The NFL is one of the most competitive leagues in the world. The league has made “parity” a top priority, since the inception of the salary cap and other elements designed to give every franchise the same or relatively same fighting chance. This isn’t like baseball where the Dodgers spend $250 million on payroll and the Marlins spend $50 million, all but guaranteeing seasonal performance differences. Even the lesser teams in a given year have a legitimate chance to keep things close and occasionally pick off the true Super Bowl contenders.
Need I remind you that the Raiders beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead last year? The Bears beat the Buccaneers in Week 5 despite gaining only 35 rushing yards. That was the game where Tom Brady forgot it was fourth down, remember? He doesn’t.
NFL betting can be unpredictable and downright volatile at times. The following tips should help you keep a level head through the inevitable ups and downs of the 2021 NFL season.
1. Bet on the team you think will win, not the team you want to win.
Sounds simple, right?
You’d be surprised how many people miss the boat here. Sometimes the second part of that statement will drive the first. In other words, you want a certain team to win and it’s clouding your judgment.
It’s tempting to align your fandom with your betting slip, but that’s probably not the best long-term approach. You wouldn’t want your adorable 5-year-old daughter to take over piloting your Southwest flight no matter how much you love her. Pick the best tea for the job that day. Put emotions aside. Betting done right is stone cold.
2. The least sexy bets are often the most profitable.
This ties into the previous point.
A clear demonstration of this can be viewed in our article: “Bet On These Five Teams As A Profitable Strategy”. That piece explains how the bottom five teams (in terms of win totals) beat the spread nearly 57% of the time last season. That includes the Miami Dolphins, who were a league-best 11-5 against the spread in 2020.
Bad teams tend to be underrated in the betting market simply because of their reputation and the human nature response to think bad teams are always bad value. We call these market imperfections. Those issues have nothing to do with what ultimately happens in the game on the field, but they can affect betting lines. Keep that in mind while looking for opportunities.
3. Follow someone who has been around the block.
Find some sports bettors who have their stuff together. Don’t just view (or tail) their picks, listen to the screening process and logic behind them. Use that to frame your own outlook on the NFL betting landscape.
BeerLife Sports relies heavily on the handicapping of The Oracle. He’s a 15-year veteran of football sports betting, with a tremendous track record that includes winning outright the broadly contested Dr.Locks.MD football betting content on Instagram in 2020. Quite a feat. Is this a plug for The Oracle? It is. But not a biased one. If you think you can find better, go with that guy (or girl).
4. Parlays should be for entertainment purposes only.
Parlays are fun: I’m not going to deny that.
However, you shouldn’t view parlays as a legitimate betting strategy. It’s entertainment money that you don’t expect to see again. You’ll be much better off in the long run if you place single bets instead of lumping them all into a parlay. Not everybody feels like I do on this, but I feel strongly about it personally.
You may notice that sportsbooks love to highlight bettors who win thousands of dollars on parlays. Casinos love to promote people who hit the jackpot on slot machines too. It’s a profitable setup for the operator, and they are trying to persuade others to place high-risk parlays as well.
Take a step back to think about that. Yes, Kelly in Vegas got a job and a career in sports handicapping because she came to Vegas to be in a bikini contest then hit a wild parlay that made her famous. Now ask yourself what are the odds you win that same parlay, let alone a bikini contest. It rhymes with hero.
5. Have a strategy when it comes to betting size.
Most beginners take the flat-rate betting approach. It’s simple and easy to follow. You can tweak it if necessary, but most of your bets should be of a similar size. These standard sizes are often called your “units”. If you see a bettor saying they are up 10 units, that means they are up a net of 10 of their standard size bets.
The rule of thumb suggests that you should not place more than 2-5% of your bankroll on one single bet.
For example, let’s assume you have $1,000 in your sportsbook account. That leaves you with a $20-$50 standard bet size. Find where you stand within that, and feel free to marginally tweak it up or down depending on your confidence level and risk tolerance.
6. Take an investor approach when betting on the NFL.
That doesn’t really sound fun, does it?
Most people just want to have some skin on the game. That’s more than fine, but most people aren’t profitable bettors either.
If you want to become more profitable, then you’ll need to take a “value approach” to betting.
We all know the 49ers are a much stronger team than the Lions, but is the 7.5 point spread too much? San Francisco is playing on the road, and Detroit’s new head coach will try to shorten the game by running the football as much as possible. That creates a situation where the Lions could find themselves within this number.
That’s the type of value we are looking for when betting on the NFL. Not who will win, but how will each team play and how will that affect the final score. Predicting who wins games won’t get you much. Predicting the score and the score differentials is where you want to be.
7. Avoid a static approach to betting.
What the hell do I mean by static approach? Consider the following examples.
There’s an old saying in NFL betting that goes something like this: “The public only remembers what happened last week”. In other words, casual NFL bettors tend to overreact based on their short-term memory.
“The Bengals were terrible last week. Their season is going down the drain! There’s no way they’ll keep up with the Ravens on Sunday.” These statements point towards a static approach to betting. The bettor has labeled the Bengals as a bad team without seeing the big picture. Can they still cover against the Ravens? Absolutely! Keep in mind tip #2.
Like you see in the disclaimer for all investment advisors: performance in the past is not an indication of future performance. Just as the coaches do each new week when they set to win their next game.
8. Under = Undervalued
The casual bettor wants a high-scoring game. Fantasy football has accelerated this mindset. Most average betting enthusiasts will take “over” the total if they are touching the points at all.
The sportsbooks know this, and they prey on this.
As mentioned earlier with bad teams getting extra points, “under” bets seemingly have built-in value as well. That comes despite 56% of all NFL games finishing under the originally posted total.
Be sure to double-check the weather when it comes to betting totals, and don’t be afraid to go against the popular pick. The richest guys on Wall Street all short the market. Don’t be afraid to predict bust when everybody else is predicting boom.
9. Be in tune with betting lines.
A great exercise is to try and predict the point spread before looking at the actual lines.
If you do this every week, you’ll start to get an excellent feel of how each team is valued in the eyes of the sportsbook.
Eventually, you could get good enough to spot value opportunities at a moment’s notice. It’s a great exercise for sports bettors of all skill levels. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to get the hang of it.
10. Make Sports Betting Fun
There are two types of gamblers: those who gamble to win and those who gamble to play. The former has far less fun. It’s the same in pickup basketball or any sports you play as an adult. Most guys are there for the chance to play, the camaraderie, the chance to flex some old muscles and sink an improbable shot they can brag about at work. There’s always one guy there who is diehard about winning. He’s always angry, miserable, and nobody wants him to grab beers with the group after.
Try not to be that guy.
Remember: don’t risk money that you can’t afford to lose. If you are feeling too emotional after a loss, then your bet size was probably higher than it should be.
Celebrate the wins, brush off the losses, and remember that betting is supposed to be fun. Try to do it in groups, like that pickup basketball game. It’s meant to be social when done right.