How to Handicap the NFL Successfully
Tips for Profitable NFL Handicapping
by Vernon Croy
The NFL season is always full of the unexpected, and this year will be no different. Every year you have teams with no business winning anything making the playoffs and teams that are favored to “win it all” playing terribly.
Unknown players come out of nowhere to make a huge impact. Overpriced free agents flame out early and don’t do a darn thing to help their teams. I could go on and on.
When you take a look at the games on a weekly basis, how are you supposed to have any idea who to pick? Isn’t it all just a big guessing game anyway? You’re not psychic, right? Handicapping the NFL successfully isn’t about being psychic. It’s about playing the odds and making the smart play. You don’t have to know everything to make some money betting on the NFL. So how do you know how to pick the games? Let’s take a look at some important variables to consider.
Watch the Games
This might seem like an obvious step in the process, but it’s pretty important if you want to win. You can see (and more importantly, learn) a lot of things by watching the games. If you can’t watch the games, at least do your best to catch the highlights. Sportscenter should be on your television as often as possible during football season. How are you going to accurately bet on a team that you haven’t even seen play? Also be sure to read the box scores! Be familiar with all the acronyms and abbreviations so you know what you’re reading.
Watch the Numbers
Stats can be a gambler’s best friend when picking NFL games. There are detailed stats for every NFL game that you can find and on a number of websites.
When you keep up with stats, you have an in-depth look at what a team is all about. For example, let’s say you’ve got the Las Vegas Raiders going up against the Minnesota Vikings next week. You look online and see that the Las Vegas defense is the 31st ranked team against the run this season. You also notice that the Vikings happen to have the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson. When you combine the best running back in the league with the worst rushing defense, it’s going to be a long day for the Raiders. When you control the ground game, you’re going to win a vast majority of the time. Therefore, in this example (barring any other strange situations), you would pick the Vikings.
Pick Undervalued Teams
When you’re betting a point spread, it’s all about finding undervalued teams. While you might not think a team could ever beat the other in a head-to-head game, sometimes you might feel good about the line that they’re getting. Pay attention to the way a team plays instead of the win-loss record. For example, one season, the Kansas City Chiefs were a 2-14 football team. A casual football fan would say, “The Chiefs are terrible; I should always pick against them.” However, when you look at the numbers, they lost eight games by a touchdown or less. This means that if you see them going up against an average team and oddsmakers have them as 10-point underdogs, you’ve got a potentially good bet on your hands. Take the underdog.
Keep Up With Injuries
This is a big one throughout the season. Every football fan knows that an injury could have a big impact on an entire team throughout the rest of the season. Let’s say, for example, you were betting on Week 2 of the NFL season last year. You’re going down your game card, and you come to the New England Patriots. You just automatically check them because you think to yourself, “Well, I’m never going to pick against Tom Brady no matter who they’re playing.” However, if you weren’t paying attention the previous week, you wouldn’t realize that Brady blew out his ACL and is done for the year. This means the Patriots are now an average team for the time being. You have to now put a little more thought into your picks. Injuries can play a major role in the season as well as your betting, especially when it’s a key player. (The Center is another big one to watch for, as the C is the heart of the offensive line and controls the timing).
Read Team Reports
When you get some time, go around to NFL websites and just read what’s going on. Bookmark the good ones. You can often learn valuable information from the vast amount of team blogs out there. They can benefit you more times than not if you do your homework.
Overall, handicapping the NFL is something that can be a lot of fun. If you put in some time and effort, you’ll be a lot better off than you were before you started, and it’ll surely reflect in your winning percentage against the spread.
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Related: College Football Handicapping