5 Betting Pitfalls To Avoid Early In The NFL Season


What should you avoid doing in early season NFL betting? Today on the blog Jeff Fogle tells us.

Giants Stadium

Sports bettors are anxiously anticipating the start of the 2013 National Football League season. That arrives Thursday September 5 when the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens visit one of this year’s favorites to go the distance…the Denver Broncos. A lucky 13 games are on tap the following Sunday, including marquee matchups such as Green Bay at San Francisco, NY Giants at Dallas, and Atlanta at New Orleans.

The anticipation and excitement that bettors experience can create pitfalls in early season action that do serious damage to bankrolls. Let the painful lessons others have learned guide you to an intelligent approach in the new season.

Pitfall #1: Getting Tricked By Media Hype

If you love the NFL, then you’ve been watching a lot of season preview shows on TV, you’ve been reading preview magazines that have been on newsstands all summer and you’ve been scouring the internet for write-ups about contending teams or your longtime favorite. It’s essential to remember that most of this coverage is marketing rather than journalism.

TV networks want you to watch the games they’ll be televising. They’ll be emphasizing the positive, and talking optimistically about the stars you’ll be watching the next several months. Local newspapers who post their coverage online will be interviewing coaches and players who are all well-versed in how to put a public relations spin on everything. Nobody’s going to tell you they’re about to have a horrible season!

It’s very easy for sports gamblers to fall under the spell of a storyline that isn’t destined to materialize. It may seem to be a foregone conclusion that Team X is going to make a run at historical greatness this season. Everyone seems to agree. The talking heads in the studios, newspaper writers, even the coaches and players themselves are talking about what it would mean to play to their fullest potential.

For every one team that lives up to their hype, there are three or four teams (arguably more) who won’t.

Pitfall #2: Betting Too Many Games

The months of buildup and excitement will have many bettors starving for action. The schedule looks like a grand buffet, and you’re hungry! You must resist the urge to place bets all over the board. The fact that you missed professional football didn’t make beating the market any easier.

Inexperienced gamblers place too many early season bets. They hate the prospect of passing on a “lean” and then watching it win. They don’t want to watch a game on TV without having money riding on it. They did a lot of research over the summer and are convinced that they know exactly how the first month is going to play out. Guess what?

Oddsmakers are well-informed too.

Sharps (professional wagerers) spent the summer doing research and building math models.

The board isn’t going to be full of bad numbers by the time you are ready to bet.

You may have uncovered a handful of legitimate edges through your own research, or because of a deep understanding of the teams you follow most closely. It’s going to be a handful at best. Focus on the games you’re most confident about and pace yourself for the long season ahead.

Pitfall #3: Betting Bigger Amounts Than Your Bankroll Warrants

This goes hand in hand with the point above. Bettors are so excited about the return of the NFL that they bet too many games, and risk way too much money on those bets. You don’t want a bad day, or simply bad luck on reasonable picks, to destroy the bulk of your bankroll right out of the gate.

Before you’ve even looked at the schedule, spend some time mapping out a wagering strategy based on the size of your bankroll. Have a realistic assessment of what you’re willing to risk this season. Use that as a guideline to determine your standard bet size and standard weekly exposure.

Veterans in the industry still suggest something as simple as risking 2% to 5% of your overall bankroll on any individual play, and having no more than 20% of your bankroll at risk over any given weekend. That may seem too conservative for some of you. But, conservative keeps you in the game if things don’t start well.

Don’t let your excitement about the return of the NFL cause you to overbet the board, and overbet your bankroll.

Pitfall #4: Failing To Exploit The Natural Flow Of The Markets

It’s easy to forget your discipline early in a betting campaign. But, the fundamentals apply just as much to the first few weeks as they do for the entire season. If you’re serious about getting the best of the NFL markets, you need to follow the guidelines that professional wagerers have been using for years.

  • Bet Favorites early
  • Bet Underdogs late


The general public loves betting on pro football favorites. The general public also waits until the last few hours before kickoff to bet. So, if you prefer the point-spread favorite in a matchup, you need to bet as quickly as you can after the opener goes up on the board. You will get in before square money, and before any line moves that take the number higher.

Conversely, if you think the underdog is well-positioned to play a good game, you want to wait as long as possible before betting. Let the public drive that line higher so you get more points on your side.

Don’t wait around until October or November to start doing things correctly. You want to be in mid-season form from the get-go.

Pitfall #5: Overreacting To Week One Results

First impressions are the hardest to shake. Yet, the opening week of the regular season is just as likely to have outliers as any other time. Teams can get lucky breaks with turnovers. Teams can play over their heads. Teams can bring a new wrinkle that catches opponents by surprise at first, but then gets adjusted to in short order.

A couple of quick examples from last season:

  • The NY Jets crushed Buffalo 48-28 in Week One, yet would go on to have an extremely disappointing season. They would only go 5-10 straight up the rest of the way, 6-9 vs. market expectations.
  • Seattle lost its season opener at Arizona 20-16, yet would go on to be one of the big success stories of 2012. The Seahawks went 11-4 straight up and against the spread after that debut dud.



Avoiding the pitfalls outlined today can be summed up in two words. Patience and Discipline. Be sure you have an ample supply of both at the start of the 2013 NFL season.



Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JeffFogle

Jeff writes about Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, and American college sports on his StatIntelligence blog