Which side is attracting the most action on the game? You’ll hear this question all the time during the NFL season, and the answer to it is some pretty valuable intel for NFL bettors to consider.
Known as public betting, this refers to which side of an NFL match-up is drawing the most bets at sportsbooks. For bettors, the biggest benefit of knowing this information is a two-fold answer:
In short, public betting is another tool to use for NFL handicapping. On this page we’ll cover the ins and outs of public betting as it applies to the NFL and how you can use it to your advantage.
When you look at the posted odds for a weekly slate of NFL games, you can quickly see the clear favorites and underdogs for the matchups along with games that are considered “toss-ups.” There are also some games in which the betting action has clearly favored one side.
Public betting refers to how the money has come in on individual games. It can be presented in the form of:
There are a number of sports betting sites that track this information. Some sportsbooks even make their numbers public on social media or online in advance of kickoff.
“Public betting” can also be a blanket statement to describe the general sentiment surrounding a game. There’s not always actual data to back it up, though — it can just be another in a never-ending stream of “hot takes” dished out in NFL circles.
NFL public betting is a valuable data point to consider but it’s not one to follow blindly. The public isn’t always correct on how NFL games play out. In fact, there are some handicappers who focus entirely on betting against the public.
As one set of weekly NFL games wind down, lines start being released for next week’s games. After betting odds are released, the betting public immediately weighs in and starts making bets. The initial game line often moves from this point based on how the money comes in.
Here’s a quick example using a fictitious game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Initially, oddsmakers set the line with the Ravens as a 7.5-point home favorite with odds of -110 on both sides. After bets start coming in, the odds may shift to something like this:
The spread has stayed the same, but the odds on both sides have moved slightly. The price has risen on the Browns side and dropped on the Ravens’ side. So what does this mean?
We can interpret this slight move as more money coming in on the Cleveland side. The book has then responded by making the Baltimore side more attractive for bettors. It’s a tool oddsmakers use to even out the action and the potential liability for sportsbooks on losing bets.
The books have juice built-in on both sides of the game in this case, which is essentially a fee for facilitating the bet. It’s how they make money.
Bettors can find valuable information each and every week of the NFL season by simply watching how the line moves. This tells you which way the winds are blowing in terms of public sentiment, and also points out the games in which the books would really like the other side to be the correct one.
Each week, there are NFL games that look likely to swing one way or the other. This sentiment can evolve into the overall betting narrative for the game.
It’s known as the “consensus” opinion, which basically means that the majority of bettors see the game going that way. NFL consensus can be derived in two major ways:
One note of caution to keep in mind: NFL consensus opinion can be quite persuading but it’s important to stick to your guns. If you’ve handicapped a game and are confident the game will break differently from the way the majority sees it, don’t let yourself be swayed unless the consensus points you to a game-changing piece of intel that you missed.
When you look at public betting on the NFL you open up the doors to some new questions.
The answers to these questions will vary by game. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer that says you should always be for or against the public perception of the game. However, you should note that some experienced handicappers do look for spots to go against the public throughout the season.
Quite simply, the public won’t always be right. The same applies to the oddsmakers, but it’s important to remember that those who set NFL lines are quite good at what they do. Sportsbooks are for-profit entities, and those that don’t cut the mustard won’t be around very long.
As with most decisions, there’s a case to be made for both sides of the argument. Here are the potential upsides and downsides to consider.
It’s important to take public betting numbers into consideration but always treat the information on a case-by-case basis. To decide which way to bet, lean on your own handicapping and/or the opinions of sources you trust. When you feel strongly about a direction that the public is going in, don’t feel that you need to switch gears one way or the other.
NFL odds and lines don’t stand still after their initial release. Once the bets begin to come in, the lines can shift by a few ticks here and there. It’s always good practice to track these moves as it helps you see the prevailing sentiment on the game.
There are a number of sites devoted to NFL odds and lines and many of them will list opening numbers and current numbers. A quick glance at the differences between the two sets can tell you a lot.
If the odds become more attractive on one side, then the sportsbook is trying to entice more bets in that direction. The opposite is true when they move in the other direction. If a side suddenly becomes less attractive, then there’s a good chance a solid amount of money has come in there.
The movement on the odds board should be a part of your checklist for breaking down weekly NFL odds.
NFL public betting percentages can be presented in two ways. The first is as the percentage of total bets that have come in on both sides, while the second is the percentage of total dollars on each team.
Let’s consider a random game in which the line looks something like this.
As the bets begin to trickle in, the majority flow in the direction of the favored Chiefs. Let’s call it 54% on the side of Kansas City and 46% on the side of Tennessee. This pattern continues throughout the week. But a closer examination of the numbers could be an eye-opener.
While the majority of the bets have come in on the Chiefs, it turns out that more money has actually come in on the Titans—say 53% on that side and 47% in the opposite direction.
These two pieces of information tell us a different story. While the range is not overwhelming on either side, we can tell that while the majority of bets have come in on the Chiefs, the total percentage of money actually favors the Titans.
