bad teams, either. They can also be when a team plays a non-division opponent between games against division rivals.
Even though football teams generally have a week between games, they’ll often suffer a “hangover effect” from their previous game that can leave them flat in their next one.
Teams that are coming off an emotional victory might not focus as much in practice the following week or be overconfident and look past their next opponent. Meanwhile, a team that loses its previous game in gut-wrenching fashion may have a tough time mentally turning the page and may still be distracted going into its next outing.
When two teams meet for the second time in a short span, the team that lost the previous meeting typically tends to be the “hungrier one.”
Revenge games are common in divisional play in the NFL (since teams in the same division face each other twice per year), but they’re also a great angle to play when one team knocked the other out of the playoffs the previous season.
The more time that a team has to prepare for its next opponent, the greater the advantage. Not only do the coaches benefit from the extra time to come up with a game plan that exploits their opponent’s weaknesses, but the players also benefit from extra rest to heal any bumps and bruises suffered in their previous outing.
That’s why NFL teams coming off their bye week have long had a history of success in their next game. After having had the previous week off, the players are champing at the bit to get out onto the field again, and there’s no reason for them to overlook their next opponent. Meanwhile, the team they’re playing may still be distracted from its previous game or nursing injuries (assuming that they aren’t coming off a bye week themselves).
Bye weeks aren’t the only situations when football teams have differing amounts of time to prepare. A team that plays on Monday Night Football will have a full day less to prepare for its next game than a team that played on Sunday, and teams who play Thursday Night Football get three extra days of preparation before taking the field the following weekend.
A final example of a great situational spot is when a team is coming off a poor performance in its previous game. Players are a lot more willing to listen to their coaches and pay attention in film sessions after a loss, and coaches are much more likely to let their teams have it when they’re not satisfied with their last effort.
As an added bonus, you’ll usually get extra point spread value betting on teams who looked awful in their previous game, since the betting public tends to base their wagers heavily on what they saw last week.
If you don’t take football betting that seriously and are only gambling to make the games more interesting, the strategies we spelled out in this article might feel like too much work. If that’s the case, there’s nothing wrong with simply basing your wagers on what you see on the field or on the final scorelines. Heck, you might even be successful.
However, if you want to elevate your football betting to the next level and make some serious money gambling on the gridiron, we strongly recommend that you follow each of the seven strategies we identified above.
By using teasers and parlays to your maximum advantage, limiting the amount of times you buy points, paying attention to the most important statistics, not overreacting to injuries, factoring in the weather conditions, and understanding situational spots, you’ll stand a much better chance of turning a profit as a football bettor!