Key NFL Point Spreads
In the NFL point spread market a sportsbook ‘evens up’ games where there is an underdog or favorite by posting a positive or negative points start to each team e.g + 4 / – 4 with the odds usually at -110 (10/11). This helps to bring in action for both teams as opposed to just the favorite. The latter would most likely be the case if there were no point spread, since most bettors prefer favorites.
When betting the NFL point spreads there are some important factors to keep in mind. Football is scored almost exclusively in increments of three and seven points, with two, six and eight points being less likely. As a result of this, some point spreads are more important than others with regards to NFL betting.
The numbers three and seven are big numbers in the NFL, especially three. Over 15% of NFL games end with a margin of victory of exactly 3. When you consider all the possible score lines and victory margins, 15% is high.
If a sportsbook moves the line by half a point from 3, it is much more of an important move than moving the line, for the same amount, from e.g. 9. This is because 9 is not a key number, with less than 2% of all games ending with this margin of victory. When you think about how the scoring works in football this comes as no great surprise.
The top ten key numbers are as follows:
1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 13, 14, 17.
By far the majority of games finish with a margin of victory of 3. Around 16%. This is closely followed by a margin of victory of 7 at around 9%. Again these percentage figures will vary depending on the period analysed.
Some margins of victory between NFL point spreads are very close in terms of occurrence, so for instance, some might include 11 instead of 2 as a key number or 8 instead of 13. The period looked at will also affect the top ten key numbers.
About 65% of all NFL games will end with one of the above margins of victory. Sportsbooks do not like to move off these numbers but are sometimes forced to due to big action on one side. This can sometimes present an opportunity to the alert bettor. E.g you would much prefer to bet a favorite at -6.5 on the spread as opposed to -7 or an underdog at +7.5 as opposed to +7.
Also consider that there is not a world of difference between betting a ‘dog’ team at +7.5 and betting them at +9.5 or a favorite at -7.5 or -9.5. Don’t be fooled into believing that the 2 point gap here is significant – the point gap does not cover any key numbers.
Some people say that it is not possible to beat the sportsbooks, but it is. What you need to remember is that the sportsbook line is based on popular opinion. The line moves as the action comes in heavily on one side or the other. All the sportsbook wants to achieve is a ‘balancing of its books’ so that it comes away with a percentage of profit whatever the outcome. The line or spread is based on the action taken and is not necessarily an accurate reflection on which team is likely to win the game.
So the rule is to keep an eye on the spread and decide if key numbers are involved. Check your sportsbook to see if a spread is competitive. Once you have established that the line posted is better than your own estimate – place your bets!
Key NFL Totals
When betting the NFL Totals the sportsbook offers an “over/under” figure e.g. 42.5 and the bettor tries to predict if the combined total scores of the two teams in a game will be under or over the posted total.
As with point spreads, the way in which NFL games are scored will have a bearing on the most likely point totals. Indeed some points totals are unlikely ever to occur.
Once you have decided on a likely total in the game, you need to compare this to the key totals. The top ten are as follows:
30, 33, 37, 40, 41, 44, 43, 47, 48, 51.
Around 34% of all NFL games end in one of the above totals. Considering the number of possible other scorelines this is a big percentage. 37 is an important number, around 5.2% of games end in a total of 37. It is much less risky to bet “over 36.5” than “over 37.5”. In contrast the difference between 31.5 and 32.5 is insignificant as no key numbers are covered.
As with point spreads, some NFL total occurrences are very close together in percentage terms. Over a different period, for instance, a total of 45 might occur more than a total of 43.
Looking at all totals for a moment, about 50% of games end with total scores of 37-53.
It is worth pointing out that the average total is around 43, although many people, including handicappers, make the mistake of thinking that 43 is the most likely score. It isn’t, it is simply the average.
More information on NFL point spreads, totals and sports betting lines.