Most sports bettors bet on NFL games because it’s the most popular sport in the United States. The NFL attracts more bets from casual bettors than other sports because more people watch the games every weekend.
It’s hard to make value bets on the NFL because the sportsbooks do a good job setting tight lines. It’s even harder to be a winning NFL bettor when you make mistakes when you evaluate games.
Here’s a list of seven mistakes that NFL bettors make every day. Take this opportunity to learn from mistakes that others are making so you can avoid making them and improve your NFL betting system.
1 – Betting the Under in Defensive Battles
I made this mistake for many years before I figured out that these games were traps. When two teams in the NFL that play good defense meet it’s easy to assume that the under is a good bet. But the truth is that most of the time the only value is on betting the over in these games.
When I’m evaluating the over under line I always look at the defenses for both teams, but the sportsbooks setting the lines are looking at the same thing. I’ve learned over the years that the offenses are at least as important in these games as the defenses, and sometimes the offense is a better indicator to key on.
A great NFL offense is going to score points, even if the defense is great. But the worst offenses struggle to score, even against the worst defenses. Bad offensive teams simply make too many mistakes to keep most of their drives alive.
When you’re evaluating a game with two good defenses in the NFL of the over under line, look for value on the over. If there’s no value on the over, I don’t bet the under. It simply doesn’t pay off enough to make a long term profit.
2 – Buying Into Rookie Hype
A new crop of rookies come into the NFL every year, with many of them surrounded by a lot of hype. The best rookie quarterbacks are being counted on to turn an entire franchise around, because everyone can see that the teams with the best quarterbacks win more games.
But the track record for rookie quarterbacks is terrible.
Don’t make the mistake of overvaluing the ability of rookies, especially quarterbacks, when evaluating early season NFL games.
The positions where the best rookies can influence games are on defense, on the offensive line, and at running back. And even at these positions you need to make sure you’re not overestimating their impact.
3 – Ignoring Line Play
Most winning NFL bettors start evaluating each game with the quarterbacks, and I do the same thing. But the mistake that many bettors make is not evaluating other important areas on each team. I’ve found that the ability and performance of the offensive and defensive lines is just as important as other areas.
Casual NFL bettors rarely even consider the play of the lines in the game. But a great offensive line protects the quarter back longer and makes the running game better. A great defensive line pressures the opposing quarterback more and limits the damage done on running plays.
The lines play a big part in controlling field position, keeping drives alive, or killing drives. If you want to be the best NFL handicapper you can be, never ignore the lines on both sides of the ball.
4 – Evaluating Quarterback Play
Every NFL bettor knows that quarterback play is important. But most bettors struggle when it comes to properly evaluating the position. They can identify the best quarterbacks in the league and the worst ones, but they don’t do a good job comparing all of the quarterbacks in the middle.
You need to be able to evaluate the difference between a guy on the top five against a guy between five and ten, or between two guys between 11 and 15. The difference between the top two quarterbacks in the league might not be much, but the difference between the guy at nine and 12 might be huge.
You used to be able to look at passing numbers and get a good idea of the difference between quarterbacks. But now you have to consider the ability to run for each quarterback. Not all NFL quarterbacks run, but many of them can if they need to in order to extend a drive.
Spend some time evaluating each quarterback using their entire skill set in comparison to the other quarterbacks in the league. I keep a rough ranking of all of the starting quarterbacks as a place to start, and then do a deep dive into each starter for every individual game.
5 – Ignoring Kickers on Close Lines
When you’re evaluating NFL games with a point spread of three or under the kickers are quite important. A good place kicker is often the difference between winning and losing bets you make on these games.
When I handicap games with a tight point spread I often find the two teams are closely matched in other areas. But when one team has a superior place kicker it can tip the scales in one direction in these games.
I also take a close look at the punter for each team. I explain why this is so important in the next section, but the important thing to learn here is you have to evaluate every area on each team if you want to win. Place kickers and punters are ignored by many bettors just like the lines on each team. You can’t afford to ignore anything if you want to win.
6 – Who Wins the Field Position Battle?
While it’s not flashy or sexy, the truth is that most NFL games are won by the team that wins the field position battle. Look at the average starting field position for winning teams compared to losing teams. You find that winning teams almost always win the field position battle.
Punters have a great deal to do with field position. It’s easy to see which punters have the longest average and the ones who place the most punts inside the 20. But this doesn’t always show the entire story. You also need to look at the average return against each punter.
I’d rather have a punter that kicks the ball higher and forces more fair catches than one who kicks it a little longer and gives up more return yards.
Punters aren’t the only thing that influences field position. Good offenses create better field position, even when they have to punt because they have a better chance of getting a few first downs. Good defenses help win the field position battle because they force more three and outs.
If you haven’t been using the field position battle when you handicap NFL games, start using it immediately. It can be the key ingredient that changes your results from long term losing to long term winning.
7 – Travel and Weather
The weather can have a big impact on games, especially when you’re looking at over and under lines. Most people focus on bad weather that involves heavy rain and snow, and these are important. But severe cold can also influence games, especially when a warm weather team is playing in cold weather.
When Miami is playing Buffalo when the temperature is in the teens or 20’s it can have a big influence on the game. The opposite can also be true, but cold weather teams tend to do better in warm weather than warm weather teams do in extreme cold weather.
You also need to consider how far the road team has to travel.
This goes along with many other mistakes on this page. You can’t ignore the little things when you’re evaluating NFL games, because often the little things are the difference between winning and losing.
Making profitable NFL wagers is challenging because there are so many different things that can change the outcome of games. It’s easy to make mistakes on every game, but if you can learn from your mistakes and the mistakes that others make you can make more winning bets.
Learn from the seven mistakes that NFL bettors make every day listed above and you’re long term profits are going to improve.