It’s almost that time of year again! Football season!
Every Sunday from September to the first week in February, NFL fans pack bars, park themselves on their comfy sofa, or stream games on their mobile devices to watch their favorite teams and fantasy players compete.
In recent years, football betting has seen significant growth in popularity along with the rise of daily fantasy sports (DFS) and season-long fantasy leagues. This season should be no different as more and more states continue to legalize sports betting, and Americans will flock to try to win money wagering on their favorite sport.
However, whether you’re an experienced bettor or a novice in the sports betting world, it is always helpful to consider some tips and strategies for betting on the NFL.
Throughout my years of experience betting the NFL, along with some solid advice handed down to me over the years, here are my top ten tips for wagering on the National Football League:
Beware double-digit home underdogs
It’s always risky betting a double-digit favorite, but it is even more dangerous to lay the points with a double-digit road favorite. The majority of these matchups tend to be against division foes. The Jets will always host the Patriots once a year, and the Bengals will always have to battle the Ravens in Cincinnati. However, bettors should never overlook these games. Especially in divisional matchups, the home team never wants to lose or, worse, be embarrassed on their turf in front of a packed stadium of fans. More often than not, even home teams with far inferior records will show up to play against their rival. Avoid these double-digit spreads on both sides. Even if it may look like an easy cover early, there’s always that chance for a backdoor cover.
Check the weather forecast
Is that 48.5 total looking like a good over bet in a matchup featuring two offensive juggernauts? Not if the Sunday morning weather forecast calls for a wintry mix of rain and snow or gusty winds up to 50MPH. Unexpected changes in the weather can significantly change the tempo and dynamic of a game. If winds are high, a pass-dominant team may opt to focus more on the run game. If rain is heavy, teams may also alter their offensive strategy to quicker, short passes rather than airing it out downfield. When more offensive plays favor the run, the clock runs faster, and there is less stoppage. Always check the forecast the night prior and morning of the game. You may be able to sneak in that under bet before the oddsmakers adjust the line accordingly.
Beware Monday Night football-winning teams the following week
Monday Night football games tend to attract a much larger audience than a regular Sunday morning matchup. It is the lone game on the schedule that night and usually features a must-see primetime matchup. Since most fans tune in to watch, the game is fresh in their heads come the following week. Oddsmakers tend to take advantage of that as casual fans may overreact to a team winning a specific matchup. The result allows sportsbooks to assign an inflated value. Many fans will look to bet the team that is coming off a win on Monday night. Take into account that teams who play on Monday night will have a shorter rest period and practice week than those who played Sunday morning or afternoon. One of my surest bets every week is to go against the Monday night winner. It doesn’t always pan out like I would like it to, but it has worked for me more often than not.
Pay attention to the injury report
For bettors and fantasy owners alike, the designation of a “game-time decision” for a star player can be one of the most frustrating hindrances to wagering on a game or starting a player in your lineup. It is always essential to read the Friday injury reports along with the Sunday morning reports. The last thing you want is to bet the Packers at -7 against the Bears in Soldier Field on Saturday night, then receive word Sunday morning that Aaron Rodgers is out of the lineup.
Watch out for “trap” games
Everyone has seen this before. Two of the best teams in the league battle it out in a primetime showdown that comes down to the wire. The following week, both teams go up against far inferior opponents – and come close to suffering an upset or lose outright. Games like these are “traps” since superior teams tend to overlook lesser opponents after a tough matchup. On the other hand, the team with a more secondary record may play with extra motivation and take advantage of a good team on a bad day. Usually, oddsmakers may trick the public for these games and post a spread that seems way too low for the matchup. For example, let’s say the Chiefs and the Patriots battle hard on Monday night, resulting in a 41-38 Kansas City win. The following Sunday, the Chiefs, with a 10-2 record, are only a surprising -4 point favorite to a 3-9 Chargers team in Los Angeles.
In most cases, the public will pound the Chiefs, thinking it’s an easy cover. If the line doesn’t move and most of the bets are in the Chiefs’ favor, it may be more strategic to side with the home underdog. Maybe the Chargers fail to win, but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep it close and end up with the cover.
Take into account teams playing for their “Super Bowl”
Rivalry games or games featuring two teams who dislike each other often bring out the best of both teams. Some bettors refer to these matchups as regular-season “Super Bowl” games because both teams tend to play with the mindset that this is a must-win and give it their all. In these situations, it is often best to consider the team with the less impressive record since they will have something to play for, especially if they already have been eliminated from playoff contention. There’s always a chance for an upset here.
Don’t shy away from midseason QB NFL debuts
Whether they are a touted rookie or a career journeyman, bettors should never take a backup QB for granted. A backup QB may be filling in for an injured starting QB or one benched for poor performance. Chances are, the opposing team has a minimal video on how the backup has performed in the NFL. In many cases, they are limited to watching tape from the preseason or months prior. Without knowing the offensive game plan behind the backup QB, defenses may have trouble adjusting at first. Never discount a QB just because he is making his rookie debut or NFL debut five years into the league.
Back interim head coaches after a midseason firing
If a team fires a head coach midseason, usually it is for a good reason. An unpopular coach may struggle to motivate his players, and clashes may ensue behind the scenes. When a head coach is fired before the season’s end, one of the coordinators or assistant coaches is most likely in line to take over – at least until the end of the season. If that is the case, it is beneficial to examine how well-liked and respected the interim coach is in the locker room. Players tend to rally behind a coach they support and enjoy playing for rather than one they despise. In addition, an interim coach has more to prove, especially if they can assume full-time head coaching duties the following season should they perform well. Keep an eye on these matchups.
Back teams coming off as an embarrassment
There are times when good teams are upset by lesser opponents, or an average team is embarrassed in a blowout loss to a rival or another conference foe. Following the loss, teams will have to endure questions from the media the entire week before their next game. This criticism and doubt create extra motivation to prove their critics wrong and rebound with a sound and convincing victory come Sunday. These are teams to buy in the betting world while the public has the tenacity to fade.
Stay away from teams coming off a heartbreaking loss
One of my favorite tips that I saved for last is that I always say it is harder to bounce back from a heartbreaking, last-minute defeat than an embarrassing blowout – especially if you are the road team. That plane ride home may seem twice as long when you just witnessed your team blow a 4th-quarter lead with a last-minute field goal or have a potential game-winning drive spoiled by an interception in the endzone. Close losses weigh more heavily on teams than embarrassing ones. When teams suffer blowouts, they are extra motivated to prove the doubters the following week. However, a devastating loss can linger through a locker room for days and even carry into the following Sunday.