NFL 101

Sports Betting: 10 Factors to Consider When Looking at NFL Lines

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Have you ever seen a betting line on an NFL game that had you scratching your head? If you’ve been wagering on football, for any time at all, you’ve experienced that feeling. It can have you asking yourself “I wonder if somebody knows something?” That’s why we’ve put together this list of 10 factors you should consider when looking at NFL lines.

    1. A Team’s Popularity – Keep in mind, straight betting lines are partially created to even out the betting between the two teams playing. In the NFL however, some teams that have significantly larger fanbases than others. The fact is, many people bet with their hearts. When lines are set they must take this built-in emotional betting into consideration. A large betting fan base can influence lines, and break some hearts.
  • Home Field Advantage – It is generally accepted that HFA is worth about three points. Some teams however, have a decidedly larger home field advantage than others. There are teams with loud home crowds and stadiums that serve to amplify crowd noise. The thin air in Denver can be an issue for visitors not used to it. Wind is more often a factor in some stadiums than others. Some stadiums are simply just tougher for opponents to play in. While field dimensions, goal posts and footballs are the same across the league, NFL stadiums are not. Today in the NFL, 4 teams have domed stadiums, 4 have retractable roofs, and the remaining 24 play in open stadiums. Roughly half of the stadiums have some form of natural grass, while the others are a combination of synthetic surfaces.

NFL 2015

    1. Injuries – Of course, you should consider the players a team is missing due to injuries but you should also look at how many players got “nicked up” the previous week. Players play hurt and it affects their play. Checking who is on the disabled list is just the start. Lines can be affected by who is questionable and how many team members are playing with nagging injuries. While certain injuries to marquee players are most visible, offensive and defensive line injuries make a big impact as well.
  • Momentum – A team’s momentum can play a huge factor in establishing betting lines. Each season there are teams that go on surprising runs. These runs will quickly begin to affect betting lines in the NFL. Remember, there is positive and negative momentum.  Teams who are hot can seem unstoppable and teams who are losing can’t seem to catch a break. There is also selective momentum like home winning streaks and road winning streaks to consider.
  • Performance Against the Spread – When you hear people discuss an upcoming game, they will often talk about how one team or another performs against the spread. This is valuable information but perhaps not for the reason you believe. If a team is performing well against the spread, it is not as if the players get together in a pre-game meeting with a goal to beat it. It is far, far more likely that previous lines have underestimated the team’s ability. In other words, if a team is consistently covering the spread, it is likely more due to the line than the team’s performance.  Rather than “performance against the spread” it should be referred to “consistently underrated by the betting line.”

NFL 2015 Season

    1. Weather – Weather conditions affect all outdoor sports including NFL games played in open stadiums. We tend to think of weather only making an impact in cities like Green Bay in December, but weather is a factor every week. For example, all three NFL teams in Florida play in open air stadiums. Early season games can be brutally hot and humid. Heavy rains can impact a game as can high winds. While it is difficult to take weather into consideration in early week lines, the closer it comes to game time, the more weather can be considered. Obviously when a team heavily relies on its passing game, the more it is susceptible to the negative effects of inclement weather.
  • The Schedule – Coaches like to talk about playing one game at a time, but NFL games are not played in a vacuum. There is a rhythm to the season which is dictated by a team’s schedule. Betting lines will be affected if a team is playing a game in which they had less time to prepare than their opponent. Bye weeks play a big part of the NFL schedule, with teams who play an opponent who is coming off a bye week at a decided disadvantage. The Buffalo Bills in particularly started lobbying to make this an issue after facing four bye week opponents in 2012. They went 1-4 against those rested teams.
  • Traveling Teams – Factoring travel into betting lines is related to, but distinctly different from, home field advantage. Travel to opposite coasts affects a team’s schedule and the internal clocks of the traveling team. If a team is playing a series of consecutive road games, that too, can make an impact. Traveling teams can be more likely to be impacted by adverse weather conditions in a climate distinctively different from their home city.
  • Matchups – By the nature of the game, matchups are a critical component of NFL  lines. How one team’s offense matches up against another’s defense and vice-versa may be the biggest factor in setting lines in the NFL.  Special team and individual matchups are an important factor in reviewing these games as well.

NFL 2015 Season Betting

  1. Rivalry Games – Rivalries are often viewed through a different set of lenses than “regular” games. There are long-standing rivalries with lengthy histories like the Packers and the Bears or the Cowboys and Redskins. But don’t ignore more recent rivalries that have developed including the Steelers and the Ravens, the Patriots and the Jets, and the Patriots and just about everybody else in the league. These types of games are played with a bit more energy from the teams and the fans.  Every NFL team has a rivalry, but without question, some are more intense than others. Rivalries need to be taken into consideration when looking at betting lines.
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