Sunday nights and Monday nights during the NFL season are tough times to be a football handicapper. That’s when the two most popular games of the week are played. These are the games that are on national TV, and the games that everyone watches and bets on. The media attention is highest for these contests, and marquee matchups on the gridiron are the rule. When you are looking to bet on these football games successfully there are some mistakes you don’t want to make, and some things you will want to be sure to do. Here are some of those NFL handicapping dos and don’ts:
Buy into network hype – The networks that broadcast these football games have only one interest – getting as many people to watch them as they possibly can. They pay an absolute fortune for the right to show the games, so they don’t care about anything other than making that investment pay off. That means that they focus on the stories that will draw attention and get people excited. There is no guarantee that those stories will be told accurately, and they are almost certainly not the most important factors when it comes to figuring out who is going to win the game. When you are getting ready to handicap these NFL games ignore every commercial, pre-game show, promo, or anything else the networks say to you about the games. They just won’t lead you down the right path.
Read too much from the major media – The media tends to focus on the games that people care about the most. That’s just common sense. In order to satisfy the hunger that the public has for information about the games, though, the media will often go to ridiculous lengths to fill the time and space. They will focus on the most obvious and popular stories, and they’ll beat themes into the ground – even if they have little to do with the actual outcome of the football game. If you are serious about NFL handicapping then at best the major media stories will only distract you, and at worst they can confuse you and lead you down the wrong paths. In all cases you want to use the proven facts to shape your own analysis instead of relying on the faulty analysis of others. That is especially true for national games.
Overthink the circumstances – It is very easy to attach too much significance to the circumstances surrounding these games. They hype is strong, and it can seem like they are the most important games ever. There are a lot of things that can seem particularly magnified in these games – the pressure, the national attention, the impact of the rest and so on. Those circumstantial factors can easily get blown out of proportion, so it is very important when you are handicapping these games to just take a deep breath, think about what is really important, and not overreact.
Think about the public action – Betting volume is always high for the NFL, but it will be especially high for these games because of their national stature and because they are the only games on at the time. The more significant the public betting action is on a game, the more you have to be concerned about it. The public doesn’t always act rationally, and they aren’t always objective. The oddsmakers know that, and they will set and adjust the lines accordingly. If you don’t pay attention to what the sports betting public is thinking about a game then you can easily make a bet with absolutely no value if you like the favorite. You also may be able to find extra value if you like the underdog.
Consider how teams will handle pressure – I know I said that you don’t want to think too much about the circumstances of these football games. There is one exception in my mind, though. These games – and especially the Monday Night Football game – can create a whole lot of pressure for teams that haven’t been exposed to it recently. There are some teams that play in these games frequently, and others that almost never do. If a team that is accustomed to the hype and excitement plays one that really isn’t then there could be an edge worth noting.
Treat it like any other game – Ultimately, the Sunday night and Monday night football games are just like any other game. The rules are the same. The field and the ball are the same size. There are the same number of players on the field. There are other factors to consider, but ultimately you want to focus on the same things that lead you to wins on Sunday afternoons or Thursday nights. The further you get away from doing that the further off the right track you are likely straying.