How to Choose Which NFL Odds to Bet

You have dozens, maybe even hundreds of games to choose from when placing bets on the NFL season, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the variety of odds and ends.

There’s the moneyline, the score, the total number of points scored, the total number of yards, whether the game will be halted by rain, snow, or wind, and so much more.

Odds are simply a way of measuring the likelihood that a particular event will occur. For example, the over/under is the amount of points that a team will score in the game. The bettor is usually given the choice of selecting either the team with the better odds of winning (called the “reserve team”) or the team with the most exciting odds (called the “favorite”).

After the excitement of the first few weeks of the NFL season, things can start to slow down. But that doesn’t mean that your favorites aren’t still good risks, especially if you know how to analyze the data correctly. In fact, it’s often the underdogs that prove to be the best bets. That’s because the favorites have been carefully analyzed by bookmakers and odds makers alike, and they know that most people will choose to pass on them due to their lowly status in the hierarchy of the sport.

But choosing the right underdog can be difficult. You want to choose a team with a chance to win but also realize that the bookmakers have already assessed the odds of winning and have priced the team accordingly. That’s where analysis comes in.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

It’s important to remember that there is both good and bad news when it comes to using odds to analyze the NFL. Let’s take a quick look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • Good: The good news is that odds can be a remarkably accurate way of measuring a team’s strength. Due to all the scoring and the close nature of the games, especially down the stretch, it’s often quite easy to determine how well a team is actually doing statistically. For example, the Philadelphia Eagles have an 18% chance of winning the Super Bowl this year based on the oddsmakers at Pinnacle Betting.
  • Bad: But things can go wrong in several ways when using odds to analyze the NFL. Bookmakers make their money off of action, and when there is no action, there is no money to be made. That means that they have to assess the odds accurately and price them accordingly to ensure that they make money during the season. The key to analyzing odds correctly is to realize that they don’t always tell the whole story. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory, but they only have a 6% chance of making the playoffs according to the oddsmakers at
  • Ugly: The last thing that anybody wants is a crooked or corrupt bookmaker. These guys are the reason that probability and statistics are known as the “Engineer’s Best Friend”, because they can help make sense of seemingly impossible situations. If you’re ever in doubt as to whether or not the bookmakers are being honest, you can always cross-reference the spreads with other sources (like Vegas or lines) to get a sense of whether or not they are cheating you. Unfortunately, there are many examples of crooked or corrupt bookmakers during the NFL season. Most fans are unaware of this fact, which makes them all the more likely to be taken advantage of. For example, the Cleveland Browns are currently +500 against the spread at BookMaker but only +1200 according to the Vegas odds. That’s a sign that something isn’t right.

The Truth About The Favorite

One of the most important things to keep in mind if you decide to use the odds to analyze the NFL is that the favorite is not always the best choice when it comes to placing a wager. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. That’s because bookmakers have to make sure that their customers continue to come back, and one way of accomplishing that is offering the best odds for the favorite. But just because a team is listed as the favorite doesn’t mean that they’re guaranteed to win.

For example, the Chicago Bears are currently the Super Bowl favorite at +600 but only have a 22% chance of winning the big game according to the odds at Pinnacle Betting. So even though they’re the favorites, people aren’t biting on them because the odds are against them.

The key to choosing the right favorite is to look for teams that are priced attractively but have a chance of winning. For example, the Kansas City Chiefs are currently +2500 at Pinnacle but only +5000 according to the Vegas odds, so although they have a good chance of winning, the odds are still against them. From a betting standpoint, that makes them a very attractive +2500 option.

The point of this article isn’t to tell you which team to bet on or avoid. That’s a choice that you’ll have to make yourself based on your own research and analysis. But what it is trying to do is illustrate how complicated choosing the right team can be and how one wrong move can cost you big time. For example, if you’ve been following our articles, you know that we strongly recommend against betting on the New York Jets due to their ineptitude on the field and propensity for blowing leads. When you’re choosing an underdog team to back, it’s important to keep all that in mind.