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NFL Betting Strategy Guide

NFL Betting Strategy Guide
Betting on the NFL is one of those things that seems easy until you get down and get your hands dirty. It’s easy to feel like you know everything when you have no money on the game. But, when you have to put your money where your mouth is, it can be a lot more challenging to pick winners and turn a profit. That all being said, if you can master NFL betting you stand to make a lot of money and have a ton of fun throughout the length of the NFL season and postseason.

In this guide, we want to walk you through the need to know information for betting on the NFL. We’ll talk some basics to make sure we’re all on the same page, and then we’re going to get into some more advanced NFL betting strategies. Our goal is not to show off how much we know, but it’s to get you to a point where you’re much more successful and profitable betting on NFL games and the NFL season.

How to Properly Approach an NFL Football Game

Generally speaking, we hear most inexperienced NFL bettors say that they approach games by choosing a bet that they want to make and then looking for the information to support one side or the other of that bet. The problem with this approach is that it sets you up for failure from the get-go. By choosing a particular bet and looking to validate one side or the other, you’re putting yourself in a position to force bets and a position to miss out on value bets that may be there.

If you’re a little confused about what we’re talking about or think we’re just splitting hairs, stay tuned. What we’ll do now is talk about how expert NFL bettors approach games and why this is much better than the aforementioned strategy.

What experts like to do is before they look at any lines or pick out what types of bets they want to make on an upcoming NFL game, they make a detailed prediction of how they think that game is going to play out. They’ll break the game down play by play and quarter by quarter to try and come up with a detailed timeline of exactly what’s going to happen and who is going to do it. They’ll break down how different matchups will play out, who they think is going to score, and ultimately try and recreate a story of how they feel the game is going to go.

With this information, they’ll then go through and pick out any potential bets that they might be interested in making. Once they pick out those bets, they’ll compare them with the available betting lines and decide if they want to actually fire on any of these bets.

Why do it this way? Well, it’s for several reasons. First, by not looking at the lines that the sportsbook has put out first, you protect yourself from being swayed, and you protect yourself from becoming biased. Everyone knows the sportsbooks are great at predicting NFL games, but they are not perfect by any means. If you always look at the betting lines first, you’re going to tend to lean towards what they think is going to happen. This means that you’re going to miss a lot of upsets and a lot of value plays that you might have found if you hadn’t allowed yourself to be incorrectly influenced.

Second, you protect yourself from feeling pressured to force a bet. If you approach an NFL game with the mindset that you’re going to bet the total for example, what happens when after you finish your research you don’t like either side of the totals bet? What happens if you get to this conclusion after hours of research? Are you going to have the discipline to make no bet on that game, or are you going to keep digging to try and validate one side of the bet so that your research time doesn’t feel wasted? If you’re being completely honest with yourself, you probably would be tempted to try and force a bet through so that time isn’t completely wasted.

In contrast, by not picking a bet first, you allow yourself to find other bets and more value spots within games that you may never have found. If you approach that same game that we talked about, you’ll still reach the conclusion that there is no great totals bet available. But, because you were looking at the entire game, you might realize that a moneyline bet is in order, or you might find prop bets that you would have never thought to even look at if you approached the game with tunnel vision only looking to validate one bet.

So, what are the details of how you do this with an NFL game? Let’s review and add in a few more details of what this process should look like.

Top Strategy Tips for Betting NFL Games

As you’ve now got a pretty good idea of how to approach betting an NFL game, we need to look at different strategies that fit into that process. Listed below are our top NFL betting tips and strategies. These range from basic to advanced and should be a solid starting point for you to begin learning and improving your game predictions. These improved predictions mean more money more you and more wins at the book.

Find Value

At the top of every one of our sports betting strategy lists regardless of sport is this tip. You have to be searching for value picks and not just for wins. You can have more wins than losses when it comes to betting on the NFL and still be losing money. On that same note, you can have more losses than you have wins and be wildly profitable and crushing the game. This is all because of value.

