Sports Betting

Consider these tips as you approach betting on the NFL openers

NFL bettors are thrilled that the first big Sunday of action is imminent. Though, New Orleans Saints fans will have to wait until Monday night’s season opener in the Superdome against the Houston Texans to get a taste of home cookin’ (ESPN, 6:10 p.m.).

That Texans/Saints game and many others this weekend (including Sunday night’s Steelers/Patriots marquee matchup…NBC, 7:20 p.m.) have been sitting near “key” numbers through the summer. Any point differential that’s a combination of field goals and/or touchdowns deserves extra attention when trying to find value betting football. That means point spreads sitting on, or within a half point of 3, 6, 7, 10…and 13 or 14 in projected blowouts.

The Saints were a seven-point favorite as of Friday.

The natural market tendency is for spreads just below a key number to get bet toward the mark. For example, if you see a favorite open at -2.5, many bettors will want to lay that number figuring a field goal gets them the money.

Same is true to a lesser extent with underdogs just above the line. We say “lesser extent” because recreational bettors preferring taking favorites. But, even “squares” will think about an underdog at +3.5 knowing that a tight game that lands on a field goal either way cashes tickets….or at +7.5 hoping they can stay within a touchdown.

Generally speaking, sharps (professional wagerers) bet very early in the process so they can attack vulnerable opening lines…then again very late in the process (minutes before kickoff) to buy back value at lines that have adjusted too far. Recreational bettors usually wait until game day to put their money down. This often creates a paradox that new bettors should keep in mind.

Let’s say a game goes up on the board early on at “favorite -2.5.” Sharps know three is a key number. If they like the favorite…they are going to immediately hit that game very hard. Sports books will move to -3 quickly. Possibly higher. But, if sharps think the dog is the superior team, they will pass the favorite and wait to see if the public drives the game higher.

So, if you see an NFL line of “favorite -2.5” on game day (or -5.5, -9.5, and so on), you can be virtually certain that the favorite is NOT the right side. Sharps would have taken out that 2.5 right away if value existed. You should wait to see if you get a chance to bet the dog at +3, or consider alternative options for the underdog (like betting them to win outright on the money line, or using them at +8.5 in six-point teasers that allow you to move the line in your favor on multiple games).

Bettors hoping make the right reads on key numbers should learn to bet early when those margins will help them, or at least develop the discipline to pass on stale lines that weren’t taken out by sharps. You can often figure out what sharps are thinking by looking at the lines they didn’t bet.

VSiN looks forward to discussing betting strategies for football (and the baseball playoffs) through the coming weeks. We want you to put the odds in your favor while you’re having fun at your favorite sports book.

Others Notes

As you monitor the betting board through this first full weekend of college and pro regular season action, remember that game-day line moves in marquee TV games are typically caused by public sentiment…while line moves in “off-the-radar” matchups are driven by sharps. If you want to learn how to think like a sharp and bet like a sharp, getting conversant in lesser college conferences is a good way to start. Developing the courage to bet ugly NFL dogs is another.

If you’re not familiar with the “teaser” proposition discussed above. These are bets where you’re allowed to move the line in your favor by 6, 7, or 10 points on multiple teams…but you must SWEEP your choices to win the bet. Sounds easy. They’re not called “teasers” for nothin’! You’d be surprised how many games don’t land that close to the number, and how often teams that have an off-week miss the spread by two touchdowns or more.

When sharps bet teasers, they tend to focus on NFL only because of less scoring volatility, and they try to cross as many key numbers as they can with their line “manipulation.”

VSiN returns Thursday for our weekly college football report. That will include recaps of this week’s action, and market previews for Kansas State/Mississippi State, Southeastern Louisiana at Ole Miss and Southern Miss at Troy.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at