The NFL is one of the most popular sports leagues in the United States, and its fans are some of the most loyal and passionate in the world. Each year, the NFL crowns a champion at the end of the season, and the betting public gets a chance to witness the tremendous talent and competitive spirit that these players embody on the football field.
However, just because the sports betting public knows a lot about the NFL, that doesn’t mean they know everything there is to know about NFL betting trends. As the season draws closer and closer, it’s time to shed some light on the subject, and here’s where we can start.
The Overall Trend
One of the most noticeable trends this past season was the public’s shift in focus to the spread option. With the help of new innovations and technology, teams are able to get the ball into the hands of their skilled playmakers more effectively than ever before, and it showed in the betting statistics.
In 2018, the spread option was featured heavily in the NFL, and Vegas sportsbooks saw a 7.8 uptick in terms of action on these plays compared to 2017. Additionally, the number of scores of 20+ points by a 10+ point margin increased by 19% in 2018, which is quite the rise from the previous year.
Now, spread options aren’t a wholly new concept in the NFL. The option to throw the ball deep into enemy territory has been a part of the league’s playbook for years, but these innovative plays have become considerably more appealing to the betting public as teams are able to take advantage of their size, strength, and speed.
Passing Game Trends
One of the most interesting developments over the past year has been the resurgence of the pass-happy offense. Typically, teams in the NFL have moved towards a more balanced attack as the modern NFL has become more pass-happy, but this trend seems to be bucking that trend.
Starting with the 2017 season, the number of pass plays per game increased by 2.3% from 364.9 per game to 374.6, which is the highest level since 2006. While the run game still enjoys a considerable amount of respect and popularity in the NFL, the pass game has become a potent force in recent years.
This development can be attributed to a number of factors. First and foremost, defensive improvements by teams have made it easier for offenses to move the ball down the field. Additionally, the growing use of analytics and game-planning software by teams has made it possible for them to identify their strengths and weaknesses, which enables them to tailor their game plan to exploit those strengths.
The Red Zone
Another interesting development in terms of betting trends this past year has been the rise of the “Red Zone”. The red zone is the area of the field directly in front of the opponent’s goal line, and it has long been used as a place where scores are easier to come by. In 2017, there were 25 red zone scores, which is the highest total since 2008, and the increase can be primarily attributed to the offenses adapting to the rise in usage of multiple wide receivers and faster-paced, up-tempo football.
Teams are able to take advantage of these dynamics by moving the ball down the field and into the red zone more frequently, which leads to increased scoring opportunities. Additionally, the quick-hitting nature of the red zone makes it easier for offenses to pull off the upset, which increases the value of these scores.
Tebow, the popularized internet meme and former NFL quarterback, was one of the biggest movers and shakers this past year, as his support staff worked hard to capitalize on his popularity. Before the start of the 2017 season, there was no guarantee that he would become the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, given that they already had a veteran duo of Joe Flacco and Brock Osweiler, but once the season started and he led the Broncos to a 5-1 record, everyone knew exactly who was calling the plays for Denver.
Osweiler had, by all accounts, a disappointing year, and it was a surprise when he started 10 games for the 1-5 Houston Texans in 2018. That left Tebow with an opportunity to prove himself as a starter in Denver, and he took advantage of the situation, posting a 10-1 record before the season’s end and finishing as the second-highest rated passer in the league behind only Drew Brees.
While the NFL is one of the most popular and studied leagues in sports, this does not mean that the numbers speak for themselves. With the help of companies like Stats Incorporated, teams are able to gain a better understanding of how the game is actually being played, and it enables them to make more informed betting decisions.
For example, while the overall passing game saw an uptick, many of those passes were relatively short yardage situations, as evidenced by the fact that 2018 was the lowest-scoring season in the history of the NFL. Additionally, a large percentage of these shorter passes were dump-offs, where the quarterback simply throws the ball away without any sort of intention to complete a pass. For these reasons, many sportsbooks view the overall 2018 passing game as a relatively neutral proposition.
Additionally, many of these passes were aimed at wide receivers going up against zone coverage, which the Stats analysis tool Next Stats shows is a relatively low-risk/high-reward strategy. So while the overall passing attack was able to generate favorable numbers of yardage and points, it also had a high error rate that likely hurt the profit margins of those placing bets on these plays.
With all of this in mind, it’s clear that the NFL is a difficult league to predict. While there are many examples of teams that can be very clearly identified as either “good” or “bad”, there are just as many examples of unpredictable teams, which makes it difficult for the layperson to know whether or not they will win a particular game.
With all of this information in mind, let’s examine how to make the most informed betting decisions possible when placing bets on NFL games. As we mentioned above, while there are many teams that are relatively easy to identify, there are just as many teams that are difficult to project. To assist fans and gamblers in making the right choice, online sportsbooks have developed tools like odds comparison and other types of prop bets that can help discern the best value of a particular wager. For example, if you’re looking to bet on the New York Jets, you definitely don’t want to place a bet on them against the Indianapolis Colts, as the Jets have a massive underdog story, but if you’re looking to bet on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you might want to consider placing a wager on them in a neutral-field game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Where To Bet
As we’ve established, the NFL is a difficult league to predict, and it’s a bit of a crapshoot as to where you should place your bets. Because of this, it might be best to look at online betting options that provide a greater range of games and lines, as this ensures that you’re not stuck with just one or two options for each game. Additionally, if you’re looking to place a wager on an NFL game, your best bet is to head over to a sportsbook that is fully accredited and operating within the states of Nevada and Delaware, as these two states have very open gaming laws and there’s less chance of being censored or prohibited in any way. Finally, if you want to place a wager on the NFL, be sure to do so in stages. Place a small wager on the first half of the game, then adjust your wager according to how things are going. If your initial half-wager was on New York Jets and you’re sitting at +3.5, you might want to increase or decrease your wager accordingly, as your half-wager is not likely to earn you as much money as a wager placed at the end of the game, when the over/under is finally settled.
So, there you have it. We looked at some of the more interesting trends and developments that took place in the 2019 NFL season and how it might affect your betting decisions. While there are certainly many more trends and developments to cover, these are some interesting takeaways that can help you make the right decision when it comes to betting on the NFL.