While we’d like to get deep into the principles of value here, it’s just too much to cover in this small of a space. So, what we’ve done instead is put together our Understanding Value and How Betting Lines Work guide that breaks all of this down and a whole lot more. If the fact that you can lose money while having more winning NFL tickets is a shock to you or the term value is new, this guide is a must-read and a must-read now for you. It’s the basis of being a successful sports or NFL bettor.

Account for the Game Location and Conditions

When making your NFL predictions, you need to take into account the game location, how the teams are getting there, the weather conditions, and any other external circumstances that might have an impact on the game. Here are some NFL specific things that you should pay attention to.

First, focus on how the weather is going to affect offensive approaches. When it’s windy and rainy, NFL teams that predominantly throw the ball are going to struggle and will be forced to rely much more heavily on the run. If they don’t have any sort of run attack to backup the passing offense, they may have a tough day. Hot and humid days can also have an effect on how teams perform. If a team is used to playing and training in a cooler and less humid environment, fatigue may set in a lot quicker than it usually does meaning they’re going to struggle more as the game progresses into the second half.

Focusing on the stadium location is also something you need to take into account for several reasons. First, if the game is in a higher altitude location, you can expect teams to potentially struggle with cardio there due to the lack of oxygen, and you can also expect kicks to sail longer due to the thinner air. While most stadiums in the NFL are under 1,000 feet above sea level, the Bronco’s stadium is 5,197 feet above sea level (the reason it is called mile-high) and the Cardinals stadium is just over at 1,070 feet above sea level.

You’ll also need to take into account whether the game is being played outside or in a dome. This will have an effect on the weather conditions, but it’s also going to have an effect on how a lot of players perform. There are a lot of players who thrive in the dome environment and struggle outdoors and vice versa. While this isn’t a huge factor, it is something that you’re going to want to make sure that you take into account.

You’ll also want to look at how far a team has to travel for a particular game. It’s been proven that traveling east to west across the US is much more taxing on sleep and energy than going from west to east.  Again, this is a minor factor, but it’s something that should be factored in. If a team is on a short week and has to travel all the way across the country from the east coast to the west coast, you may want to consider fatigue being an issue for them.

Break Down Individual Player Matchups

Make sure you aren’t just looking at team vs. team battles. You need to break down as many individual matchups as possible to get an accurate picture of how each team is going to perform. The most obvious example of this that you can’t skip out on is the corners and safeties versus wide receivers. Are the receivers going to be able to operate or are they going to be shut down by the secondary? Look at individual matchups and try and predict who is going to prevail. How have other top receivers done against that secondary or how has that secondary done against other similar receivers? Do they do great against speedy receivers, powerful receivers, or are they lock down on both? This is just an example of how you might want to break down a particular individual matchup.

What we’d encourage you to do especially with NFL games is break down a lot more than just the obvious matchups. Specifically, we’d like for you to take a look at individual matchups on the offensive and defensive lines. This is what coaches do to try and find weaknesses to exploit and win games with both the run attack and protection for their passing attack. You need to be doing the same thing. Can you find holes in the line where the run will be able to be established? Are there any injury spots where there’s going to be a significant advantage?

The more detail you look at, the more precise your predictions can be. Finding a mismatch that the rest of the betting public is missing can be huge for finding value betting NFL games.

Closely Monitor Injury Reports

The NFL is one of the roughest and toughest sports on the planet. Anytime you have 200 and 300 lb. guys banging into each other at full speed and trying to take each other down, you’re going to have injuries. When you’re betting NFL games, you have to be on top of the injury reports as much as possible.

This doesn’t just mean the prime offensives positions, but all of the supporting players as well that a casual fan might not deem as important. The loss of just one lineman can literally be the swinging change in a team being favored or an underdog. If the offense can no longer protect one side of the line or there’s a new monster hole on the defensive side of things, the game is going to change.

You have got to be all over the injury reports as much as humanly possible. It can be tough in the NFL as some teams like the Patriots don’t update information until game time, but you have to do your best. Don’t neglect the importance of a supporting role player being out of the game or even questionable.

