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Staying Flexible

NFL Betting: Staying Flexible

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

You've heard it said about many different jobs or skills--once you stop growing, you're finished. That's really true in NFL handicapping, where bettors need to keep evolving in order to stay ahead of the game. Yesterday's thoughts and tactics are not guaranteed to win tomorrow. The astute bettor is dynamic--constantly changing his mental outlook and tweaking how he handicaps games.

The most obvious element of this is your perception of teams. The tendency is to see a team a few times in the early season and develop an opinion. Fair enough. But an NFL team doesn't form an identity in week one and stay that way for the whole season. An NFL team can go through several manifestations throughout the long season. Being flexible is not writing opinions in concrete and never revisiting them.

A team can struggle early, only to get better later. If you're still stuck on the early-season perception of the team, you will miss the boat. Players might start gelling under a new coach and system. Injured players could come back into action. A team could have been losing from never catching a good break, but now that team could have good mojo. A team in the dumps could win and enjoy a windfall, with initial success begetting more success.

Likewise, a team that comes out strong could start slipping--almost imperceptibly. A team could grow stale. Banged-up players' form can begin to slip. If you are locked onto an appraisal and don't leave a lot of room for flexibility, You will inevitably be one step behind reality. In the NFL, things can change on a dime.

There could be a betting strategy or system that you constantly employ that starts coming up short on a regular basis. A lot of bettors like to bet against teams who are traveling across the country to face a cross-conference team on a different turf than what they play on at home. If the Vikings come to San Diego or if the Falcons come out to Oakland, they will always bet on the home team.

Another example is betting against all double-digit road favorites. A player might have success using this technique. If the Packers are in Tampa or the Patriots are at Kansas City, you always take the home dog. Or maybe you have another general guideline that tells you to never lay 10 points anywhere on teams that are known for defense. So if Baltimore was at home -11 against Jacksonville, you would take the Jaguars. These are just examples.

Make sure these patterns you lock onto are successful. If not, get rid of 'em. It can be dangerous to use these tactics. You stop seriously handicapping the games because you're locked into a certain way of thinking--a M.O. that has you picking games without really breaking them down. And there are no formulas in this business. People might say "Always take the home-dog" or "Never bet on a team in its third straight road game." You will see that nothing substitutes for good handicapping. Try to dismiss these blanket mantras people throw around.


There are no "always" or "nevers" when it comes to betting on the NFL. Adhering to pre-conceived notions is a lazy way to handicap. Or it could pollute the handicapping of a game. 
It strikes at the very heart of the nature of this league. It's erratic. Teams play with a wide range of form. Players who were on fire one week can run cold the next Sunday.

No one is saying to abandon your tendencies. Just refine them. Instead of making blanket judgments for a specific kind of point-spread, make sure the actual handicapping of the game is in line with your tendencies. It can be hard to do. It's very human to go back to a well that produces water. The well could run dry for a long time before we cease going to it. Transfer that human trait to NFL betting and it could decimate your bankroll. Stay flexible week-to-week. And just because something has been working doesn't necessarily mean it will continue to produce good results in the future.

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