Sportsbooks love the first week of the NFL season. Football bettors have been waiting for months and months for gridiron action, and they have full bankrolls to play with. That doesn’t lead them to making the best decisions – and sportsbooks love it when bettors make bad decisions. Because NFL bettors are so excited and so eager for some football action it is very easy to make mistakes. Here are four of the biggest mistakes bettors make in the first week of the season. By understanding them you can work to avoid them:
Assuming full strength – A lot of football bettors haven’t paid as much attention to the offseason and the preseason as they probably should. That means that they only have the roster and the reputations of those players to rely on. Because that’s all they are working with they will likely assume that the players will be ready to play at or near their best right out of the gate. That, of course, isn’t true. You can’t assume that a player is ready to play at their full potential unless you know how they performed in the preseason and how ready they are to play. If a player performs well below what they are capable of – or if they can’t even play at all – then you could be betting on a team that is different from the one you thought you were betting on. Before you bet on a NFL team, then, be sure that you have done your homework and know who will be playing, where they will be playing, how healthy they are, and if they had an uninterrupted preseason.
Overvaluing preseason performance – In 2008 the Detroit Lions set a record that will never be broken when they lost all 16 games during the regular season. It was really, really ugly – they earned exactly the record that they deserved given their play. In the preseason that year there was only one team that didn’t lose a single game – the Lions. If ever there was proof that records and performance in the preseason are meaningless as an indicator of regular season strength this is it. There is no prize for winning in the NFL preseason, so teams don’t necessarily focus on winning the games. Instead, they have other goals to accomplish – getting their veterans ready, giving new players seasoning, assessing the talent they have, getting comfortable with new plays, staying healthy, and so on. A football team can easily accomplish those goals while losing a game, so the record of the team is irrelevant. Some teams – like the Colts – just don’t care about the preseason at all and it shows. If a team looks really good in the preseason then you really can’t get too excited about that, either, because much of their time will have been up against second and third string opponents. You can judge the play of individual players in some cases – like when they are a starter matched up against opposing starters – but the overall performances of teams are a trap for you to fall into as a sports bettor.
Buying into the hype – The media coverage of the NFL is impossible to avoid. It’s everywhere. There is a lot more hunger for NFL coverage than there is quality, informed coverage. That means that a lot of what you read is more focused on attracting readers or viewers than it is on providing meaningful insights. Each year the media will pick out the teams and the players that they are very excited about. The same football teams and the same players will show up again and again in different media outlets. That means that the betting public will be paying a lot of attention to the hype, and it will influence their betting decisions. Here’s the thing, though – hyped teams turn out poorly at least as often as they live up to expectations. Before you get sucked in by the hype as a handicapper take the time to actually evaluate the teams and form your own opinion.
Undervaluing position coaching changes – We spend a lot of time worrying about head coaching changes in the NFL and the impact it will have on teams. Most people, though, spend far less time and effort thinking about changes to coordinators and position coaches. On a lot of football teams, though, the coordinators or key position coaches can have at least as much of an impact on a team as the head coach can. The coordinators typically install the offensive and defensive schemes and figure out how to use the players they have. The position coaches have the most direct contact with players and are the ones who can most easily make the small changes that can make a big difference. Bettors who pay close attention to the changes in coordinators and position coaches – especially when they are not accompanied by a change in head coach – can have a strong early edge over most sports bettors.