Don’t Ignore Second Meetings in Divisional Games

In the NFL, teams play the other teams in their division twice every year during the regular season. This is important to note because you need to realize that each team is going to be able to make adjustments from their first meeting to try and have a leg up during the second game. If it happens to be the second meeting of the teams for that year, you need to predict what sort of adjustments they’re going to make and how well you think these are going to work.

Basically, put yourself in the coach’s shoes and try and figure out what they would do differently to improve their performance in round two. How good are the coaches at doing this? Do they have the talent to make these adjustments? How will one team’s adjustments matchup with the other team’s potential adjustments?

This can be tricky, but if you’re good at playing the coach’s role, you may be really good at predicting second meeting games. It’s also probably important to point out that divisional games just seem to have a tendency to be a lot closer than they should be every single year. It’s a lot like rivalry games in college football, except sometimes the lines don’t seem to initially reflect that. Be wary of big favorites in these types of grudge-match matchups.

Don’t Bet Every Single Game on the Slate

There is absolutely no reason that you should ever be betting every single game on the slate during the week. Only bet the games that have value and stay away from the other games. This might mean you have to skip out on betting the Monday night or Thursday night games which is no fun from an entertainment standpoint but could be necessary from a profitability standpoint.

Some weeks you may find yourself betting close to all 16 games and some weeks you might find yourself only betting a couple of the games. If you consistently find yourself betting all 16 games or close to it, you are probably forcing bets and should probably refine your prediction process and how much weight you give to your confidence in each prediction. There are people out there that are good (and you could be one of them), but no one is that good.

Stick to the games that have value, and you should be just fine.

Follow the Sharp Money and Not the Public

If you ask any expert sports bettor or sportsbook manager, they will tell you the same thing. If you can be on the other side of the betting public, you’re most likely going to be making a smart bet. Why? Well, the betting public is historically terrible at picking winners. They tend to bet with their heart too often, don’t do any research, and just follow what the media tells them to bet. While it’s not as simple as just being on the other side of the public, it’s typically a pretty good place to be.

In the NFL, there are a few ways that you can see where the sharp money is coming in. NFL line movements early in the week are almost always big money bets from the sharps. Late line movements right before the game are usually the public finally getting to the book and getting their action placed.

You can also use some online resources that tell you the percentage of bets coming in on a particular team and look for how the line reacts. For example, if 90% of the bets are coming in one team but the line isn’t moving, you can bet that most of the big money (which is usually the sharp bettors) is coming in on the other side of the game. There are even times where you will see the bulk of the bets (quantity) come in one side of a game and the line move to give that side an even better line.

While the point of all of this is to become an expert yourself, you can’t neglect the fact that there are some geniuses out there that know what they’re doing. If all of the geniuses are betting one way, it might be a little silly to try and go the other direction.

Watch For Lines that Move on Key Numbers

The key betting numbers in the NFL are 7 and 3 as you might expect since scoring typically happens in 3s and 7s (field goals and touchdowns). When you’re looking at spread betting lines, make sure you’re aware of these numbers and which side of them you want to be on. Be aware that line movement off of one of these key numbers is a much bigger deal than line movement on any other numbers.

For example, a move from +-3 to +-2.5 or +-3.5 is a huge deal in NFL betting. The same is true for a move from +-7 to +-6.5 or +-7.5. A move from +-4 to +-3.5 or +-4.5 (or any other move off of not a key number) is still important but nowhere near as important as a break from the key numbers. You’ll often see sportsbooks change the payout odds from the standard (-110) to try and shift action without having to come off of these numbers. When they’re forced to, and you see these moves, it’s time for you to take note because there might be a huge value opportunity that’s not going to be available for very long.

By now, you should have a much better idea of how to approach an NFL game and what you should be looking for. The last piece of the puzzle is you. Are you willing to put in the effort to do the research needed to pick winners? Are you going to be one of the sharps or follow along with the general public? We have faith that you can be an extremely profitable NFL bettor as long as you’re willing to take what you’ve learned here and apply it to your personal strategy and mix in a little hard work.