NFL Key Numbers

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

NFL Betting: Key Numbers

For longtime viewers of the NFL, it will come as no secret that games are decided a lot by the same amount of points. Three points is the most common margin of victory, followed by 7, which makes sense. It’s like soccer games, just with different point values. With a field goal, look at it as a half-point. If a team wins 24-14, that’s really 3.5 to 2 in terms of scores. Rarely do you see a 4-0 game, which would be 28-0 in football terms.

After 3 and 7, the next most common margins of victory are 6, 10, and 4. In about 40% of all games, these will be the margins of victory. You know it, but so do the sportsbooks. They are well aware that bettors hate being on the wrong side of these numbers. The bookie knows you would rather be -2.5 than -3 or +3.5 than +2.5. Bettors like to be +7.5 and not +6.5.

There is a psychology involved with this and it’s not easy to figure out. You see that a ton of games fall on these certain margins, so naturally, you want to be on the right side, as illustrated above. However, the book knows that 60% of games don’t even fall on these margins and the chances of landing on a specific number are even less.

So you must balance the idea of being on the right side with not falling into traps. When a line is -2.5, for example, the bookie is tempting you. He knows you will feel assured in being able to win the game outright with a field goal advantage. And while some teams will win in that spot, it’s generally better to side with the bookie. But then again, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of these numbers.

One weapon at a player’s disposal is buying points. You can skew the edge in your favor by shaving a half-point or point from the spread. Say a team is an underdog getting 2.5 points. You can buy a half-point to push the spread to +3 and feel more secure. And it’s one way to avoid the bookie psychology. They don’t set lines right on the threshold expecting a ton of people to buy points. And doing what the bookie doesn’t want is always a good thing.


But with the spreads, it’s really a double-edged sword. Sometimes, there are enough good games to bet on that you don’t need to tangle with tricky spreads. The book is trying to be cute tempting you to take -2.5, -3.5, -6.5, and -9.5. You think you’re getting a favor. The book is too savvy for that.

But that would mean that doing the opposite is beneficial–if a team is at home at -2.5, take the visiting underdog at +2.5, right? That’s where your betting instincts and handicapping prowess come into play. Is -2.5 a sucker bet? Or is being on the wrong side of the hook at +2.5 worth risking? You can also just move along and play a spread that isn’t on such a key number. But it’s imperative for an astute bettor to see through the mind games.

There is a “if it’s too good to be true–it probably is” skepticism that all sports bettors possess. As we develop our NFL betting awareness, we start to develop antennas for “sucker bets.” We begin to know when we see a dangling carrot as we review the opening lines that come out early in the week. So when we see +3.5, -2.5, or +7.5, we smell a rat. Part of us likes being on the sunny side of a key number, while another side of us feels we are walking headlong into a trap. It’s a subtle game of cat-and-mouse.

Would you rather be on the right side of a hook or is avoiding playing into the bookie’s hands a more important factor? It’s a tough call. In any event, a lot of players just analyze a game and bet away with no consideration paid to these key numbers. Being aware of them and the psychology that goes into it can help you enhance your bottom line.

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