NFL Public Betting Guide
If you’ve clicked on this article, you’re likely wondering what NFL public betting is and how it can influence your betting decisions.
In simple terms, NFL public betting is the trend followed by the majority of casual bettors, as opposed to the strategies used by the pros or “sharps.” Knowing how the public is betting on the NFL can give you an edge, helping you see the betting landscape from a different angle.
We designed this guide to give you the insights you need to up your betting game. So, let’s dive in and demystify the world of NFL public betting together.
When talking about NFL public betting, it is a term that generally describes either a style of betting or a single bet type that most non-professional bettors use. The “public” is comprised of non-professional bettors, each taking a piece of the action in a particular game.
Public NFL betting is generally seen as a contrast to what is perceived as “sharp” betting. The latter makes use of complex strategies, typically deployed by professionals as well as advantage bettors, to create better odds and a more likely outcome.
Public NFL betting tends to have a majority – whether that be 51% or more – of the action on one particular bet. Sharp bettors may not be in consensus on a particular bet, for instance. If you hear the term “popular betting,” it is more than likely in reference to the public action on the event.
Public bets can appear in all shapes and sizes. It might be a good team like the Kansas City Chiefs laying points against a weaker team like the Houston Texans. Or perhaps it is a game featuring two explosive offences, like a matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, and the over on the game.
Finally, there are the public favorites. These are the teams that tend to get more action from the public than other teams. There are a handful, like the Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys, that see a larger share of the tickets from non-professional bettors.
There is something of a misconception when it comes to NFL public betting. You will likely hear a lot of “how to” and “tips” articles suggest fading the public. While that is a smart thing to do from time to time, it is anything but a guarantee.
Remember, this is sports betting. Luck comes into play from time to time, and even the most improbable of results can become a reality. There is a lot more to it when it comes to fading the public, which bears a further dive into the subject below.
Sportsbook Reality VS Public Perception
There is a simple reason why fading the public is a good idea. If the public was on the winning side more often than not, sportsbooks would have a much more difficult time staying in business, let alone making substantial profits. Sportsbooks attempt to set lines in order to get equal action on the side. The books are good enough to make it look like one side is a bit too good to be true.
NFL public betting may entail the majority pounding one side of the bet slip. When that happens, the sportsbook will come out ahead more often than not. For this reason, some “sharp” bettors will automatically fade the public when making an NFL bet.
For instance, the public has an obsession with betting on overs and favorites. This is even more true when it comes to wagering on parlays. Most of us are fans at heart, and there is nothing quite like cheering on a game to have a lot of action and high scoring.
That said, sportsbooks use this information to make adjustments to lines and totals. The enticement to get bettors to make wagers somewhat mindlessly puts the sportsbooks in an advantageous situation. Popular public picks can move a line up to a point in one direction or another, offering improved value to anyone who fades the “public” betting action.
Fading the Public is Profitable
While it isn’t an automatic win to fade the public, it has proven to be a winner more often than not. Games in the NFL over the last eight seasons where one side has had 75% or more of the public support have lost between 53% and 54% of the time. The simple explanation is that fading the public leads to a win more often than a loss.
Going even further, large underdogs were some of the best bets over that time. When anywhere between 70% and 75% of the public goes with a favorite of seven points or more, the underdog covered 55% of the time.
The same trend can be seen in college football as well. Road teams that get a higher percentage of the public betting action are great picks to fade. Betting against road teams that garner up to 80% of the action netted wins of 56% over that same period of time.
Keep in mind that any betting strategy is still a risk. Moreover, the best strategies keep the long term in mind, so a win or a loss is possible at any time. By picking regularly against heavy public trends, you will find yourself on the winning side of the ledger more often than not.
Betting Against the Public Isn’t a Guarantee
Building on the last part of the section above, fading the public is not a guarantee. It really only works in obvious cases like those mapped out above. If you fade the public when the action is between 50 and 60%, you aren’t really finding any improved value.
The sharps that do the best watch for moving lines and make their wagers based on the best value. Sometimes, it is in the huge underdog; others, it is in fading the public. Whatever the case may be, it is about finding a strategy that works for your betting interests.
Now that we know about the power of fading the public, the million-dollar question becomes, “When do I fade the public?” Generally speaking, you want to be on the side of the professional sports bettors and be on the opposite side of the average public bettor. Sharp money will often be expressed as “handle” while the total bets are represented by “public.”
Let’s take a look at an example:
- Baltimore Ravens -1.5 (65% of the money, 33% of the tickets)
- New York Jets +1.5 (35% of the money, 67% of the tickets)
In this scenario, the professionals behind the Ravens with the public betting on the Jets. This is a great spot to fade the Jets since most of the money is going in the opposite direction.
Generally speaking, the best time to fade the public is when games have a higher attention rate with the public. You can count any primetime NFL games, as well as NHL, MLB, and NBA playoffs, as other examples. That said, this strategy does get overused with those who simply fade the public in every scenario.
