When we talk about any kind of betting or gambling, there’s always a distinct goal to find the “system” that will help you beat the house and clean up. As you would expect, there’s a lot more luck involved when you need to hit 21, or you’ve put it all on red, compared to betting on games. While there’ll always be a chance of a wild occurrence happening you’ll usually have a favorite and an underdog, that’s based on research and stats. It’s worth noting that bookmaker experts are widely known as the best prognosticators. Forget about game analysts, sports journalists, and/or former players turned TV experts, if you want to know the most likely outcome of a game just look at the spread, the moneyline, and the over/under.
Since the whole premise of predicting outcomes is based on stats, it’s only natural that players will look to find stats that give them the edge when locking in their bet. Since more stats are accessible for popular sports, it comes as no surprise that the most popular sport in the US is also the one with the most bets – football, more precisely, the NFL games.
With NFL betting, just like every other kind of betting, there’s always a consensus opinion that you’ll either adopt, or you’ll go against it. In other words, the consensus is that the favorite will win. If you’re betting on the outcome, and go for the favorite, the moneyline simply won’t be as enticing. More often than not, you’ll probably opt to go for the spread, and this is where things get interesting.
For you to win, the favorite has to win and cover the spread, which in the NFL isn’t always such a safe bet. Sure a team may win, but maybe they have a key player injured so they take him out, the underdog may creep closer in “garbage time”, which doesn’t affect the winner but burns you on the spread. That’s why it’s important to follow stats the trends when you’re betting.
One could argue that baseball has more stats available to the public since it’s become a stat-driven sport in the last decade, but the sheer number can be a weakness since all the data can scare away potential players. Football, on the other hand, is much more streamlined and easier to understand, while also providing many advanced stats you can follow.
Some stats you can derive from the method of betting. Let’s say the over/under on a game predicts a low-scoring game – the baseline is 30.5. Now you can use that data and summarize that it won’t be a good idea to make a prop bet of a QB throwing for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. A potentially low-scoring game will give you an opportunity to bet on a kicker making a few field goals since coaches tend to take the safe points if they see it’ll be a defensive slugfest.
Advanced stats will cover everything from the basics (like home and away records), to the obscure (like win percentage in a dome). All you have to do is follow the numbers. Of course, there will be outliers nobody was able to predict, however, those will be few and far between.
Following the Trend
Before you know how to follow the trend it’s important to know what a trend represents. Trends let you know what a team, coach, or player will do on any given Sunday. You can think of them as “advanced” advanced stats. Trends will compile actions and subsequent consequences that will help you make an informed decision while betting. This all seems a bit abstract, but let’s cover an example that should make things easier to understand.
Kansas City is one of the teams that is a favorite in virtually every match they play. Therefore, they’ll need to cover the spread. Numbers show us that even though they win a lot, they don’t usually cover the spread. In the 2022 regular season, they’ve covered the spread in only 7 out of 17 games. This tells us the trend is for Kansas City to get complacent in games they’ve already won. They’re confident enough that they keep their best stuff for when they’ll really need it, like the playoffs – after all if you can’t see something you can’t prepare for it.
On the other hand, Dallas figures to be a yearly disappointment for its fans based on their playoff performances. However, they’re a great team to bet on. They’ve covered the spread in 11 of 17 games, which tells you they go all-out every time and when they’re rolling, they won’t stop.
You can look at the same trend from the other perspective as well. When a weaker team is commonly the underdog, how many times do they cover the spread? Detroit has covered the spread 11 of 17 games, but out of those 11 games they’ve been the underdog 8 times.
You can look for all kinds of trends, from how they fare at home against favorites, to how they hold up within the division or conference. While there are many trends you can look at, it’s important to not get in your own way – don’t overcomplicate things, that never resulted in anything good.
Since the season isn’t over yet, it’s probably way too early to make any worthwhile predictions for next season. However, since predictions are always done in the same way, calculating the same stats, we can use this year’s results to come up with some suggestions.
It’s worth noting there are some instances where a dramatic shift in a team during the offseason can make their last year’s results void, but these instances are rare. A couple of examples of this include Denver which still hasn’t recovered from Payton Manning’s retirement (no playoff appearances since the Super Bowl win in 2015.), or New England being a non-factor since moving on from Brady (compared to their awe-inspiring run with him at the helm).
Conventional wisdom tells us good teams stay good teams, provided you keep the core group of players. So if you’re looking to make a futures bet just look at Championship finalists from this year. They’ll most likely make the playoffs again next year.
The numbers also tell us that in the last few seasons, we’ve had an average of five new playoff teams per season (teams that missed them the previous year), so if you’re looking for an underdog to place your bets on, try finding a team that was in a lot of close games, that’s added a couple of free agents and maybe a high draft pick. In the last week of the season, three teams were vying for the last NFC playoff spot (Green Bay, Detroit, and Seattle), with Seattle ultimately winning, but the other two deserve strong consideration to making the playoffs this year.
Playoffs aside, when you’re considering betting on the underdog the start of the season is a perfect time. Offseason and preseason predictions are hard to make, and some teams may be underestimated. Throughout the season this will be corrected, but in the beginning, when there’s no real current data to draw conclusions from you could get some significant payouts.
What stats do I consider, and what can I ignore?
We understand that even with the NFL’s streamlined stats when they come at you, it could be overwhelming sometimes. It’s crucial to know what’s applicable more than what’s important. For example, if a team wins every time they run for over 200 yards, that’s important to know. However, if that’s happened 3 times in the last two years, it isn’t really applicable, as it’s not likely to happen.
Can trends change?
Yes, over time trends can change for teams. This is usually because of some fundamental shifts within the organization like a new QB, or a new head coach. A new approach will bring with it new trends, that’s why it’s important to always keep researching to make optimal bets.
When should I make bets for the 2023 season?
Depending on the bookmaker, you’re probably able to make some futures bets right now, while this season is still ongoing – they could net you very good odds, and a significant payout, but you’ll essentially be shooting in the dark, it would all be about luck. You should wait at least until the preseason begins and teams start to take shape.
Who are the best teams heading into the 2023 season?
There are some perennial contenders that have earned their status over the last couple of years. Since only one team can win it, it’s very hard to predict the entire season, but as we’ve said, sans some major changes, good teams stay good. Look at Buffalo, Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Philadelphia to be the frontrunners next year.
There’s never a sure thing when it comes to betting. You can crunch your numbers all you want, just for a complete upset to blow everything up. That’s just the nature of every game. In the long run, however, certain things can help you not only keep your head above water but actually make some money. It’s never too early to start preparing for next year and believe it when we say, the 2023 season is much closer than you think.