The NFL season is perhaps the most exciting time of the year for sports bettors. However, it can turn into a bit of a grind after the newness wears off. Even experienced handicappers, who keep a close eye on NFL betting trends, can experience a slump here and there.
New bettors can have trouble navigating their way the first time they hit a downturn. When this occurs, it can often be as simple as being patient when you have a properly designed sports handicapping system. The ball will eventually bounce in your direction.
However, there are times when tweaks are needed to fine-tune even the best approaches to reading this week’s NFL point spreads. If you find yourself in a situation such as this, it can be helpful to remember some nuggets of handicapping wisdom that has stood the test of time.
One is that the trend is your friend. So, what does that mean for you and how can you use it to your betting advantage? Let’s take a closer look at NFL betting trends and find out.
In sports betting, trends can refer to which way the money is flowing on a particular game or event, also known as the “betting trend.” Also, there are situational trends that revolve around a specific outcome or range of circumstances.
This is an important distinction to make. While the trend may be telling you that the majority of the action is heading in a particular direction, that doesn’t mean it’s flowing the right way.
The same applies to situational trends. Because something has happened seven of the 10 times a pair of teams have hooked up on the field, it doesn’t mean it’ll be a sure thing this time.
Said another way, trends can be an instrumental part of the handicapping puzzle, but they should by no means be the rule. That said, there are times when the trend is overwhelming, and the information needs to be taken seriously.
The most recent Super Bowl betting lines serve as a perfect example.
When the betting lines were initially released, the Kansas City Chiefs were installed as 3.5-point favorites over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After the market had its say, the line dropped slightly to 3-points for the Chiefs at kickoff.
Tampa Bay would go on to win the game by a score of 31-9, which goes to show that it shouldn’t be a sign that following the money is a surefire way to success.
In fact, there are numerous instances in which the majority of action on a particular game has come in on the losing side. The same note of caution applies to situational trends. Team A may have a historical advantage over Team B, but each game is its own event and should be treated as such.
Anything can happen once the ball is kicked off. NFL power rankings might be thrown out the window and trends can reverse in the opposite direction without much notice.
A betting trend can be as simple as how a team has fared for the season to date, or over a recent stretch of games. As an example, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers closed out the 2020/21 season with a record of 11-5.
The overall trend for the team was winning more often than not, to the tune of a .688 winning percentage. If you simply bet on the Bucs to win each game last year, you’d have cashed 11 winning tickets and lost out on five others.
For recent trends, it can go to both extremes. In 2019, the Baltimore Ravens closed out the year on a 12-game winning streak, while the Kansas City Chiefs won their final six games in a row. On the opposite end, the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers lost their last nine and eight games, respectively.
Hindsight makes all of these trends easy to spot, but recognizing them as they happen isn’t always so simple. It’s tough to predict how long a streak may last, and the same holds true on trying to figure out when a squad will snap a skid.
For a helpful clue, we can dig even deeper on team records and what’s going on of late. To do so, we can simply drill down into how they’ve performed in certain circumstances. Here are the situational records for the teams in the NFC North from the 2019 campaign.
|Green Bay Packers||13-3||7-1||6-2||6-0||10-2|
The Packers won the division that season, and it’s not too tough to see why. They performed well on each of the situational metrics and were a reliable moneyline bet as a result. The Minnesota Vikings snagged a Wild Card berth in spite of a divisional record that left lots to be desired, the Chicago Bears were middle of the pack across the board, while the Lions were the also-rans of the division.
You can also take it a step further by examining how the team has performed by bet type for the year. We’ll stick with the same division to see how the teams fared in 2019.
|Team||Moneyline||Against the Spread||Totals|
|Green Bay Packers||13-3||10-6||6-10|
The Packers and Vikings were pretty reliable ATS bets in addition to on the moneyline. Spread bettors on the Bears and Lions didn’t exactly have great seasons. Meanwhile, the team with the poorest overall record was the most reliable in terms of betting on the Over.
You can also go even further by seeing how the team has performed on certain splits by bet type, such as ATS records home and away, totals for divisional games, and so on. Also, you can check out the records on all splits for the team in the role of favorite or underdog.
