12 Avoidable NFL Betting Mistakes

12 Avoidable NFL Betting Mistakes

Learn the most important football betting mistakes to avoid this season! Get tips and strategies for making smart NFL picks and identifying key NFL odds.

When it comes to betting on sports, the NFL remains king. Even with the increased popularity of online betting among many different sports, NFL betting tops the charts in volume of bets annually and that means all bettors, new and old, will be in on the action. No matter your familiarity with the greatest game or with online NFL betting, you are bound to come across these common NFL betting mistakes. But don’t worry, the following guide will walk you through all of these mistakes and how to prevent making them.

Mistake #1: Betting Solely on Your Favorite Team

If you are a big football fan, you probably already have a favorite team. You bleed your team’s colors and soak up every ounce of information that comes out of their clubhouse. You think this intel will help you make better informed bets, but sometimes your own bias can affect your ability to assess a wager. This mistake often goes both ways. At times you are much more bullish on your team than the market and you want to support them with your betting dollars. Other times you are down on your favorite franchise and your pessimism may also affect your judgement. The simplest way to avoid this mistake is to diversify your NFL betting portfolio and not to solely bet on games featuring your favorite team.

Mistake #2: Betting Too Often on the Favorites

Over the past five seasons, the favorite is 626-674-32 (.482) against the spread (ATS), and that’s why it would be a betting mistake to simply bet on favorites as a strategy. For example, in Week 13 of 2020 the 4-7 New York Giants headed to Seattle to take on the 8-3 Seahawks as 11-point underdogs. The Giants emerged victorious on the road, winning straight up 17-12. Blindly betting the favorites to win will be a losing betting strategy in the long run. To be successful, you must bet on a mix of favorites and underdogs. Read this betting guide about betting underdogs on the moneyline.

Mistake #3: Betting Against the Spread Only on Big Games

To be a winning bettor you must take advantage of the available lines in all the games on the NFL schedule, and you must be prepared to bet against the spread. Focusing your betting attention only on big games is a mistake because those games are generally the most popular for bettors of all shapes and sizes, which tends to create an even sharper line for the sportsbooks. A sharper line means it will be even more difficult for the average bettor to find an edge. Also, betting against the spread must be considered for wagers in non-big games too. Click here to learn even more about betting against the spread.

Mistake #4: Ignoring Weather, Injuries, and Stats

Another one of the biggest betting mistakes is not taking in account the latest news impacting a game. Weather conditions, like wind or rain, will greatly affect a team’s ability to move the ball down the field. The updated weather conditions will already be factored into the available line, so if you are not aware of it then you will be making a mistake. Take for example a Week 8 game during the 2020 season between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cleveland Browns. Predicted conditions of rain and high wind pushed the Totals line from a 55.5 opening line down to a line of 48 points. That’s more than a full touchdown difference! Without knowing the weather conditions, you might think you were getting a huge advantage and inclined to take the over on points. The game finished 16-6. 26 points under the already adjusted new total. Similarly, being up to date on injuries and other situational updates is crucial to analyzing NFL games.

Mistake #5: Betting Over Too Much

One of the risks in betting NFL Totals is that it is more exciting to bet on more points being scored, not less. But you have to remember that both defenses and offenses are already baked into the market line and you must avoid betting on the Over too much. In 2020, NFL Overs were 126-127-3, so you can see there is a healthy mix of games falling on either side of the given Total. With that in mind you should definitely check out this betting guide dedicated to NFL Over/Unders.

Mistake #6: Betting Too Many Parlays

Another mistake that affects too many bettors is the appeal of a huge win playing multiple outcomes in a parlay. To be a long-term successful bettor you need to win more bets than you lose, and not that many more. However, a lot of times the allure of a big win of many multiples of your wager will entice you to add bets into a parlay. A typical negative outcome would be an NFL week where a bettor could win 60%+ of their picks but ends up losing money on their bets overall if the picks are stacked in multiple parlays instead of played as straight up winners.

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Mistake #7: Poor Bankroll Management

Discipline. Perhaps the biggest mistake a bettor could make is poor bankroll management. This might hurt the most because it is one strictly within your control. Betting a consistent unit size across your wagers is crucial to successful online betting. The key is to consider what the current size of your bankroll is and then allocate it into 1-5% unit sizes. The most conservative approach would be to play a 1%-unit size, but up to 5% is still a reasonable amount. You may have certain wagers you are more confident in where you bet a multiple of your unit size, but it should never be more than 2 or 3. You will have other wagers you assess to be more risky, or with a higher return, that you wager half a unit on. The absolute key is sticking to your unit size and not chasing if you lose a few in a row. Stay consistent and disciplined and as your bankroll grows your unit size will grow as well.

Mistake #8: Betting on Strange Props

Every week, there are a myriad of great NFL Prop bets to wager on. These bets are unique and seem more fun to bet on, but often a bettor lacks the proper data to evaluate the sides of the wager. If you don’t have the right information to break down the bet, it will be a losing endeavor in the long run. Another issue with strange props is that many online sportsbooks do not offer even odds on both sides of the bet. If you can only place a wager on an event happening, and the opposite side is not available to bet on it’s not a great sign for long-term success. Here is a guide to making prop bets.

Mistake #9: Betting on Futures Only on the Favorites

Betting on NFL futures is a great addition to your betting repertoire, but don’t fall into the trap of only playing the favorites. When you look at the future races in the preseason it seems “obvious” who will win it all, however it doesn’t always go the way it seems. Last season just 3 of the 8 teams favored to win their division in the preseason went on to claim that title. From 2016 through 2020, the preseason divisional favorite was 18-22 (.450) to win the division. This doesn’t mean you should only bet ‘dogs, just that betting only favorites isn’t a winning strategy.

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Mistake #10: Sticking with One Sportsbook

One of the biggest mistakes a bettor can make is not shopping around for prices. This isn’t just an online NFL betting mistake, but a mistake for betting on any sport. Not every sportsbook has the same lines posted and if you set yourself up right you will often be able to find a more advantageous line for your wager. If you like the underdog you’ll be looking for a price with a much higher return, and if you are in on the favorite you will be searching for a book with a lower cost to make the play.

Mistake #11: Giving Handicappers Too Much Credit

Everybody tails somebody and there is nothing wrong with identifying successful handicappers and following their insights and picks. But it is a common mistake to overvalue a handicapper’s opinion especially if it comes at the cost of your own analysis and judgment. Even a successful bettor will lose nearly half of their games so don’t take it too harshly if their pick doesn’t align with your own. Giving a handicapper too much credit can lead to indecision and second guessing, a couple of traits that won’t help you succeed in online NFL betting.

Mistake #12: Following the Crowd

More than any other major U.S. sport, the NFL is overwhelmed with a wealth of ongoing commentary. Absorbing multiple perspectives and analysis is valuable but one of the biggest betting mistakes is submitting to popular opinion. Always keep in mind that just about 100% of the information you are privy to is already baked into the market line, including the popular sentiment. You will lose value betting these lines if you don’t have your own underlying analysis justifying your picks and instead simply choose to follow the crowd.

Do You Have What It Takes to Place a Bet?

Keeping in mind the pitfalls of these common mistakes, you should now be ready to place your next NFL bet? Find a line in Week 1 that meets your parameters? See an NFL Future to your liking (just not only the favorites)? Click here to see the latest NFL betting odds.

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