How To Handicap NFL Games
Successful NFL Handicapping Strategies
To be successful at NFL handicapping a sports bettor needs to
know their stuff. That translates into understanding every aspect
of the game, including possessing extensive knowledge about each
team, player, coach and organization and honing and using certain
analytical skills. A bettor is engaging in all of this activity
in an attempt to win, on average and over the long run, about
55-57% of their bets. If a sports bettor can do that, they will
make piles of money. But to be a successful NFL bettor, the necessary
work must be done.
When you wager on the NFL, there’s little rest for the weary. Analysis is a process that starts before training camp and prior to the NFL Draft in late April. Throughout the year, from the day after the Super Bowl through to draft day, sports bettors must monitor the league, using the NFL’s website and all major sports sites such as ESPN and Yahoo Sports.
Bettors need to pay special attention to the draft as this can really affect a team’s season. After the draft, continue monitoring teams, checking out any deals and trades and looking to see what players are getting into trouble with the organization and/or law or dealing with health issues. The more you know during the offseason, the more ready you’ll be to pick winners during the regular season. You also want to monitor team websites, fan blogs and other connected sites, gathering as much information as possible.
When the NFL preview magazines come out and the prognosticators start offering their analysis of each team, your volume of work will really start to increase. At this time, you’ll need to immerse yourself in each conference, division and team. Be sure to pay special attention to the team camps, including who does and does not show up, how hard they work and any competition they might have for their position.
When you start analyzing each team, look at who’s coming back, who’s new and the health, age and readiness of each player. How much has each team improved? How many rookies are there and will some need to step up and play major roles? Does the club possess a true quality leader and skilled athlete at quarterback? How balanced will their attack be? And don’t forget about both frontlines and on defense the linebackers and secondary. Look for any holes on the team and if they will be filled this season.
Coaching is very important in the NFL, as a smart coach who can motivate his players can make a huge difference. There are certain coaches who know how to win close games but in the process will not beat the spread. Also, look at how tough each team’s season is. Are they in a division where they will dominate or be tested? Who are they playing out of their division and conference? Some teams simply have tougher seasons than others and this can affect their ability to cover the spread and win. Finally, don’t forget special teams. Some clubs, like Chicago, are noted for winning games with their special team play while others are able to win numerous close games with a premium field goal kicker.
Here are a few other questions to consider. Have major players made major moves? Which teams are ready to make a strong move to become a contender and which are likely to be in decline? Are there ground games that look to slow down or speed up due to age? Try to figure out if there are surprises of which you can take advantage.
Unlike college football, the NFL has a preseason where you can start to get an idea regarding the strengths, weaknesses and depth of each team. Should you wager on these games? Often teams are trying out new guys and you’re not going to get the type of performance you will during the regular season. Preseason games are hard to handicap. It is a good idea to use these games in the same manner that the teams are—as a warm up to get your handicapping skills up to game-day standards and to do some experimenting. Treat the games as if you were putting money on them and keep track of your successes and failures.
As the season starts and progresses, watch the games, keep up on injuries, controversy and changes in personnel and analyze how teams are winning and losing. It’s at this time that the preview pages and all those projections regarding what was going to happen start to become unimportant.
It’s important to look at more than the final score of each game. Analyze how each team won and lost. That includes games you didn’t bet. You need to know each team as well as you can because you may eventually need to put some cash on a game they’re playing.
When it comes to winning and losing a game, consider the scenario. Did a team lose because it mishandled the ball numerous times, were they beat by the opposing defense, was their O-line porous or did an important player go down with a bad injury? How important were special teams on punt coverage, did one placekicker nail a 50-yarder or miss one or did a coach simply out-strategize another? Look for consistency from teams and also try to see which clubs are driven to win and which are giving up as the season progresses.
As soon as the games are over and before the early lines appear start to do next week’s analysis. You want to take advantage of early lines, which appear late Sunday and early Monday, and bet on them. Why? Because opening lines are often soft and much easier to beat than the sharpened line on game day. If you can be up and running before the new lines are posted, you’ll be able to take advantage of them when they do appear.
Study matchups to see if one team has an edge when it comes to the play of the frontline, in the secondary or where the ground game is concerned. This is about analyzing how teams and individual players are really performing. Is a premier QB going up against a weak secondary or is an excellent veteran defensive frontline going to play an offensive line that is inexperienced? What has changed for a team from their last game, either positive or negative, that may affect next week’s performance?
Develop your own power rankings for each team and their various units. Also, create a line for each game you’re going to bet. You are doing all of this prior to the publishing of the early lines by the books. Rank each team’s quarterback, running backs and wideouts. Offense and defensive frontlines need to be carefully assessed and linebacking units and secondary’s have to be carefully ranked. Placekickers and special teams can be huge, especially in close games, so don’t forget about them.
As a handicapper, you want to be ready for anything and as knowledgeable as possible. Exploit the early lines, using them to your advantage. As the week continues, sharp bettors place large wagers forcing the lines to tighten up. A half-point line move in the spread can be a big deal with NFL odds and can mean the difference between your winning and losing your wager.
In the end, each NFL handicapper is not really trying to figure out who will win but what lines and over/unders offer them value over the long run. The successful handicapper recognizes an advantage, sees where the smart money is going and knows a soft line when they see it. The only way to do those things consistently enough to make a profit is through quality handicapping and experience.
Stay true to your handicapping process. Don’t get lazy or sloppy and be sure to analyze your handicapping skills after each game, working towards refining your abilities. There are weeks that you will be wrong and where you will lose more than you win; that simply goes with the territory of sports betting.
Every NFL season has upsets, essential players that get sidelined and its share of outright surprises. No matter what, don’t start doubting yourself by betting on hunches or throwing money at unwise bets in an attempt to make up for loses. NFL handicapping is about analysis and making wise decisions and not about being reckless.