You wouldn’t want to bet on a lesser game like the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns where the “sharp” money isn’t necessarily there. Deploy this strategy with a keen eye in mind, and it should wind up paying dividends more often than not.
So, now that we know that NFL public betting is a strategy employed by sharper bettors, it is time to branch out a bit. There are a multitude of betting strategies out there that have proven to be effective over a period of time.
Each of these betting strategies has its upsides and downsides to be aware of. Read on to find out more about some of the top strategies that you can use in addition to fading heavy public favorites during each week of NFL action.
Think Analytically, not Emotionally
One of the most common mistakes sports bettors make is letting their emotions get the better of a situation. Even the best of the best have personal biases when it comes to certain teams or players. It might be a favorite team, or it might be a rival team, but those biases can wind up costing you money on your next bet slip.
If you want to make smarter bets, make sure you are doing so objectively. You don’t need to be a major in mathematics to become an effective bettor. Sometimes, it comes down to simple common sense.
Look for the best odds and lines to put yourself in a better position. Avoid picking with your heart whenever possible, or your bankroll will come out worse for the wear.
Know your biases so that you can avoid them. If you’re a big Detroit Lions fan and desperately want them to be good this year, it will skew any potential bets that you make in their games. It might be tempting to be on teams you believe in with all your heart, but that emotion will lead you astray more often than not.
If you can help it, avoid betting on your favorite teams or the ones you can’t see objectively.
Know Where the Game Is Played – Home/Away
Home-field advantage is not some made-up myth. It’s a real thing, and it definitely matters when placing bets. In certain stadiums, it matters even more. One of the best examples of this is the New England Patriots. During Tom Brady’s run on top, the Patriots were 32-14-2 ATS (42-6 straight up) at home from 2014-2018.
Another example is the Seattle Seahawks. Since 2003, the Hawks are 103-41 playing in front of the 12th Man. That said, the Patriots and Seahawks are far from the only teams that find an advantage when playing in front of the home crowd.
Take some time to research home and away records to find big mismatches. The San Francisco 49ers, traditionally a very good team, were third-worst in the league on the road from 2014-2018, going 9-31, including 16-22-2 ATS.
Finding these matchups and knowing where teams thrive or struggle can be a major factor in placing a bet. Some teams also face very real challenges, like teams that have to travel from the West Coast to play in a 1 p.m. game on the East Coast. Some teams do better with it, while others struggle significantly.
Finally, field and condition matter. Teams that play indoors traditionally may struggle when facing an outdoor opponent, particularly in inclement weather. It isn’t a guarantee that an indoor quarterback will struggle, but it is one of those things that could rear its head to create an interesting betting matchup.
Football is definitely a team sport, but there are also individual matchups that can have a drastic impact on the final outcome of the game. Even if there are other potential mitigating factors, one decisive matchup can wind up being a difference-maker. This is why it is super important to examine all of the matchups on the field.
For instance, a bad offensive line facing a great edge rusher or a strong pass-rushing team is a great matchup for the eye. Or perhaps there is a strong receiver that is facing a susceptible cornerback. Those can be the catalyst to not only winning the game outright but covering the spread as well.
Maybe the most significant “matchup” to look for is between the coaches. Each coach has a strategy that they tend to lean on. The best coaches, however, find ways to adjust to their opposition. Bill Belichick or Mike Tomlin, traditionally great coaches, tend to find a way to win against specific coaches.
Look for head-to-head matchups between coaches to draw potential inspiration from. This is a unique factor to football as the coach has so much control.
At the end of the day, it is about being analytical and looking for an advantage. The more of these you can find, the better the likelihood of your outcome will be. And any advantage can make a difference.
Expert Conclusion on NFL Public Betting
While public betting trends can provide valuable insights, it’s crucial to remember that no strategy guarantees a win. The key to successful betting lies in a well-rounded approach that combines analytical thinking, keen observation, and, of course, a bit of luck. Understanding the dynamics of public betting can give you an extra edge.
Betting against the public means placing wagers opposite to what the majority of casual bettors are doing, often referred to as “fading the public.”
Public betting refers to the bets placed by the general public, typically non-professional bettors, on a particular game or event.
You can find information on where the public is betting through various sports betting analytics websites that track betting percentages or through sportsbooks that release this data.
An NFL bet involves wagering on the outcome of an NFL game. You can bet on various aspects like the winner, point spread, over/under totals, and more.
Betting against the odds is riskier but offers higher potential returns. It’s not advisable for beginners, but can be part of a more complex betting strategy for experienced bettors.
Most-Read NFL Guides in October 2023
Rowan is a sports betting journalist with an established presence in the sports media industry through his thought-invoking coverage and commentary surrounding major leagues like the NBA, NFL, and NCAA. While Rowan specializes in NBA, NFL, and NCAA college sports coverage, he consistently follows and reports on every major sport in North America.
Facts checked by Jake Skudder