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Added November 3rd, 2009 by David Glisan

Basic NFL Pointspread Handicapping Strategies

While the intricacies of successfully handicapping NFL football, or any other sport for that matter, can become a very advanced process there are a few simple rules that even the novice bettor can use to his advantage.
–Don’t assume that ‘good’ teams are good bets:  This is a concept we touched upon in our NFL betting 101 article, and it’s worth expanding on here.  The tendency among mainstream sports media is to try and label teams as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Such arbitrary terms aren’t useful for the NFL bettor and the pointspread is the great equalizer.   Powerhouse teams frequently come with a high pointspread ‘price tag’ attached and their popularity with the general public causes the linesmaker to ‘shade’ the line even more.  A ‘bad’ or unpopular team, meanwhile, will often come with additional line value for the opposite reason.  Get beyond the opinions of the talking heads on ESPN and evaluate every position on the board for possible line value.
–Understand the importance of ‘key numbers’:   ‘Key numbers’ in NFL betting are those which occur with the greatest regularity.  In order of descending importance, 3, 7, 6, 4.  They are important because they are the most frequent margin of victory in NFL games.  The exact percentage will vary from year to year, but 3 is the most common margin of victory in NFL football followed by 7.  In a typical year, roughly 15% of NFL games will be decided by three points and over 20% will be decided by either 3 or 7 points.  It’s important to understand their significance for a variety of reasons—here are some examples:  a home underdog getting +3’ points is a significantly better value than one getting +2’.  This is much greater than the single point differential would suggest, as you’re “getting” a key number at +3’.  To put it simply, if the home team loses by a field goal—the most common NFL margin of victory—you win your bet at +3’ and lose it at +2’.  For that reason a line move to or off of a key number can be viewed as more significant, so a move from -3 to -3’ is done with more careful consideration by the bookmaker than a move from 1’ to 2’.
–Pay attention to scheduling situations:  Everyone has heard the old cliché that ‘on any given Sunday any NFL team can beat any other team’.  While there are years where the parity in the league is more or less pronounced, that’s a good concept to keep in mind.  More significantly, in the right situation even a bad team can play competitively enough to cover a pointspread against the league’s elite.  Look to play on struggling teams off of bye weeks, where they’ve had time to work out their problems.  Look to play against good teams off of important or emotionally significant games like rivalries as they often come out ‘flat’ in their next contest.  Some handicappers suggest that teams playing off of a ‘short week’ following a Monday Night Football appearance are at a disadvantage.   Teams can gain and lose momentum through the course of a long NFL season and its possible to determine when a team is about to ‘peak’ to play on them, and when they’re about to lose momentum and are possible ‘go againsts’.
–Make sure to shop for the best pointspread:  This is perhaps the most important single thing for the aspiring sports bettor to remember.  It is to your advantage to use more than one book, and to compare them for the most advantageous price on a play.  The margin between winning and losing over the long haul is razor thin in sports gambling, and by simply making an effort to always get the best number possible you go a long way into making yourself a long term winner.

While the intricacies of successfully handicapping NFL football, or any other sport for that matter, can become a very advanced process there are a few simple rules that even the novice bettor can use to his advantage.

Don’t assume that ‘good’ teams are good bets: This is a concept we touched upon in our NFL betting 101 article, and it’s worth expanding on here.  The tendency among mainstream sports media is to try and label teams as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Such arbitrary terms aren’t useful for the NFL bettor and the pointspread is the great equalizer.   Powerhouse teams frequently come with a high pointspread ‘price tag’ attached and their popularity with the general public causes the linesmaker to ‘shade’ the line even more.  A ‘bad’ or unpopular team, meanwhile, will often come with additional line value for the opposite reason.  Get beyond the opinions of the talking heads on ESPN and evaluate every position on the board for possible line value.

Understand the importance of ‘key numbers’: ‘Key numbers’ in NFL betting are those which occur with the greatest regularity.  In order of descending importance, 3, 7, 6, 4.  They are important because they are the most frequent margin of victory in NFL games.  The exact percentage will vary from year to year, but 3 is the most common margin of victory in NFL football followed by 7.  In a typical year, roughly 15% of NFL games will be decided by three points and over 20% will be decided by either 3 or 7 points.  It’s important to understand their significance for a variety of reasons—here are some examples:  a home underdog getting +3’ points is a significantly better value than one getting +2’.  This is much greater than the single point differential would suggest, as you’re “getting” a key number at +3’.  To put it simply, if the home team loses by a field goal—the most common NFL margin of victory—you win your bet at +3’ and lose it at +2’.  For that reason a line move to or off of a key number can be viewed as more significant, so a move from -3 to -3’ is done with more careful consideration by the bookmaker than a move from 1’ to 2’.

Pay attention to scheduling situations: Everyone has heard the old cliché that ‘on any given Sunday any NFL team can beat any other team’.  While there are years where the parity in the league is more or less pronounced, that’s a good concept to keep in mind.  More significantly, in the right situation even a bad team can play competitively enough to cover a pointspread against the league’s elite.  Look to play on struggling teams off of bye weeks, where they’ve had time to work out their problems.  Look to play against good teams off of important or emotionally significant games like rivalries as they often come out ‘flat’ in their next contest.  Some handicappers suggest that teams playing off of a ‘short week’ following a Monday Night Football appearance are at a disadvantage.   Teams can gain and lose momentum through the course of a long NFL season and its possible to determine when a team is about to ‘peak’ to play on them, and when they’re about to lose momentum and are possible ‘go againsts’.

Make sure to shop for the best pointspread: This is perhaps the most important single thing for the aspiring sports bettor to remember.  It is to your advantage to use more than one book, and to compare them for the most advantageous price on a play.  The margin between winning and losing over the long haul is razor thin in sports gambling, and by simply making an effort to always get the best number possible you go a long way into making yourself a long term winner.

 
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One Response to “Basic NFL Pointspread Handicapping Strategies”

  1. Gary Viox says:

    I was curious if anyone knew anything about these professional sports ? I am considering signing up for this sports handicapping service. It looks pretty promising and its endorsed by a clickback guarantee which means your going to get your money back if you don’t like the system or it simply doesn’t work. Has anyone tried a service like this?

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