With the 2022 season beginning this week, it’s a great time to explore some important concepts about NFL betting. First-time NFL bettors will find a lot of useful information in this NFL Betting Guide. Even the most-seasoned sports bettor can benefit from a refresher course on how to bet on NFL games. This NFL Betting Guide includes our top-10 strategies for betting on the 2022 NFL regular season.
- Protect Your Bankroll
- Learn to Bet Using Units
- Shop for The Best Line
- The Most Important Numbers in Football
- Three Unbreakable Rules of Teasers
- Look for Underdogs, Unders
- Stop Betting Parlays
- Bet Favorites Early, Bet Underdogs Late
- When the Market Gives You Free Points, Take Them
- Stick to What You Know
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NFL Betting Strategies & Tips
1. Protect Your Bankroll
The most-bet NFL games are Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football. Why? Because it gives bettors an opportunity to make up Sunday’s losses in a single game. The prospect of winning all your money back on a massive single wager is certainly alluring.
But the flipside is catastrophic. You never want to put yourself in a situation to lose everything.
Bettors need to wait for the right opportunities and when they do, risk only an amount that doesn’t wipe them out. It’s impossible to avoid a losing streak and your bet sizing should be small enough to ride out those rough stretches.
You also shouldn’t bet on NFL games just because you’re watching it. Sure, it makes the game more exciting, but it’s a recipe to go broke. If your goal is to grow your bankroll, stick with betting angles that have a positive expected value.
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2. Betting in Units
You may have heard experienced bettors use the phrase “betting units” to describe their action. Unit sizing is different for everyone, but a general rule is to think of them as percentages. If someone says they’ve bet “two units,” it usually means they’ve bet 2% of their bankroll.
Simply take your bankroll and divide it by 100. That number will be your single betting unit.
For moneyline or point-spread bets, stick with a betting spread between one and three units. The sizing largely depends on the size of the angle. Under no circumstances should you bet more than five units at a time — and only if you find a monster advantage.
For futures wagers or longshots, it’s appropriate to go smaller. Betting between a quarter unit and half unit provides plenty of return on a longshot. It might not seem like much, but hitting a half unit on a 50/1 longshot will increase your bankroll by 25%. That’s huge.
Again, the most important rule is to protect your bankroll. Betting in units helps you preserve capital and keep you in the game.
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3. Shop for the Best Line
With the legalization of sports betting comes a huge selection of safe and reliable sportsbooks at your disposal. For anyone serious about this, the best NFL betting strategy is to have money available at multiple sportsbooks. This allows you to shop for the best line, a crucial aspect of professional sports betting.
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The logic is pretty simple. If you like the Baltimore Ravens -7 against the New York Jets in Week 1, then you’d like them even better at -6.5 somewhere else. Or, if Ravens -7 is widely available, but one sportsbook is offering -105 juice instead of -110, you’d simply make your bet at the sportsbook with the best price tag.
Don’t underestimate how big of a difference line shopping can make.
4. The Most Important Numbers in Football
When betting the NFL point spread, the most important numbers to watch are 3, 6, 7, 10, and 14.
Since 2015, more than 40% of all NFL games have ended with a point differential of exactly 3, 6, 7, 10, or 14.
Field goals are worth three points. Touchdowns are worth six. Add a successful PAT for seven points. It’s no surprise then to see that 3, 6, and 7 are the most common winning margins. Numbers 10 and 14 are simply combinations of 3 and 7.
When hunting for a point spread, be aware of these crucial numbers. A +3.5 underdog is a MUCH better bet than a +2.5 underdog. Laying -6.5 points on a favorite is WAY more profitable than laying -7.5 points.
If your team is half a point on the wrong side of your preferred number, it’s often best to wait and see if the line shifts. This half point or “the hook” is a bet killer. If the line doesn’t shift, most sportsbooks offer the option to buy a half point. Bettors are able to turn their -3.5 (-110) bet into a -3 (-120). This is often a high-value play.
With less common winning margins, buying points is a waste of money. There’s no sense buying a half point to move a -5.5 point spread down to -5, since winning by 5 is rare in the NFL. Stick to buying the hook on the key numbers of 3, 6, and 7.
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5. Three Unbreakable Rules of NFL Teasers
“Teasers” are popular bets that allow bettors to adjust the point spread on their wagers. The most popular of these teasers is the six-pointer.
For example, a bettor places a six-point teaser bet on NFL Week 1. He/she includes the Ravens -7, the Bengals -6.5, and the 49ers -7.5. Using a six-point teaser, these bets are “teased” down to Ravens -1, Bengals -0.5, and 49ers -1.5 and parlayed onto the same ticket for a payout of +150. Each team needs to cover their adjusted point spread for the bet to cash.
