The NFL season is almost upon us and Dave Gray brings us your guide of what and how to bet on all the games this season.
"There are so many things to back when it comes to players. You could back Patrick Mahomes to throw over a certain number of yards or get multiple touchdowns in a game. Or you could be expecting a down week for Christian McCaffrey after a big workload the week before and back him to go under so many rushing yards."
We are heading towards what could be the strangest NFL season in some time. The pandemic has meant there has been no preseason games and there could well be no fans at most games. Those that do could see fans scattered around the stadium in limited numbers. It all needs to be taken into account when backing a game and particularly early in the season, it could favour those teams that have a little more experience.
We have seen a number of players opt out of the league this season due to concerns around coronavirus. Teams such as the New England Patriots have been really hit with the likes of Dont'a Hightower and Patrick Chung missing from what was a dominant defence in 2019. The eight Patriots sitting out is the most of any team. The Falcons, Chargers and Steelers are the only teams that have not had any players opt to sit the season out.
Patriots safety Patrick Chung tells me that he plans to opt out of the 2020 season. He is the sixth Patriots player to do so.? Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 28, 2020
Betting on a game
The easiest bet to make is picking one of the sides to win. But there are two types of bet when picking a game. Firstly the moneyline where you just simply pick which team you think will win. It really is as straightforward as that.
Where things get a little more complex is picking against the spread. This is betting where the teams start with a handicap. So the Chiefs might be a four point favourite over the Broncos.
This effectively means that the Broncos are four points worse (or the odds say that anyway) and they start with a four point head start. So you could back the Broncos +4, they lose by three but you would still win. Or on the reverse, the Chiefs would need to win by at least four.
A general rule of thumb is that a home team is assigned a three point advantage. So two teams that are evenly matched would likely see the home team start as a three point favourite.
This can vary from team to team with places like Green Bay being much tougher road trips for opponents than somebody heading to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers in the brand new SoFi Stadium. However, this season may see little or even no home field advantage for a lot of teams. With no fans in attendance, the usual noise that a road team would face on a big third down or deep in the fourth quarter will not exist. Conditions will obviously still play their part, but fans may not be able to.
Betting against the spread gives every team a chance of winning you a bet. The Dolphins won just four actual NFL games but against the spread had a 9-7 record last season. On the other hand you have a team like Houston who were 10-6 in the standings but won fewer than half their games on the handicap. The Jaguars are the favourites to finish with the worst record this season, but that doesn't mean they can't win plenty of games against the spread.
One of the most popular markets in the NFL is betting on the total points in a game. It doesn't matter who wins or loses, you are simply betting on how many points will be scored between the two teams. There are, of course, a lot of factors that should be looked at when picking a points total. Weather - bad weather could lead to fewer pass attempts and lower scoring games. The stadium - in general a dome game will provide perfect conditions and give the teams the best chance to score. The teams involved are obviously the biggest factor though. The Ravens led the league last season with 33.2 points per game while Washington sat in last with exactly half of that.
Defence has to be factored in as well. Teams such as the Patriots, Bills and 49ers managed to shut down so many teams last season and as well as limiting their opponents it can also mean their offences do not push as hard and can always bring the total points down. Working out which defences are going to be the most dominant this season could give you a real head start in the totals markets. The Ravens have made big improvements this offseason, despite the release of Earl Thomas this week and could be one to watch on that side of the ball.
One really good place to bet is on individual performances from players. This could be backing a player to score the first touchdown, or any time. You can even combine these with the winner of the game to give a bet similar to a scorecast in football.
There are so many things to back when it comes to players. You could back Patrick Mahomes to throw over a certain number of yards or get multiple touchdowns in a game. Or you could be expecting a down week for Christian McCaffrey after a big workload the week before and back him to go under so many rushing yards. There really are very few stat categories you will not be able to back or back against. This can be a really good way for you fantasy football fans to bring that research and knowledge into betting.
Keeping an eye out for injuries is a way you can really take advantage of these markets. A late injury for Julio Jones may mean that Calvin Ridley will see a lot more work and could be a good bet to get a touchdown or more yards than usual.
Player props are where you can really find some big odds as well. If you think a defence or special teams may score the first touchdown, you can get prices as big as 25/1 just for that coming in. While they can be unpredictable, there are some teams and players that really do score at a high rate and doing your research can really pay off in the player bets.
Whether it is a season long bet or just for an individual game, it isn't always as obvious as just going with the best players or teams. When I picked Jameis Winston to lead the league in passing last season it wasn't because I thought the Buccaneers would be great. But the team would often end up in shootouts, whether that was through Winston's interceptions or the up and down defence.
It meant that they would be throwing a lot and that meant that players like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as well as Winston himself, brought a lot of value in betting markets. Predicting the flow of the game can be important in all of these bets, but in the player bets it is vital. A team to really look out for could be the Bengals and the first overall draft pick Joe Burrow. The defence does not look too good but the offence has a lot of talent. That is a recipe for a lot of high scoring games and players like Tyler Boyd could be a really good pick to rack up a lot of yards this season.