Football is the most-watched and most popular sport in the United States and a sport that draws in among the most action of all sporting events around the world. What makes wagering on this sport easier for the punter is a full week’s worth of preparation between games.
In other popular sports like basketball, lines typically open literally the night before a game, which seriously limits the amount of research and line shopping a bettor can do. Online betting sites make their lines available as early as Sunday nights, meaning even the earliest game of the week is a full four days away.
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Strategies for Football Betting
There is a cliché in the sportsbook industry that says that bettors who concentrate on line shopping win more often than bettors who spend hours handicapping teams and contests. This is an example of the kind of advice normally found in a basic search for betting tips on the Internet or on message boards. This type of thing is obvious to even the most novice gambler – shopping for the best price is good strategy when you buy milk – it’s probably just as good of an idea when placing $20 on the Cowboys to cover.
Digging a little deeper than the standard wagering advice for football means looking at a little bit of mathematics, thinking different about statistics, and managing your wagers according to slightly different methods than those commonly used by sports bettors. Avoiding the clichés (“QBs win football games”) usually means avoiding the mistakes of less successful gamblers.
Past Performance vs. Recent Performance
This may be a matter of semantics to some, but advanced football betting strategy requires an understanding of the nuance between what’s called “past” performance and what is known as “recent” performance. It’s also vital for a sports betting fan to understand the difference in value between these two sets of player data.
For the most part, the betting public will take a look at previous season statistics. These stats are easy on the eyes, they’re averaged over a full slate of games, and they’re easier to research. This set of data is considered “past performance.” It is not as good an indicator of a player’s (or a whole team’s) current ability as “recent performance.” Recent data focuses on performance within a period of a few weeks rather than across multiple seasons.
Players change by leaps and bounds over the course of a few weeks in the NFL – compare this to the snail’s pace of pitcher improvement in Major League Baseball and you’ll see the difference in that sport’s emphasis on past performance and the NFL bettor’s need to focus on more recent data.
Useful Handicapping Statistics
Novice handicappers don’t know which of the flood of stats they can easily find are useful for making wise picks. Advanced NFL bettors develop their own pool of stats to use to handicap games quicker and more accurately. Though every successful sports gambler and handicapper has his own personal favorites, here are a few stats for advanced NFL bettors to consider.
First-Half Scoring & Trending
Statistically-speaking, the better a team’s performance from the beginning of the game, the better their overall performance. Putting points on the board early reduces pressure in the second half. An NFL team that’s behind at halftime is more likely to implement risky strategies to attempt to turn the tide of the game, strategies which can easily make their point differential worse.
Like most of the stats used by smart handicappers, research into teams’ first-half trends in terms of scoring (and defense) should be watched over a period of many games before they’re applied to any NFL betting strategy. Generally, this information gives bettors an edge against sportsbook point spreads.
Turnovers in football have a bigger impact on wins and losses than the general betting public believes. More is made of the NBA turnover than a TO in an NFL context. Smart handicappers know that the team with a better turnover number generally earns the W – extend that to a season’s worth of turnover data and you can develop a big piece of your handicapping strategy around a single set of stats.
A low rate of turning the ball over generally means a team will perform well against the spread. The biggest danger of a turnover is quick scoring by the opposing offense (or, worst case, the defense), which not only affects point spread wagers, it drives up the game total line as well.
Average Yards / Attempt
Known as AYA to sports stat geeks, Average Yards per Attempt is an easy-to-research statistic that can help a gambler quickly rate the highly-valuable skill position players of one team against another.
Different positions’ AYA numbers represent different forms of play – for a running back, it means Average Yard / Carry, while for a receiver it would be Average Yards / Reception. This may seem like a simplistic statistical edge to attempt against the house, but there’s an important facet of AYA that the world’s best handicappers recognize and use to gain that edge.
A good QB’s AYA may be a sign of his elite status – or it may be an indication of his offensive line’s ability to handle the business end of opponent’s defenses. Another factor that could inflate a QB’s AYA is the overall ability of an offense to earn first downs. Knowing whether a QB is really an elite player or just a product of an elite system is an excellent handicapping tool for any angle.
It should be clear by this point that consistently successful football betting is difficult, requiring a lot of homework by way of statistical research and line shopping at sportsbooks. Plenty of value exists in NFL matchups, particularly for gamblers who know how to handicap and hunt for the best deal for their wager. Implementing proper bankroll management, using an Internet sportsbook that adds value to that bankroll, and doing proper statistical research will help anyone become a smarter NFL bettor.