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How to Bet on the NFL: 5 Tips and Strategies

by May 25, 2020
Week 1 Preseason NFL

Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including Common Sports Betting Terms — or head to more advanced strategy — like 10 Tips to Become a Sharper Sports Bettor — to learn more.

NFL football is the most popular American sport. Therefore, it is no secret that it is the most widely bet sport as well. With television options like NFL Sunday Ticket or the NFL RedZone channel, many fans never miss a second of action. However, all that viewing and research does not necessarily translate into winning bets.

At BettingPros, we are here to provide you with advice that may help turn around your fortune on NFL betting.

Here are five tips and strategies that will clear up some misconceptions and get your NFL betting season off on the right foot.

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Look for Reverse Line Movement

If you are an avid NFL bettor, you are likely familiar with the phrase “sharps vs. squares.” Sharps are defined as people who bet professionally while squares are known as more recreational bettors.

In many NFL games, oddsmakers can usually point out betting action that pits sharps directly against squares. It is this type of conflicted action that is likely to result in reverse line movement. Reverse line movement means that oddsmakers move a line in favor of the side that has significantly less money bet on it, since they view the less bet on side as the “sharp” side. Oddsmakers always respect “sharp money” as opposed to “square money” since the sharps are typically more knowledgeable.

There are many sites, including ours at BettingPros that will track the percentages of bets and/or money that is bet on an NFL game. As a bettor, look out for the games that see a line move against the majority of bets or money. If you find one, look into betting on the lesser bet side. Doing so means you agree with the “sharps” who are always more profitable than “squares” in the long run.

Home-Field Advantage

With most NFL stadiums seating 70,000+ fans, the league is typically the most impacted by home-field advantage of all professional sports.

Certain teams around the league are viewed as unbeatable when playing at home. The New England Patriots are 48-9 SU over the last six seasons. They even have a dominant ATS record, covering 66.7% of their home games from 2014-2018. The Seattle Seahawks also enjoy one of the best home-field advantages at CenturyLink Field. Since 2003, Seattle is 92-31 SU at home.

This is not to suggest that all home teams cover the spread a majority of the time. Oddsmakers build in home-field advantage automatically when making their lines.

However, if one digs even deeper they are likely to find teams with more built-in advantages. Perhaps an east coast team has an advantage by playing at home against a west coast team at 1:00 ET. Is one team rested off a bye week compared to their opponent? Is a team in the midst of a grueling three-game road trip? All of these possible scheduling advantages should be taken into consideration when placing a bet.

Do Not Overreact to Last Week

NFL bettors often get themselves into trouble by placing too much emphasis on a team’s dominant performance from the week prior, thinking it will carry over into the next week. Oddsmakers are some of the smartest people out there. They know how the public will react to a team playing well, and will use the public’s sentiment against them when setting lines.

Therefore, oddsmakers will erase all the betting “value” one might expect to find on a team in the middle of a hot streak. In addition, NFL coaches are smart people as well. They have all week to watch film and come up with a gameplan to neutralize their opponents’ best weapons. One of the many reasons the NFL is so popular is its unpredictability, which is certainly true when it comes to betting.

“Public” Teams

Every sport has its “public teams” or iconic franchises that have strong fan bases across the country. The Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers are just a few of the NFL’s biggest public teams.

The recreational bettors, known as “squares,” are largely responsible for the amount of money bet on these public teams every week. Many squares cannot help themselves but bet with their hearts over their heads. They have too much pride as fans to admit that their team is not the right side in certain weeks.

Obviously public teams are going to cover and win their share of games throughout an NFL season. However, bettors should keep in mind the likelihood that these teams have a high percentage of money bet on them simply because of how popular of a team they are.

Shop For the Best Lines

Shopping at different sportsbooks for the best line is advice that should be heeded for every sport. However, differences in lines tend to have much more of an impact in football than other sports.

Based on the scoring structure in football, many games end with a team winning by three or seven points. Thus, oddsmakers set many lines with one team being favored over another by three or seven. However, if one shops around they are likely to find the occasional one with a half-point difference. Betting a team laying 2.5 points compared to three, or an underdog getting 3.5 points compared to three can mean the difference between pushing a bet and winning a bet.

The extra half point is called the “hook” and dramatically alters the perception of a line. If all sportsbooks have lines of three or seven on a particular game, look into “buying the hook” and adjusting the line by a half-point yourself. It will cost you more money to do so but gives you a nice advantage over the oddsmakers when used appropriately.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

Betting 101, Betting Tips, How-To, NFL