NFL Betting Against the Public 2003-08

In this article, we update our results for NFL underdogs and “betting against the Public.”  SportsInsights’ philosophy of finding contrarian value in the sports marketplace continues to add value in the NFL and all major U.S. sports.  In addition to “betting percentages” as an indicator, we look at how “line movement” can be used to help with your handicapping.  Our research is now based on about 2,800 games going back to the 2001 NFL season.  Our database includes SIs’ exclusive betting percentages going back to the 2003 season.

Take the Underdog?

Years ago, there seemed to be an edge if a bettor took the underdog.  We have seen academic studies and research that verify the bias towards underdogs in the NFL (as well as in other major sports).  The past few seasons have seen some extremes in the NFL.  2005 saw underdogs perform poorly (favoritescovered 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.  Over the past six years, since 2003 when started compiling “betting percentage” data, dogs have covered the point spread at a 51.1% rate — a far cry from the low-to-mid 53% to 55% win-rate we saw in the early 2000’s.Here is a table of NFL underdog performance since 2001.  Note the general decline in underdog winning percentage.  Is the sports marketplace becoming more “efficient?”

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%
2007 49.8%
2008 50.6%
2003 – 2008 51.1%

Betting Against the Public in the NFL

In Table 1, we learned that  betting on dogs would have resulted in a 51.1% winning percentage over the past several years.  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 53.3% over the same period (see Table 2, below).  Results are fairly consistent each year, with Betting Against the Public adding about 2% 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.  We hope that our readers and Members will use SportsInsights’ tools and betting percentages to help “put the wind in their handicapping sails.”

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

Year 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%
2007 49.8% 53.7%
2008 50.6% 42.1%
2003 – 2008 51.1% 53.3%

Another NFL Market Indicator: Line Moves

SportsInsights typically focuses on “betting percentages” as a sports marketplace indicator that helps us in our quest to find contrarian value in the marketplace.  Another key indicator in the sports marketplace is “line movement.”  This is particularly important in the NFL marketplace, which is the most popular — and thus, most liquid — sports market in the U.S.  Any “line movement” is fairly significant because:

  • The casinos and sportsbooks take a large volume of bets on professional football games,
  • Point spreads are relatively low (especially when compared to TD’s 7-points and Field Goal’s 3-points), and
  • Movements around the “key football numbers” of 3, 7, 10, 6, etc. are important.

Below is the performance of how a simple method of following “small line movement” in the NFL sports marketplace would perform.  A line movement of even 0.5 points is significant and means that that the sportsbooks are starting to adjust their point spreads — and manage their risk — because big money is taking one side.  As you can see, “small line movement” in the NFL is fairly significant and can help your sports handicapping.

Table 3: Following 0.5 Point Line Movement in the NFL

Year Following Small Line Movement
2003 61.4%
2004 58.2%
2005 58.8%
2006 51.6%
2007 51.5%
2008 47.5%
2003 – 2008 54.8%

SportsInsights’ handicapping tools use many of these indicators (including, but not limited to betting percentages, line moves, and combinations of these indicators) to help our Members improve their odds of success.  Premium Pro Members have access to analytical tools such as our Smart Money feature (that breaks triggers down by sportsbook) as well as our Best Bets feature, where we put it all together.

NFL Sports MarketWatch Starts This Week!

The NFL Edition of SIs’ Sports MarketWatch is the flagship edition of our popular series of newsletters that look at the sports marketplace for each of the major U.S. Sports.  We completed our fourth consecutive winning season during the 2008 NFL Season, winning at a clip of 54.2% — even during the “off year” for “betting against the Public” in the NFL.  During these four years, Sports MarketWatch has connected at a solid rate of about 57%.  Dan Fabrizio and the SportsInsights team of analysts focus on a host of contrarian methods in the quest for value in the NFL marketplace.  Signup to receive the Sports MarketWatch — as well as articles — and other valuable content to improve your sports handicapping results.

NFL Sports Marketwatch  – Results for the previous four seasons

2008-09 (26-22 = 54.2%)

2007-08 (26-19 = 57.8%)

2006-07 (31-18 = 63.3%)

2005-06 (31-24 = 56.4%)

We do not guarantee that the trends and biases we have 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 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 and percentage is correct.

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