NFL Betting: NFL Tips for Betting the Underdog

Jordan Sharp

Monday, July 22, 2013 4:04 PM UTC

Monday, Jul. 22, 2013 4:04 PM UTC

Now that we are through with our team coverage, it is time to look at NFL betting strategies as we near the 2-13 season. Let's start with how & why to bet the "Dog".

When pulling up the week’s NFL Betting card, (We have all done it. It probably happened a million times last season, and it will happen just as much this season.) we look at a favorite of a touchdown or more and we say, “That’s a lock! There is no way they won’t cover!”

The sportsbooks are laughing at all of us when we say this, because that’s the way they want us to think. They look at all of their analytics and while the computer may be telling them the line is -5 ½, they’ll pump it up another point or two because they know we think the favorite is better than they actually are.

Take Week 12 of last season for example. The Broncos started the season 3-3 SU, but after their Week 7 bye, they went on a run, winning four in a row SU and going 3-1 or 3-0-1 ATS heading into their game at Kansas City. The Chiefs were of course awful and everyone knew it at that time, and the line closed at -10 ½ at some books! The funny thing is, the books probably spiked this line up by several points, because it opened at -11 in some cases. They knew the public would be all over the Broncos. Six out of every ten bets went on the Broncos, and the Chiefs covered, as the game finished at 17-9 in favor of Denver.

There are many reasons to take a look at underdogs in the NFL, but the main one is that the books know the public likes to bet favorites. So this season, take a look at some underdogs, because it might be exactly what the books don’t want you to do.

Several teams that came out of nowhere were the story last season, but more importantly it was another year for the underdog. According to my calculations, underdogs were a combined 134-117-6 ATS last season. 

The teams that came out of nowhere last season were really undervalued in the NFL Odds during both the offseason and the regular season. We have them every year, and there will be some again this season. The Seahawks, Rams, Bucs, Redskins and Panthers were a combined 39-12-1 ATS as underdogs last season, and that is likely because before the season, their future odds were sky-high. Not many people pegged this teams for very good both SU or ATS last year, and it showed.

Teams that are favored this offseason will likely be most of the teams that have their lines inflated some in the NFL regular season odds. That means that looking at the underdog first in those matchups will likely be profitable. If a home underdog is +3 ½ or more in a game that is close to even on paper, most of the time that home underdog will cover.

Historically, home underdogs do well against the spread, and are one of the only bets that have a good expected rate of return. There will be games like 2012 Week 12 Broncos vs. Chiefs this season, and while the spread should have been +7 ½ or +8, it was +10, and the public lost on that game.

Finally, there are countless instances in the NFL where the underdogs sneaks into a back door cover. Teams in the NFL are so worried about image now days, (if you couldn’t tell with all the arrests this offseason) that they won’t run up scores, or play hard on a meaningless drive. Most of the time this leads to a garbage-time touchdown or field goal, which leads to you ripping up your favorite ticket. Don’t underestimate the underdogs this season, or it could end up like 2012, where underdogs cashed at a rate of 53.33%.

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