I recently read a book titled Secrets of Professional Sports Betting by Michael Kochan. It’s an old book as far as sports betting books go, published in 2008. Most strategies found in older sports betting books don’t work anymore, because the good ones get used by too many people and the sportsbooks make adjustments.
This makes reading old sports betting books questionable in terms of wasting time, but every once in a while I find something I can use when I handicap games. The NFL grouping system caught my eye and I’m going to start using parts of it.
The NFL Grouping System
Here’s how the NFL grouping system works. You divide the NFL teams into four different groups. I explain each of the groups below in more detail. The key to the system is accurately placing teams in groups. As you’re going to see, this can be somewhat challenging.
Once you place teams in groups, Kochan recommends looking for teams playing each other from the same group. You’re looking for two teams that are both in the average group or two teams that are both in the good but not elite group. You ignore games with two elite teams or two terrible teams, and every game between two teams from different groups.
By looking at games with teams from the middle two groups, you’re betting on teams that are fairly evenly matched. The secret of the system at this point is looking for underdogs getting somewhere around seven points. Seven is an important number when you’re betting on football because a touchdown is worth seven with a successful extra point.
The theory is that if you can get six to eight points on one side of a game between two teams from the same group that you have a decent chance to cover. Two teams from the same group should play each other closely most of the time, and it’s not a big upset when the underdog wins.
When you get close to a touchdown in points you also win the bet when the game is close and the underdog loses. On the surface, this seems like a fairly good betting system for the NFL.
The reason why the system ignores teams in the elite and terrible categories is because they’re too unpredictable. Terrible teams are the worst when it comes to predictability, because their performance varies so much from week to week. One week they play just well enough to lose and the next they get blown out.
The same is true for elite teams. One week they play just well enough to win, and the next week they blow someone out. The point is that elite and terrible teams don’t often offer good value lines because of their unpredictability.
Elite teams are one that should win 12 or more games. These teams are true Super Bowl contenders and are favored in almost every game. They usually have strong quarterback play and a defense that’s good enough to give their quarterback a chance to win every week.
These teams also usually have a good coach and the entire team seems to be on the same page. Elite teams figure out a way to win close games, and don’t ever give up. Sometimes an 11 win team might sneak into this category, but losing five games during the season usually doesn’t scream elite.
Good Teams That Aren’t Elite
Good teams that aren’t elite should win 10 or 11 games during the season, but a nine win team with a tough schedule might also be included in this group. Good teams beat the teams that they’re supposed to. A good team should always beat a terrible team, and will usually lose a close game to an elite team.
When two good teams play each other, the game is usually close, with the home team holding a slight edge.
An average team usually wins six to nine games during the season. Average teams are usually either improving, which means they’re getting better for the next season, or they’re a former good team that’s headed down.
A team that wins six games probably belongs in this group if they’re improving for the next season, but a six win team on the decline might belong in the terrible category.
The average record in an NFL season is eight and eight, so teams that win seven, eight, or nine games are average.
Just like good but not elite teams, when two teams from the average group play each other the game is usually close with the home team having a slight edge.
Terrible teams are ones that should win five or fewer games during the season. They might be starting a rookie quarterback or a veteran that’s simply not very good. The defense is usually a wreck and the coaching is either inexperienced or simply not good.
These teams are more likely to give up when they get down by a large number of points and often have internal discord that spills out into the media.
Pros of the NFL Grouping System
The main pro of betting on the NFL is that it’s simple. Once you have the teams in the groups, you only look at the games with two teams from the same group, and only if they’re in the good or average groups.
Then you look for games that have a spread where the underdog is getting six to eight points and then bet on the underdog. This sounds simple, but the truth is that you have to do a little more handicapping than this to make this a long term winning system.
I find many of these games don’t offer value on the underdog because of quarterback play on each side of the game and home field advantage. The underdog is usually the road team, and while some road dogs offer value, it’s not as clear cut as this system makes it out to be.
To be fair, the author isn’t making any claims that you should blindly follow the system. He says he looks at these games, not that he bets every one of them. And this is how you need to use this system as well. Use it as a starting point, and use your handicapping skills to pick the best games to bet on.
Cons of the NFL Grouping System
The main problem with the NFL grouping system is the placement of teams in the four categories is somewhat subjective. Do you put a six win team in the terrible group or in the average group? Is the 11 win team in the good or elite group?
You also have to evaluate your groups every week of the season. No one knows for sure which teams are going to be in each group before the season. You can usually make a good guess about the top and bottom teams, but it’s still a guess based on past performance.
It’s also important to adjust the groups based on injuries. An elite team that loses their starting quarterback is no longer elite, but do they fall into the good group or average group? Is a team that’s on a strong run for real or are they going to let down? A team on a losing streak is either worse than you might have predicted or they’re getting ready to break out.
Another con of the NFL grouping system is that many weeks there aren’t many games to consider. Once you narrow down the games using this system and then handicap the games, you might find that there aren’t any games offering value. Or you might only find one or two games that offer value.
Should You Use the NFL Grouping System?
For a fairly simple NFL betting system, the grouping method has some things to like. I don’t recommend using it as your only system, but if you use it as part of a larger system it can help you make some good bets.
You still have to handicap the games that look promising, but any system that helps you eliminate bad games is worth considering because it saves you time. Any time you can save time you can invest it in more profitable opportunities.
I’m planning to use this system in combination with the way I handicap looking for underdogs that offer value. Before I read about this system I hadn’t thought about eliminating games with elite and terrible teams the same way I do now.
Overall, I like the NFL grouping system. It’s not a perfect system, but the truth is that a perfect system doesn’t exist. If you can get your groups right, this system does a good job of narrowing your profitable betting opportunities down. This is valuable, because it gives you more time to spend handicapping promising games.