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Betting NFL Favorites

NFL Wagering: Pitfalls of Betting Favorites

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

When we bet on the NFL, we’re going to have to take some favorites. Something would be wrong betting only on underdogs. When we bet on favorites, we’ll naturally be giving points. In other words we’re down before the game even starts. Since the favored team is perceived as having an edge, that often works. Other times, we’re going to be pained by our predicament.

A team that is a favorite is obviously playing an underdog. Certain feelings come when playing an underdog and none of them are particularly good. The favored team might not have the same fire lit under them as was the case when playing a more formidable team. The underdog team might not command the favorite’s full respect. As a bettor laying points on the favorite, that can be a big problem.

Bet on NFL football long enough and you’ll see it happen time and again. Maybe you take a team that is -7 on the point-spread. Their opponent is not very respected, so the favored team starts out flat. The underdog team get off to a fast start. It’s 3-0 and now you’re 10 points off on the spread. They get a touchdown to make it 10-0 and now you’re 17 points off. Now it’s an uphill battle.

If the underdog team scores again, your bet is probably toast. And now we’re dealing with the unpleasantness of the team you bet on just trying to stay in the game, with the chance they can come back and win it. But when you’re giving 7 points, just coming back to win the game isn’t going to get it done.

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When betting on favorites, especially when giving up more than a few or several points, there is only one way to win. Your team needs to have their act together and win by a certain number of points. An underdog, conversely, can cover the spread by winning or even just by coming sorta close. A favorite leaves you with no wiggle room.

Try and make sure that a favored team has a component of urgency behind their play. If a favored team has a few losses and is playing a hated rival, that urgency is more likely to be there that a late-season favorite with the top seed locked up playing a non-conference team. Most games will fall somewhere in between those two extremes.

It’s just when laying more than a few or several points, you want a team that has a fire lit underneath them in one form or the other. Maybe a QB is playing for his job. A new running back is eager to establish himself. A defense that is supposed to be good has been getting called out and they want to reestablish themselves. Or it could be a team-wide sense of urgency and they simply need a big win to get back on the right track.

When picking a favorite, you should be able to envision them winning by more than what the point-spread says. If you sense a toss-up nature to the game, try to avoid laying points. There’s a good chance that team is going to fall behind early and make the next three quarters an excruciating grind. Sometimes, that’s not so bad. A lot of NFL football games are like horse races, where the leader always seems to come back to the pack. But those horses win by a nose and again, when laying points, a nose usually isn’t going to be enough.

The favorite is supposed to be the better team. The public bets favorites heartily. Betting on the better team is a more comfortable feeling. We just need to remember that this isn’t boxing, where the better fighter almost always wins. It’s a team-wide sport where any number of things can run off-course.

In 16 games, a playoff team could easily drop 6 games. A team that is coming off a few 10-6 seasons is considered a good team and will be a favorite in a lot of games. They lose almost 40% of their games and a few more are probably agonizingly-close wins where they didn’t cover the spread. So what is a favorite? They’re favored to win the game outright. Let’s not forget that when we are betting against the spread, the favored team is no really longer a favorite. Favorites have a point-spread to beat and the underdog theoretically has as good a chance to cover the spread. It seems almost too elementary to pay mind to, but bettors can sometimes stand to retool their understanding of what a favorite in NFL betting truly represents.

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