NFL Betting Against the Public 2003-06

Two years ago, bettors called the 2005 NFL season the “Year of the Favorite.”  Last year, in 2006, the dogs got their bark back.  In this article, we’ll take a look at how NFL underdogs have done over the years.  In addition, we’ll study how’s strategy of “Betting Against the Public” has added value over the years.  Our research is based on almost 2,300 games going back to the 2001 NFL season.  The information on this site is for entertainment and educational purposes only.  Use of this information in violation of any federal, state, or local laws is prohibited.

2005 and 2006: Flip-Flop Years

We have seen academic studies that verify the bias towards underdogs in the NFL (as well as in other major sports).  The past two seasons have seen some extremes in the NFL.  2005 saw underdogs perform poorly (favorites covered at more than a 57% rate!).  And then 2006 saw the underdogs come back with a vengeance, covering the point spread almost 56% of the time.

Here is a table of NFL underdog performance over the past few years.

Table 1: NFL Underdogs vs. Point Spread

Year NFL Underdogs
2001 53.0%
2002 55.8%
2003 53.2%
2004 50.0%
2005 42.8%
2006 55.9%

Betting Against the Public in the NFL

Over the past 4 seasons, betting on dogs would have resulted in a 51.3% winning percentage.  If you Bet Against the Public (in the NFL, most of these plays would be on the dog, at the 75% level), you would have hit 55.4% over the past three years (see Table 2, below).  Results are fairly consistent each year, with Betting Against the Public adding about 4% value per year.

This shows that Betting Against the Public can be beneficial to your handicapping.  As you can see, the results can jump around from season to season.  This is partly due to the relatively low number of games during the NFL Season.  It’s also the nature of any investment:  there is both risk AND return.

Table 2: Benefit of Betting Against Public (vs. Spread) at 75% Level

  All Dogs Dogs, Bet Against Public
2003 53.2% 61.8%
2004 50.0% 50.0%
2005 42.8% 48.1%
2006 55.9% 69.8%
2003-2006 51.3% 55.4%


We do not guarantee that the trends and biases we’ve found will continue to exist.  It is impossible to predict the future.  Any serious academic research in the field of “market efficiencies” recognizes that inefficiencies may disappear or fade over time.  Once inefficiencies are discovered, it is only a matter of time before the market corrects itself.  We do not guarantee our data is error-free.  However, we’ve tried our best to make sure every score is accurate.