Teasers can be sucker bets if you don’t know how to use them. The three unbreakable rules of teasers are:
- Always Cross Two Important Numbers
- Never Cross Zero
- Never Tease Totals
When teasing, you want to cross two of the most important numbers in football. The best six-point teasers include either a 7 or 8-point favorite that gets teased down to -1 or -2. Likewise, teasing a +1.5 or +2 underdog up to a +7.5 or +8 is what you want. In both instances, we’re crossing key numbers of 3 and 7.
You never want to cross zero when teasing. Teasers lose value crossing unlikely winning margins of zero, one, or two points. These final outcomes are so infrequent that it simply isn’t profitable. Want to turn a -2 favorite into a +4 underdog? Just bet the -2.
Finally, you never want to tease totals. There’s too much variance between high-scoring and low-scoring games to make teasing totals a profitable strategy.
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6. Target NFL Underdogs and NFL Unders
Recreational NFL bettors enjoy betting two things: favorites and overs. It’s not hard to understand why. Fans think the better team will win and don’t take the point spread into account. They also want to see a lot of points and they’ll bet the over.
Sportsbooks know this and tend to skew their lines in that direction by a point or so. Sharp bettors focus the bulk of their betting on underdogs and the under. These aren’t exciting bets, but they’ve proven profitable over the years.
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7. Stop Betting Parlays
The math on parlays is awful. Stop betting them.
A two-team parlay with each team priced at -110 odds offers bettors a payout of +265 at most sportsbooks. The chances of hitting a two-team parlay are 1 in 4, which gives us break-even odds of 3/1, or +300. You’re losing more than 11% of the value when betting a two-team parlay.
And it gets worse the more legs you add. A three-team parlay pays between 5/1 and 6/1 when the break-even odds are 8/1. A four-team parlay pays around 12/1 but you’re actually laying 16/1. And so on.
The one exception here are the silly bets. Parlaying each underdog moneyline of the week for fifty cents hoping to win thirty million dollars is absolutely acceptable. Those bonkers plays are fine for a buck or two. And if you hit one, please send me some money. I like money.
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8. Bet NFL Favorites Early, Bet NFL Underdogs Late
When betting NFL games, it’s best to bet favorites as early as possible, while waiting to bet underdogs closer to game time.
The betting public tends to back the favorite in any given contest. As money comes in on the favorite, the point spread will increase. By betting the favorite early, you might lock in a considerable advantage over the closing line value.
On the other hand, when betting on the underdog, it’s better to wait as close as possible to kickoff. With money coming in on the favorite, underdog bettors can often get an extra half point, or even a full point or more on the point spread if they’re patient.
The dream scenario? Betting the favorite early on and watching the spread soar a few points. Bettors can then place a second bet on the underdog in hopes of hitting a “middle.”
For example, a bettor places a bet on the Packers -2 vs. the Lions. The point spread moves to -5 and the bettor places a second bet on the Lions +5. The bettor can with both bets, a “middle” if the Packers win by exactly three or four points.
9. Bet Against the Public
Sportsbooks are run by smart people. And the betting public isn’t smart.
Once the spread opens on an NFL game, sportsbooks take wagers that influence the line. As money comes in, the point spread gets adjusted to balance the sportsbook’s liability. So when a team opens as a three-point favorite and gets steamed to a five-point favorite, does that mean the three-point spread was wrong?
Nope. The opening spreads are usually pretty accurate. So what’s actually happening?
The sportsbook is making it more attractive to bet on the other team. They’re doing this to mitigate their financial risk. The sportsbook simply took in a lot of bets on the favorite and is trying to get an equal amount of action on the underdog. Since sportsbooks make their money on the vig, all that matters to them is balanced action on both sides. The favorite didn’t magically get two points better!
When a line moves like this, it’s often profitable to bet against it. If a favorite takes a lot of action, it’s wise to bet on the underdog and vice versa.
The betting market is giving you free points. Say thanks and take them.
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10. Stick to What You Know
If you don’t know why you’re making a bet, then you shouldn’t be making that bet. If you don’t understand why a line moved, why a point spread seems off, or why a total seems so high, you need to do some reading before making that wager.
There are hundreds of ways to bet on NFL games: futures, point spreads, totals, and props. And once you find a bet you’re comfortable making, stick with it! Situational spots pop up all the time in the NFL. Savvy bettors find angles they like and keep pressing them. The larger the sample size, the better the return on investment.
If you find an angle, go ahead and bet it. And please share it! The more information sports bettors have at our disposal, the better for all of us. We’ll be sure to include your angles in next year’s NFL Betting Guide.