NFL Football Handicapping Formulas

Betting on the NFL can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be! Handicapping your own NFL matchups is one way to find your own unique angles on a matchup to try to take advantage of.

There are endless ways to handicap an NFL matchup, so we’re going to try to break down NFL football handicapping formulas and how you can easily dissect any matchup to find your perfect bets.

For those who don’t already know, handicapping an NFL matchup is the act of finding an edge on the betting lines of the sportsbook. Wikipedia describes handicapping as the “various methods by which spectators can predict and quantify the results of a sporting match”. Basically, it is the act of calculating stats and considering a number of other variables in order to better predict an outcome of a game. The point of handicapping is to give you, the bettor, an improved chance of betting correctly, as you have a firmer grasp on predicting the matchup after breaking it down.

Usually, NFL football bettors will be handicapping games for three main types of bets : The moneyline, over/under, and spread. When handicapping, each of these three types of bets will take the following influential variables into consideration. These important variables that heavily affect NFL games are the teams’ schedule, matchups (coaches and players), stats, weather, home field, and historical data of matchup. These aren’t the only factors to consider, but they are some of the most important, and should not be skipped over.

With these variables, bettors will make their own handicapping formulas to find their own betting lines for moneyline, Over/Under, and spread of any matchup in question. After applying this formula, compare your unique lines to that of the sportsbooks, taking advantage of outstanding differences between the two.

NFL Over/Under handicapping formula

When handicapping the Over/Under, the goal is to calculate your own prediction for how many points will be scored by both teams during a game. After reaching your own Over/Under line, compare it to the Over/Under line of the sportsbooks. If your Over/Under calculation is significantly higher or lower than that of the sportsbook, consider placing a wager on your formula’s number.

Since the Over/Under line is a total of the points each team is expected to score, the handicapper will begin to break down the statistical pace in which the two teams play. Teams who possess the ball for long times and chew up clock will typically indicate a lower scoring game, while games including teams who average league-high numbers in plays ran will usually end in high scoring games.

Weather can play a huge part in handicapping an NFL Over/Under line. Passing teams will usually not be as effective when playing in extreme cold or high winds and rain. Heavy rain and snow can entirely dictate the scoring output of a game, making it one of the most important characteristics to consider when making your own lines.

For example, let’s say that the game you are looking to bet on is one between the NY Jets visiting the LA Rams, and the sportsbook has the Over/Under set at 53.5 points. For starters, bettors should be breaking down the home performances of the Rams and the away Over/Under of the Jets. Roughly take the average of how many points the Rams score and give up at home, and do the same of the Jets and their away stats. For our example, the Jets are scoring just 20.2 points in away games while giving up 31.5, while the Rams are putting up 27.4 points at home and giving up 18.1.

With these numbers, we can conclude that the Rams are likely to score at least their average of 27.4 at home, with a decent chance of going over this number considering the Jets poor defensive numbers. The Rams strong home defense will be expected to hold the Jets to their season average or lower, leaving a number of 18-22 points to represent our prediction of the Jets output. Our initial estimation would put this Over/Under at 48.9 points. To reach this point, we gave the Rams 29.8 expected points and added it to the 19.1 expected points from the Jets. If we were to stop here, our money would go on the under, as our 48.9 Over/Under is significantly less than the sportsbook Over/Under line of 53.5. This number can be further handicapped by considering additional factors.

These are just some of the baseline stats that should be considered, but this formula is never truly finished. There will always be another stat to calculate or another variable to consider when handicapping. Try to keep the formula as simple as possible, as it is possible to skew your own data by over-analysing things. Some key stats to focus on when creating your own Over/Under line is the team’s time of possession, home/away stat breakdown, statistical strengths v. opponents weaknesses, historical data of coaching matchups, and the weather. Although these aren’t the only variables to consider when predicting a matchup, they are going to be the most influential factors. 

NFL Moneyline handicapping formula

The most popular type of bet is the moneyline bet. When betting on the moneyline, you’re simply betting on the winner of the game. This can sound simple, but being profitable over the long-term when betting NFL moneyline bets can be difficult. This is because of how little profit is in betting on big favorites, and how competitive the NFL is as a whole.

When it comes to picking a winner between a matchup in the NFL, some factors are much more important than others. For example, both teams have to deal with the weather, so this variable will have less impact on the moneyline than on the Over/Under. Some of the more impactful details that will help handicap an NFL moneyline bet is player and coaching matchups and history. Coaches and players have tendencies, especially when playing similar competition. Our favorite moneyline matchups to bet on always have a lopsided matchups that are consistently producing the same outcome. Peyton Manning’s dominance over the Tennessee Titans is a great example of a moneyline mismatch. Manning finished his career 13-5 against their divisional rivals from Tennessee, and his consistent wins is what makes him the perfect example for this moneyline technique. 

One other whitty technique that constantly delivers year after year is betting on NFL underdogs who are playing at home. During the 2019-20 NFL season, underdogs at home went 34-57 in 91 games, winning 37.4% of these games. A 1U bet on each of the underdogs last year would have netted a profit of roughly +11U to +20U depending on what sportsbook odds used. While it isn’t wise to blindly bet with an underdog everytime they are playing at home, stats prove that doing so last year would have worked to make money last year.

*U=betting unit

We love betting the home underdogs in the NFL, but combining that strategy with the studying of the impactful variables that we’ve suggested are bound to take your NFL moneyline game to the next level.

Picking moneyline bets is hard to do without getting emotions involved, but it must be done. In the end, numbers are going to out-perform emotional decisions based on previous opinions and biases. The most important variables to consider when handicapping the moneyline is the individual player matchups, the latest injury reports, and historical data between coaches.

NFL Spread handicapping formula

Betting on the spread of an NFL game can be the most difficult of the three categories. This is because the spread forces the bettor to take the most information into consideration before finding a concluded prediction. Spread betting is betting on how close a game will be between two teams. The favorite of the game will have a (-) spread number in each game, with the opponent having the same number but with a (+). When betting the favorite on the spread, this number represents the points that the team must win by (or more) to beat the spread, while the underdog has to stay that many points (or better) within the favorite on the scoreboard to beat the spread.

On top of running the same formula for the NFL spread as you did with NFL Over/Under betting, one very popular trend to add onto these tactics is to fade the public, especially in cases with 11+ points between the spread. Many times, the public will get carried away betting for a good team and against a bad time. This can be seen in spread lines, as spreads larger than -11.5 are indications of what we’re looking for here. These large lines are often an overrepresentation of the better team, giving way to the hype that the public loves to lean on.

Instead of going with the blowout, consider the fact that all of the players in the NFL are paid professionals who are, for the most part, very close in talent and ability on both teams. When you have players playing for their career instead of an extracurricular activity in college, games are naturally closer and more competitive. Keep this in mind the next time you place a wager on a spread bet in the NFL.

In reality, there are endless ways to handicap an NFL matchup. This breakdown is one practical way to handicap that can apply to many different types of NFL bets, and it can be added upon for even better results. Other popular handicapping methods include betting against the public, betting based on line movements, and much more. The best bettors work out their own unique handicapping strategy that relies on a bit of everything, so don’t be afraid to mess around a bit before you’ve locked in on your best handicapping method.