The NFL is America’s most popular sport. Week in and week out, millions of viewers tune in to not only root for their favorite teams but to check the NFL odds and see what the point spreads are for various games.
Betting on the NFL can be lucrative when done the right way. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the important aspects and tips to consider to get in on winning when making an NFL wager.
Understanding the Difficulty
Let’s look at some numbers. During the 2021-22 season, the betting favorite won and covered the spread 133 times. On 97 occasions, the underdog not only beat the spread but won the game outright. Breaking that down in percentages: during the 2021 NFL regular season, the team favored covered the spread 57% of the time and underdogs prevailed outright 42% of the time. In other words, betting on the NFL is anything but easy for a number of factors.
Firstly, the amount of handle (money wagered on games) is extraordinary, meaning that it’s harder for lines to move in pro football than in other sports given the sheer magnitude of money in the pools on both sides. Secondly, in recent years the amount of analytics and information on the market for NFL games has increased making it harder for bettors to find an edge. The days of guys in Vegas being paid to scour incoming flights for out-of-town newspapers are long gone and replaced by the internet and Twitter where team beat writers tweet out information instantaneously.
Purpose of the Spread
Contrary to popular belief when making the NFL lines, oddsmakers aren’t giving their opinion on who will win or who will lose. They are simply creating a number based on a myriad of factors that will create two-way action on the contest and lessen their liability. In many cases, there are bettors that prefer to lay the points while others would rather take points with an underdog. The job of the line maker is to put up a number early in the week and adjust and adapt to the money coming in, all in an attempt to have a pretty even split when the game is kicked off.
Paralysis By Analysis
As mentioned, there is an overabundance of products on the market, both in printed form (pre-season magazines) to websites dissecting every aspect of each team. Not only do these sites cover the performance and in some instances, predicted performance by teams and players but they provide trends as to how certain teams and coaches fare both as favorites and underdogs.
While historical data is pertinent and useful, it can also be misleading since given parity in the league, no matter how good a coach is, if he doesn’t have the talent or depth, what he did in the past may cloud judgment. Those wagering on Vegas NFL odds have to exercise a great deal of judgment and perception when weighing a team’s current form to what they’ve done in the past.
Making Sense of the Injury Report
As per NFL league guidelines, teams are mandated to release injury information to the public for three consecutive days leading up to a game that they practice. While coaches do not need to discuss or reveal the nature of an individual player’s injury, they are compelled to group them in the following categories: probable, questionable, doubtful, and out. Teams also need to list any players that do not take part in practice.
As such, players that are listed as out will not play, and the NFL deems that the rule of thumb for listing a player as doubtful means he has a 25% chance of appearing. Where bettors and fans have the hardest time is determining whether players listed as questionable will play. Since the majority of all NFL practices are closed to the media, and coaches only volunteer the bare minimum of information, this is where detective work comes in handy on the part of those wagering their hard-earned cash of the outcome of a game.
Beat writers and those who cover the league regularly usually have sources within the building and oftentimes can expound on the extent of an injury and the likelihood of the player suiting up for the game that week. In addition to studying trends, stats and ranks, educated bettors need to study injury statutes and learn how to read between the proverbial lines.
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