When those numbers conflict, which side should you lean on more? Once again, the answer will be found on a game-by-game basis, but a good rule of thumb is:
The reason for this is that fewer tickets but more money could be a sign of the heavy hitters coming in strong on one side. Following the proverbial smart money makes for a solid tiebreaker.
For the places that do a solid job of gathering public betting information on a weekly basis, it’s often presented in chart form. You’ll see all of the games for the week listed, the opening and current line, and bet and money percentages.
In some spots, you can even get a look at how things are flowing for each of the three big NFL bet types: moneyline betting, point spread betting and totals betting. Let’s take a look at an example of what a weekly chart might look like for point spread betting.
|9/10 - 8:20||Texans||Chiefs||-10||-10||58/42||53/47|
|9/13 - 1p||Seahawks||Falcons||+1||+1||70/30||65/35|
|9/13 - 1p||Jets||Bills||-5.5||-6||50/50||47/53|
|9/13 - 1p||Bears||Lions||PK||-1.5||48/52||50/50|
|9/13 - 1p||Packers||Vikings||-3||-3.5||68/32||62/38|
|9/13 - 1p||Dolphins||Patriots||-5.5||-6.5||60/40||46/54|
|9/13 - 1p||Eagles||Washington||+5.5||+6||49/51||47/53|
|9/13 - 1p||Raiders||Panthers||PK||+1.5||72/28||70/30|
|9/13 - 1p||Colts||Jaguars||+7||+6.5||35/65||40/60|
|9/13 - 1p||Browns||Ravens||-9||-8.5||60/40||55/45|
|9/13 - 4p||Chargers||Bengals||+3.5||+3||53/47||51/49|
|9/13 - 4p||Buccaneers||Saints||-4.5||-4||61/39||47/53|
|9/13 - 4p||Cardinals||49ers||-7.5||-7||74/26||70/30|
|9/13 - 8:20||Cowboys||Rams||+2.5||+2.5||44/56||46/54|
|9/14 - 7:15||Steelers||Giants||+3||+3.5||71/29||69/31|
|9/14 - 10:10||Titans||Broncos||-1.5||-2||56/44||54/46|
As you can see, a number of games have clear indicators in terms of both bet and money percentages. There’s sometimes a correlation on the two sides, but also times when they can paint a different picture. The range between the two sides may also be tighter on one of the percentages over the other.
A chart such as the one used in our example can be a real handy tool to have at your disposal while breaking down the games. You can go through your handicapping process as normal, and then look the chart over to see how your findings match up with the public.
Totals betting is choosing the over or under on total points scored in the game in relation to benchmark numbers set by oddsmakers. It’s a wager type that attracts plenty of action for each game.
You can track the public betting money and percentages for these bets as well. Just like with a spread or moneyline bet, the way the bets are flowing can have a direct impact on the numbers you see.
Let’s say it’s a game with a total set at 49.5 points. After the bets start to flow in, the number itself could tick up or down by a half-point or more. The odds for both sides of the bet can also shift based on what’s going on.
A typical NFL totals bet will be released with odds of -110 on both sides. After a good amount of action comes in, you may see something like this.
The odds have shifted on both sides, going up on the over side and down for the under. The sportsbook has made betting the under the more attractive of the two options from an odds perspective, so we can take that to mean that it would like some more action on the under. By extension, this means that the NFL public betting totals have seen more money come in on the over.
Once again, you shouldn’t take line moves or betting percentages as the end all and be all for your decision-making, but it still makes for a valuable piece of the handicapping puzzle to use for each game.
The point spread is heavily watched by NFL bettors and a huge driver of the conversation surrounding the weekly slate. After the initial release of lines, bettors get to weigh the merits of taking the favorite minus the points or going with the underdog plus the cushion.
As with totals and moneyline bets, the action that comes in can have an impact on the lines. You can also glean some valuable intel on the public perception surrounding the game while watching the shifts.
Let’s use a game in which the Green Bay Packers are visiting the Minnesota Vikings as an example. The initial line has the Vikings installed as a three-point home favorite. After the bets come in, the number could rise if more bets come in on the Minnesota side, while the opposite will happen if Green Bay gets more of the attention.
The odds attached to both sides will move as well, depending on which way the winds are blowing. The standard for point spread bets is odds of -110 on both sides, but strong action on one side could lead to odds that look like this.
In this case, bettors on the Vikings side could double their money at odds of +100 if Minnesota covers. That’s a strong indicator that the money has been flowing in the Packers’ direction, which we can also tell by the shift in odds down to -120.
Movement in the spread and odds are closely monitored in the days leading up to the games. The same holds true for betting dollars and percentages. When you combine the two pieces of information, you have yourself some great insight to use for NFL point spread handicapping purposes.
An NFL betting trend points us toward what’s happening on the betting front more often than not. Examples would be a team that’s 5-2 at home, a club that stands at 4-1 against the spread, or a squad that’s 3-4 on the over/under.