All of these things can be easily monitored throughout the course of the season. There are a number of exceptional resources to be found on the internet which track all of the above and then some, so be sure to use them to your advantage.
So how do you know when a trend is one to make note of or one to be dismissed as little more than noise? Unfortunately, there’s not a one size fits all answer.
When we approach how to bet on an NFL game from a handicapping perspective, it should be treated as its own unique event in which anything can happen. We need to approach trends in a similar fashion. They each need to be treated on their own and be closely monitored as they develop.
When they get to the point that they are so overwhelming that there’s clearly something there, it’s time to pounce. As a quick example, a team that has won its first three home divisional games could be in line to turn the trick again when the fourth one rolls around.
As part of your weekly handicapping process, make note of team marks in certain situations, as well as by bet type. If you get in the habit of doing this, trends that bear watching will begin to jump out at you.
From a broader perspective, think of it in the same way that an NFL season develops. By the midway point, we have some really good clues on whether teams fall into the camp of the have or have not for the season.
As November winds down, it becomes even more readily apparent. By this point, we also have plenty of recent data to lean on. The season-long trends emerge as time moves along, so take the time to stay on top of what’s what.
Definable trends can be valuable pieces of information to use while handicapping games. However, it’s essential to know the distinction and not make the mistake of going too far down the rabbit hole looking at trends that aren’t there.
Quite simply, trends take time to materialize.
For instance, teams in the same division play each other twice each season. Let’s say Team B dominated Team A both times they faced off the prior year. Would it mean Team B is an automatic bet when facing Team A from here on out?
Of course not.
Team A has had an entire offseason to adapt and evolve, not to mention stew over the fact that their division rival made them look silly twice the previous season. Each time a game gets underway, it’s a whole new event. You should treat it as such.
In addition, some teams don’t face off often. For inter-conference games specifically, be careful with how much weight you put on historical matchups between the two squads.
While it may be interesting to know one team holds a 4-1 advantage over the other for the previous five meetings, it doesn’t mean much when they are only playing each other every few years.
We also need to be careful about placing too much emphasis on which way the money is flowing. After all, if the public’s NFL bets were always spot on, then sportsbooks would take a beating week after week. That doesn’t happen too much, so keep it in mind when you consider following the money.
Consider it in the context of the week’s handicapping, but don’t let public sentiment be the overwhelming factor in your decision-making.
Throughout the season, trends will prove to be quite helpful. If a team is showing dominance at home, ATS, or as a favorite or an underdog, it’s definitely a situation worth monitoring.
The same applies to trends involving the amount of money people are wagering. If a dominant team is facing off with a weaker foe with a reasonable line, a lot of the money can fall on the side of the better team.
This case is when it can be a good idea to follow the money. However, it’s also important to not consider these games as being automatic.
Don’t be afraid to dive in and try to find information that others may be missing. After all, spotting the upsets that others aren’t expecting can be quite lucrative.
In all cases, be sure the trend is not only valid but that it means something. Trends will take time to develop. Don’t feel the need to jump the gun on a situation that has yet to prove itself.
If a team has won two division games in a row, they may be on the winning track.
However, it doesn’t mean they’re a sure winner in division games from here on out. If a team is 4-1 after five division games, that’s a trend worth paying attention to as they get ready for their sixth game versus a familiar rival.
For the public sentiment, be sure to understand why the money is flowing the way it is.
Is there a piece of irrefutable evidence that points to one team being stronger than the other? Has there been a major injury — quarterback, offensive line, a key piece on defense — which could legitimately alter the outcome of the game?
Once you know for a fact why the money is going where it is, it will then be time to decide if you agree or disagree. If it’s a dominant team facing a weaker squad with a reasonable line, there’s a good chance you’ll want to take notice.
When there’s a significant injury at play and the money is moving toward the other team, the public sentiment can surely be on to something.
Trends are a valuable part of any NFL handicapping strategy, but keep in mind the importance of spotting the real ones versus those which amount to little more than noise.