NFL Betting School: Market Shopping

Whether you are betting to have fun or betting to make a profit, winning money is the goal. So it’s important to get the best of it every time you make a wager. This is why so many of us preach having multiple Sportsbook accounts so you can shop for the best price on a game – a practice called line shopping. It’s arguably the most important and straightforward way to increase the expected value on your bets in the long run. Most bettors already know and hopefully practice this.

But we don’t often hear about market shopping. Major sporting events have multiple betting markets attached to it. For example, an NFL game typically has the spread, moneyline, total, team totals, first/second half spread/total, alternate spreads, alternate totals, game props, player props, and more. This menu of betting options provides an opportunity for value by allowing bettors to focus on the best way to capitalize on any edges they might find.

Futures markets – which I am focusing on now since it’s still June – also provide an opportunity for market shopping. You can find team win totals, alternate win totals, division odds, miss/make playoffs, conference odds, Super Bowl odds, and more. Using my 2022 NFL Futures Betting Guide, I’ll illustrate some examples of how to market shop to identify higher value bets.

Example 1: Team-Specific Outcome Ranges

For the most part, season-long projections for a team will look a bit like a bell curve. The further you get away from the projected win total, the less likely that outcome is on both sides. But the specifics of each team’s curve will vary. When evaluating the likelihood of various outcomes, it’s important to recognize the true likelihood of an outlier result. Sportsbooks can and do account for this sometimes – particularly the sharper books – but not always. So it’s possible to capitalize when they do not. Let’s talk about the Ravens and the Chiefs.

I am very high on the Ravens in the regular season compared to existing market prices. I’ve already got significant action down on them because, when healthy, they are a team that excels at beating bad opponents. With a comparatively easier schedule than their division rivals and consistency when they have the advantage, they are an ideal regular season team. Their lack of receiving weapons hurts less in this context.

But in today’s NFL, it’s exceedingly difficult to win a Super Bowl without a passing game that can stand on its own two legs. They have struggled in the playoffs because they are disproportionately affected by strong pass defenses and playing from behind. The odds of them making a three- or four-game run through a brutal AFC to the Super Bowl are low. Even if they reach their potential, they would likely not be a top-3 contender to make the Super Bowl no matter how good their regular season is.

Best Win Total (Over) OddsO 9.5 (-130)O 10.5 (-115)
True Win Total (Over) Odds-173+117
Best SB Odds+2200+1000
True SB Odds+2500+800

Looking at the odds table, I see a positive break-even percentage on the Ravens’ season win total. The true odds (-177) indicate they are more likely to go over 9.5 wins than their price (-130). But I see no value on a Ravens Super Bowl bet. Usually, these bets will have correlated value. But not when a team’s specific outcomes include more regular season success than playoff success.

By contrast, the Chiefs have a very tough regular season. They have the toughest schedule in the NFL and will need to improve their defense quickly and prove that the loss of Tyreek Hill is immaterial. Due to the difficulty of their schedule and the potential bumps in the road adjusting to new pieces, I actually see no value on their regular season win total. With such small margin for error, one or two injuries will almost certainly sink the bet.

However, they have what’s called a “fat tail” of outcomes on the positive side. If Andy Reid and Mahomes figure out their offense system with all the new weapons and Spagnuolo puts his defensive pieces together, the Chiefs could (and arguably should) be Super Bowl favorites. They need to stay healthy and overcome a tough schedule, but if they make the playoffs they’ll be one of the favorites no matter their seed. The number one most important element of a Super Bowl winning team is a quarterback who can take over a game. Mahomes can do that better than anyone.

So, if you’re bullish on the Ravens, I recommend market shopping for your favorite regular season bets (win total, division, and make playoffs). But if you’re bullish on the Chiefs, skip the regular season bets and go straight for the high-payoff Super Bowl bet or AFC Conference bet. My numbers suggest some value on the Chiefs at 10:1 to win the Super Bowl even though I’m cautious about regular season results.

Example #2: Compounding Edges

Market shopping also lets you combine multiple angles into one bet. In an efficient market like the NFL, edges are typically very small. But when those edges compound, you can find a higher value bet. Maybe you like one team against the spread but also the over in points scored. You can play both bets with small edges. Or, you might look to bet the over on your team’s total points for a larger edge. This can create some cushion if one of your angles was slightly off.

But again, since it’s June, let’s use my NFL Futures Betting Guide to identify some value in the Futures market using compounding edges. Let’s talk about the Bills.

Everybody loves the Bills. They are the Super Bowl favorites. This love is completely justified in my book because they were the most Effective team in the NFL last year over the course of the season. Sure, an easy schedule helped them out. But they have also gotten better this off-season and with Tre White returning, they are primed to deliver. But betting a season win total bet at 11.5 or 12 wins leaves almost no margin for error. I think Over is the way to go, but the edge is not big enough for me to tie up my money.

Then I look at the rest of the division. The Patriots overachieved on defense against an easy schedule and relied on keeping the pocket clean for Mac Jones and leaning on the ground game on offense. Losing two offensive linemen and some defenders is going to significantly impact this team and playing from behind is going to disrupt this offense. I don’t see them winning 10 games again.

The Dolphins had the largest negative gap between actual wins and Adjusted Wins, which is my calculation for how many wins the team would have earned against an average schedule based on their Adjusted Effectiveness over the course of the season. They were essentially a 5 or 6 win team last year. So even though they improved, the jump to 10 or 11 games is likely too much to ask. And the Jets are probably at least a year away from being true competitors in the division.

Best Win Total (Over) Odds11.5 (-115)
True Win Total (Over) Odds-137
Best Division Odds-180
True Division Odds-302

Relative to the market, then, I’m optimistic on the Bills and pessimistic on both of their prime competitors. So, compounding these small edges into an optimal bet, the best way to play the Bills is to bet them to win the division at -180. I think the true odds are roughly -302, indicating strong value worthy of locking in some cash for a while. It’s tough to lock in a lot of capital over a long period of time on a big favorite like this, but if you have the funds, I think it’s worth it.

How I’m Playing It

I only advocate for bets I’d make myself. I can’t guarantee winners, but I can guarantee that if you follow my advice, you’ll get the same results I get. So, for transparency’s sake, here are all the relevant bets I’ve released to my Members on the teams discussed in this article:

BetOddsUnitsDate Placed
BAL to win AFC N(+175)
3.8.22 (DK)
6.7.22 (DK)
BUF to win AFC E(-180) (FD)
BUF to win SB(+750) (MGM)
KC to win SB(+1000) (DK)

If you’re already a Member, you can see all of my NFL Futures bets here:

If you’re not a Member, you can sign up here:

I take pride in my work but nobody can guarantee success betting on sports. I offer advice for entertainment purposes only. If you have a gambling problem, finding winning bets is not the answer. The only answer is to stop gambling. For help, call 1-800-522-4700.

Leave a Reply