Betting on the NFL isn’t necessarily easy, but making smarter bets is always possible for those motivated to learn a bit of new strategy.
Try these nine thoughtful tips when wagering at online football betting sites and watch your bankroll grow.
1. Bet With Your Head, Not Your Heart
It may sound obvious, but avoiding emotion when wagering remains a challenge for many bettors. We all have our personal biases. Whether it’s a favorite team or one we despise, putting aside these preferences isn’t easy.
But here’s the thing: becoming more objective towards NFL betting online is literally the easiest way to make smarter bets. It doesn’t require a detailed strategy on mathematical analysis, it just requires common sense.
Cheering on your favorite team (at least) 16 times per year is a lot of fun, but losing money in the process is not. To become a smarter bettor, be aware of your biases and try to avoid decisions based solely on favoritism.
2. Pay Attention to Where the Game Is Played
Home-field advantage matters, and it matters more at certain stadiums. For example, the New England Patriots, went 42-6 straight-up (32-14-2 ATS) at home from 2014-2018. The Seahawks also perform exceptionally well in Seattle: they are 92-31 at home since 2003.
But they’re not the only two teams with such an advantage. Do your research by comparing each team’s home vs. away record when handicapping for home team advantage.
West Coast teams traveling to the Eastern Time Zone tend to have less difficulty overcoming the time change, but East Coast teams are at an inherent disadvantage when forced to play on the Pacific Coast, three hours later than they’re used to.
There are also teams who don’t travel well. From 2014-2018 (a five-season span), the San Francisco 49ers were a terrible 9-31 on the road, third-worst in the league. They weren’t much better against the spread, going 16-22-2 (fourth-worst in the NFL). The Texans also struggled to cover the spread on the road in 2016, posting a 2-6 record ATS.
Knowing where and when the teams played the previous week is also an important factor to consider. Some teams suffer from real disadvantages. West Coast teams traveling to the Eastern Time Zone tend to have less difficulty overcoming the time change, but East Coast teams are at an inherent disadvantage when forced to play on the Pacific Coast, three hours later than they’re used to.
Lastly, certain dome (indoor) teams can struggle to perform outdoors. For example, Drew Brees’ passer rating drops from 102.5 in a dome to 90.3 when playing outdoors. And this is all extremely useful information for bettors.
3. Know the Individual Matchups
Football is often referred to as the ultimate team sport, but there are certain one-on-one matchups that can dramatically affect the outcome of a game.
For example, a weak offensive tackle should not be expected to perform well against the premier edge-rushers in the league. Pay attention to major skill discrepancies between players who will be going head-to-head.
Coaches are perhaps the most significant head-to-head matchups that bettors should consider. Every coach uses recurring strategies that fare very well against some opponents and flop against others. Coaches get to know each other’s approaches to the game, and some are better at responding to these strategic considerations.
A great example of this is Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick. The Patriots have been dominant since Belichick has been steering the ship, but he was 2-5 when coaching against Coughlin following the 2018 season.
4. Know More than Just the Trends
When it comes to betting on NFL games, following the trends isn’t a bad idea — patterns sometimes provide valuable information. For example, from 2010 to 2018, the Bears went 12-5 ATS when coming off a bye week, while the 49ers, on the other hand, were just 5-11 ATS in that same time frame.
The sharpest bettors always look at the context behind the numbers when evaluating statistical trends.
Noticing that a team just scored 49 points the previous week doesn’t necessarily mean that their offense is firing on all cylinders. Go back and look at how all the points were scored. Maybe a defensive back fell down to allow a long touchdown pass. Perhaps the defense scored a couple of those touchdowns. Maybe they were just playing the Browns.
The sharpest bettors always look at the context behind the numbers.
5. Check the Injury Reports
As we mentioned, football is the ultimate team game, and small changes can throw off the entire unit. Make sure you know which players have missed practice during the week, what their status is for the upcoming game, and what role they play on the team.
Team injury reports can be a little vague, so it’s always a good idea to check the Twitter accounts of beat-writers for each team. Often, they will provide a little more detail.
6. Take Caution with Divisional Matchups
Teams that play each other twice per season get to know each other very well, and even bad teams tend to dig a little deeper when they are battling a division rival.
Looking to 2016, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, and San Francisco 49ers were three of the bottom-four teams in the NFL, but they all posted a 4-2 record ATS within their respective divisions.
Even though one team may appear superior on paper, divisional matchups are often much closer than anticipated. This makes the great choices to bet on the NFL point spread, but they can be risky choices on the moneyline.
7. Don’t Fall in Love with Value
Betting the underdog on the moneyline can certainly pay off, but you need to consider why long odds are so long in the first place. Make sure you have very specific reasons and logic behind taking a +800 underdog on the moneyline, because you can be sure the sportsbook used reason and logic to set that moneyline in the first place.
We strongly recommend limiting parlays and teasers to 2-5 events when betting on the NFL.
You also need to be careful when constructing parlays and teasers. Don’t load them up with too many events. NFL teams are generally closely-matched compared to other sports, and it’s far too difficult to correctly predict the outcome of more than a handful of games. We strongly recommend limiting parlays and teasers to 2-5 events.
8. Monitor the Lines Throughout the Week
Monitoring the betting lines throughout the week is a big part of maximizing your chances. Some online books may provide more favorable odds, and as the week progresses, you may find the odds change.
It’s important to keep in mind the influence of public perception here. Popular teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and New England Patriots will always have loyal supporters betting with their hearts. They’re often referred to as public teams, and it’s very likely they’ll be more heavily favored than the statistics suggest they should be.
If you’re planning on betting against the public, wait around and let emotional bettors drive the odds in your favor. Conversely, if you’re planning to bet on a public team, jumping on an early line is likely the best decision.
9. Diversify Your NFL Bets
There is success to be had betting on the moneyline, the spread, and game totals. But to maximize your success, it’s crucial to know all the alternative bets you can make.
Many sportsbooks will allow you to bet on alternate spreads or buy and sell points. Instead of settling for a -3.5 spread that makes you a little uncomfortable, you can opt for a -2.5 spread with a more modest payout.
Enjoy the Action this NFL Season
The strategies above are great to keep in mind while wagering this football season, but they’re only a start. In the end, finding success is all about putting in the time and effort to research your pick and manage your bankroll effectively.
If you’re looking to for more football action than the NFL can provide, open up your Saturdays and take a look at our intro to betting on college football for more helpful tips and tricks.