Making money betting on the NFL is very difficult. It is a very popular league to bet on – by far the most popular in the U.S. – but it is certainly not the easiest. The betting volume and the quality of the stats and information available on the NFL means that oddsmakers have become very good at setting tough numbers, and value can be very hard to find. If you want to make a long term profit betting on the league, then, you have to be very sure to avoid every possible mistake you can. The closer you can come to flawless football handicapping, the better your chances of making a nice profit. Here are four very common mistakes that sports bettors make that cause big dents in their wallets:
Buying into the hype – The media – in all forms – pays an incredible amount of attention to the NFL. It’s almost impossible to go a day without being hit hard by coverage of one sort or the other. The problem, though, is that a lot of that coverage isn’t particularly good. There is a much bigger hunger for information about the league than there are people who provide high quality information. There isn’t a real incentive for the media to provide the best possible information, either – people are more interested in the sexy football stories that capture their imaginations. As a result, if you are a person who follows the league carefully and cares about what is really happening you will find stories every day that are frankly ridiculous. The media will praise NFL players that aren’t really playing very well at all, say that a team is unbeatable when really it has just faced an easy schedule and had good luck, and call a coach a genius when he has done nothing to prove that to be true. Hype is extremely dangerous for sports handicappers because it can lead you towards bets that you just shouldn’t be making. To make smart football picks, it is absolutely crucial that you block out all the hype, and you don’t act on anything you hear or read until you have proven it to be true yourself.
Forgetting about defense – Outside of the occasional sack or flashy interception you will rarely see defensive highlights on TV, but you’ll see all kinds of big passes, fancy runs and brilliant passes. In football, offense is what sells tickets and what fans care about. If you only handicap games based on the offense then you are falling into the same trap that a lot of casual bettors do, and you are costing yourself money. It is a lot easier in most cases for the defense to set the tone for a game and how it might turn out than it is for the offense. Ignoring the defense is easy to do, but is perhaps the biggest mistake sports bettors can make.
Mishandling injuries – Football handicappers have to be very aware of injuries when they are looking at NFL games. It can be incredibly easy, though, for them to give injuries too much credit. In fact, the public almost always thinks that injuries to high profile players will have more impact than they really will. If a big name player – especially a quarterback – goes down then the public will panic and the line is likely to be affected. Before you panic as well you need to take the time to really think about the situation. Does the player really have the impact on games that he is perceived to have? Is the drop-off to the backup as big as it is perceived to be? Is the starter really as injured as he seems to be? On the flip side, injuries to important players who don’t get a lot of public attention often don’t get as much credit as they should. If a football player is crucial to the success of a team but doesn’t get a lot of headlines then the public likely won’t have a firm grasp on the importance of the injury, so you can gain value from doing your homework and being aware of the players that really make teams win or lose.
Believing in momentum – It seems like you can’t listen to a so-called expert about the NFL talk for more than a minute without hearing about momentum. Nothing drives me more crazy. Simply put, there is no such thing as momentum in the NFL – at least not enough to worry about as a serious handicapper. These experts will tell you that a team that has won a few games in a row is more likely to win their next game than they otherwise would be, and a team that has lost a few in a row is more likely to lose. That’s just not the case. Teams have so much time to prepare for games and there are so many factors that go into winning or losing football games that momentum just isn’t a factor – or at least it certainly isn’t a defining factor. If you think that momentum is the reason for wins or losses then you are a lazy handicapper who is unwilling or incapable of looking for the real reasons things happen, and over the long term you are all but certain to lose money unless you look for real root causes of outcomes. Those who make expert sports picks know that the concept of momentum should be stored away in the same part of your brain that you put Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.