2014 NFL Betting Against the Public Report

Before every season, the team at Sports Insights publishes a series of Betting Against the Public articles which highlights the sweet spots for contrarian betting. The ideal range differs from sport to sport, however, for NFL betting we have frequently discussed the 80/20 rule which encourages bettors to take the most lopsided bet games on the schedule. This contrarian philosophy has been a key component of our Best Bets strategy.

Since the start of the 2009-10 NFL season, our Best Bets have gone 234-196 (54.4%) for +20.5 units won. That means by simply following these bets a $100/game bettor would be up $2,050. The table below displays the year-to-year breakdown of these picks.

Year Record Winning Percentage Units Won
2013-14 44-36 55.0% +4.7
2012-13 33-29 53.2% +1.7
2011-12 33-22 60.0% +8.7
2010-11 41-37 52.6% +1.0
2009-10 83-72 53.5% +4.4

As you can see, our NFL Best Bets have been profitable in each of these seasons and our betting against the public philosophy has been a large part of this success. The NFL attracts a large number of “square” or “public” bettors, and these largely uninformed individuals can help create artificial line value for sharp bettors.

We’ve noticed that outside of baseball, home field advantage seems to be largely overvalued by bettors. While fans anticipate that a loud crowd will impact the road team, baseball is the only sport where home teams have a tangible advantage (teams constructed to utilize unique ballpark dimensions and last at-bats).

Using our Bet Labs software, we were able to quickly learn that NFL visitors have gone 1386-1331 (51%) ATS. Although this edge is not enough to cover the vig at most sportsbooks, it gave us a good starting point for our betting against the public system.

The table below displays how road teams have fared for various public betting ranges.

Betting Percentage ATS Record Units Won ROI
>40% 407-380 +4.27 0.5%
>35% 263-248 -0.42 -0.1%
>30% 139-130 +1.2 0.4%
>25% 57-39 +14.62 15.2%

It’s interesting to note that visitors receiving less than 25% are actually more profitable than our highly discussed 80/20 system. Since 2005, teams receiving between 0 and 20% of spread bets have gone 96-75 for +16.17 units and a 9.5% return on investment (ROI). If you focus solely on visitors, the system produces a 13-8 ATS record with +4.16 units won and a 19.8% ROI. While it’s nice to see the ROI more than double, the small sample size is a definite red flag.

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The screenshot below, which is taken directly from Bet Labs, highlights the value of betting on visitors receiving less than 25% of public bets.

NFL Betting Against


Over the past months, we have added a number of new and informative filters to Bet Labs. One filter we have added simply asks the question, “Did this team make the playoffs in the previous season?” Since we always advocate that bettors buy on bad news and sell on good, we chose to examine teams who missed the playoffs in the previous season. This addition led to a 52-32 ATS record with +17.07 units won and a 20.3% ROI.

At the time of publication the Tennessee Titans (+7) were receiving just 22% of spread bets as a road dog in their Week 4 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Considering the fact that Tennessee hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008, they look to be the only current game match this weekend. To keep tabs on all of this week’s action, make sure to visit our new free NFL odds page to view odds, public betting trends, injuries and more.

If you are interested in building your own data-driven betting systems, please contact our Customer Service Department at 877-838-2853 or by email at help@sportsinsights.com to schedule a free live demo of our Bet Labs software.

10/6/15 Update: This system went 1-4 during the 2014 season and has gone 1-0 during the 2015 season. Overall it has gone 54-36 ATS with +14.74 units won and a 16.4% ROI.

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David Solar

David Solar is the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He specializes in sports betting analytics and creating data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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6 comments on “2014 NFL Betting Against the Public Report
  1. Buffalo has 20% of public bets at Chicago…I’m wondering what happens when you break down your database of 80/20 or visitors under 25% by week. I’m guessing the lines don’t start to show real value until people start over- and under-rating teams based on their first game or two…I’m thinking week 3. Are these angles profitable in week 1?

  2. If the backing increases to more than 20% but the line has moved by a point or two (i.e. +5.5 goes to +7 like with San Diego in wk 2) would that play still be included? Getting free points seems to be the point of fading the public so I don’t see why it would be worse if you bet SD +7 with a 35% backing rather than SD +5.5 with a 20% backing. If anything, it’s better.

    • The second table in the article shows that historically it has not been profitable to bet road teams at the 35% threshold. Also, when the spread moves in the opposite direction of the public betting percentage it’s known as reverse line movement which is an excellent indicator of sharp money. You may be interested to know that although San Diego did not fit this system, it did fit the criteria for “Buying Low on Playoff Teams” which you can read about here: https://www.sportsinsights.com/blog/nfl-betting-public-buying-low-playoff-teams/

      • Should clarify that I don’t know exactly what the figure was for % backing San Diego, but it grew to more than 20%. I just figured that the slight difference didn’t really matter since the line had moved in favor of the original pick (San Diego at 20% or less backing) anyway. It doesn’t fit the exact 80/20 system, but the heavy public betting on Seattle gave anyone betting San Diego 1.5 free points at most books.

        I guess the better question would be does it have to be 20% or less no matter what? Only 10% of people are on the Rams right now at +1 but the line isn’t increasing, and is actually decreasing to a PK at some books. You’re still fading the heavy public favorite, but you’re not getting any extra points right now. I know what the data says, but how much does the actual percentage matter if the line doesn’t move? If there’s no reasoning behind fading the heavy public favorite other than the data, it seems like you might have an issue in the future because it could just be a trend. The logic behind fading to get the points makes a ton of sense as it adds up in the long run, but I don’t see it if you’re simply betting one side despite no line movement just because everyone is on the other side.

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