We can also track the trends on NFL public betting. Heading into the season, there are often teams that receive a ton of preseason hype. It’s not uncommon to see these teams receive lots of betting action in the opening weeks of the season.
As the season moves along, you can watch the public money betting for each NFL contest, but it can also be helpful to make note of the numbers to use as a future reference. For example, if one team is consistently taking in 60% of public bets, that’s a trend that may continue.
Historical trends from past seasons can be useful in certain cases, but it’s important to treat each season — and by extension each game — as its own event. The past may provide some clues on what’s to come, but there are no guarantees on what will happen when two teams step on the field.
Betting interest is through the roof for each week of the NFL regular season schedule, but it can reach even greater heights when NFL playoff betting rolls around. During a regular week, there are some marquee games that capture the imagination of the general public.
When it’s playoff time, each game is a marquee attraction. That means that each game during the postseason will attract tons of betting action. Just like during the season, we can take some time to review where the public money is going.
The NFL postseason can bring in some recreational bettors from the sidelines, so keep that in mind. That may translate into an even wider span between the two sides in a game in terms of the public money.
While some part-time bettors can certainly go against the grain, a good portion will also follow the herd. Favorites that would see lots of bets anyway may attract even more action, so the percentages can be skewed even more in that direction.
That being the case, it’s possible that public betting intel becomes even more valuable this time of the year. However, the same note of caution applies: it’s part of the equation that should be factored into your thinking, but it shouldn’t be the sole driver of your decisions.
The standalone nature of the Super Bowl and the fact that it’s the biggest sports betting event of the year are just two of the factors that help make the game so special. Once the lines are released for the big game, the betting action pours in with abandon.
During the runup to the game, there’s plenty of time to break things down and gauge the opinions of others. All along the way, there may be some movement on the odds board based on how the betting action is coming in.
The Super Bowl is also unique in that each and every tick in the odds will be scrutinized and attract plenty of attention. That’s just not the case during the regular season, so you won’t have any trouble picking up on movements as they come up.
By gameday, there should be a clear indication of which side the public is backing for all of the major bet types. As always, don’t let that sway you too much. If you’re handicapping points you in a different direction, then you should be trusting your instincts.
When it’s a case in which you happen to align with the public, then plenty of folks will be rooting right along with you. If that side is the right one, then sportsbooks are in for a long day.
The primetime games on the weekly NFL slates are also a big attraction at legal US online sportsbooks. While the same holds true for the all-day Sunday slate, the individual games can see even more bets come in.
During the regular season, bettors can enjoy primetime football on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights. Of the three, Thursday Night Football betting is generally the slowest while Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football both attract lots of bets.
There are some handicappers who shy away from TNF completely on the theory that a short week of prep will lead to unpredictable outcomes. That’s certainly a factor to consider for betting on the game, but it’s still worth taking the time to break down the contest and determine if you should bet or pass.
On the other hand, handicappers circle SNF and MNF games as ones to focus on each week. And there are lots of bettors who see the last games of the week as a chance to salvage or improve their week’s betting take.
Since there are lots of bets coming in—especially bets on Monday Night Football games— this is another great time to check and see what the public consensus is. There can sometimes be a pronounced edge on public bet percentage, but also remember to track the total percentage of dollars bet.
If more of the money is coming in on the side that has fewer tickets, it could be a sign of how the smart money or sharp bettors view the proceedings. Trust your own instincts, but it can be nice when your wagers line up with the heavy hitters.
A consensus pick can refer to the group opinion of several experts or the side that the majority of the public is betting on. For the latter, there are a number of media and betting industry types who make their picks for the games public. There are sites that track the opinions, but you can also simply average out the picks from sources you trust. On public bets, there are a number of outlets that track the action on the game in terms of total percentage of bets on each side and the percent of money wagered on both teams. These are known as NFL public betting consensus percentages.
If you fade the public with your NFL bets, that means you’re taking the opposite stance from where the majority of the action has been coming in. While it’s a strategic move that some seasoned handicappers implement here and there, simply fading the public is not a guarantee of success. The public can be wrong a great deal, but there are also plenty of times in which the majority opinion can be on the money.
As a general rule, the public has a strong inclination toward:
That doesn’t mean you’ll see that in the public money flow for each and every game on the docket, but it is a strong enough tendency that it bears watching. The stronger teams tend to attract more rooting interest, while scores of fans find themselves enthralled by high-scoring games. As a result, the bets can align with what they hope to see, which is not always the correct side to be on.
When sportsbooks release lines for NFL games, they’ve set the numbers to try to keep the action even on both sides, or at least as close to it as possible. When one side attracts lots of action over the other, then you’ll often see some movement in the odds. In short, the side that’s receiving most of the action will suddenly look less appealing, while the odds will be made more attractive on the other side. The public can bet on whichever side it chooses, but sportsbooks give them something extra to think about by moving the odds.