How To Handicap Football

Before we get into detail about handicapping football, we’d like to
start by making two important points.

  • Handicapping is not as complicated as might think.
  • Handicapping takes time and effort.

There are two common misconceptions about handicapping.
One is that you have to be some kind of genius to do it, and this
is completely false. That’s why we’ve made the first point above.
Many people don’t even both learning how to handicap football, for the sole reason that they think it’s too

The other misconception is that handicapping is just about following some kind of set formula or system that
basically tells you what to bet on. This is not the case at all. While you can develop specific formulas or
systems to help with your decision making process, there is more to handicapping than just that. It doesn’t
have to be difficult, as we’ve just explained, but it does take time and effort. There is a lot to assess and
analyze if you are going to handicap football games effectively.

In this article provide the information and advice that can help you become a successful football handicapper.
We start by explaining exactly what sports handicapping is, and then look at how it can help you when
betting on football. We then provide some tips and advice for how to go about developing your own
handicapping techniques.

What is Sports Handicapping?

It’s difficult to provide a precise definition of sports handicapping. It’s not about doing any one single thing, or
following a specific set of rules. Handicapping is essentially a combination of processes and techniques that
can help you to make better decisions when betting on sports.The basic idea is to consider all the factors
that can affect the outcome of a sports event, and then determine exactly what effect each one might have.
Doing this gives should give a clearer picture of what to bet on.

There isn’t really a “right” way to handicap sports. There are some general principles you should adhere to
but you ultimately need to develop your own methods. It’s part science, and part art form. Some of the
processes and techniques are purely mathematical, while others are subjective and opinion based.

Recommended Reading

We cover some of the mathematical techniques, that apply to all forms of sport, in our article on the basics
of handicapping the market
. Reading this article will give you a solid grasp of the more fundamental
aspects of handicapping.

The subjective aspects of handicapping are the hardest to master. There are many books and websites that
contain information on certain methods you can use to handicap sports, but the problem with using methods
developed by other people is that they might not work for you. You ultimately need to develop your own
methods, as that’s the only way to be truly successful. In any case, you can be almost certain that the most
effective handicapping methods are not published anywhere.

Successful bettors rarely share their secrets

That’s why this article is focused on teaching you all the things you need to consider rather than just giving
you a fixed guide to follow. Actually learning how to handicap properly for yourself, and not just relying on
doing what others to tell you what to do, will be far more beneficial in the long run.

How Does Handicapping Help?

As we’ve already mentioned, handicapping can help you to decide what to bet on. That’s pretty much its sole
purpose, in fact. The only real aim when betting is to make good decisions, and if you can consistently do
that then you will almost certainly make money in the long run.

Making a good betting decision is not quite as simple as predicting what’s going to happen though. Obviously
you need to make accurate predictions if you’re going to be successful, but there’s more to it than that. You
need to think about how likely a possible outcome is, and then compare that likelihood to the implied
probability of the relevant odds. This is how you identify value, which is arguably the most important part of
sports betting.

Further Information

If you’re not familiar with the concept of value, please read our article explaining the roles of probability
and value in sports betting

You should understand that when bookmakers set the odds and lines for a football game, or any sports event,
they are effectively creating a market. Your goal is to find out where the value lies in that market. To explain
this further, let’s use an example. We’re looking at an upcoming game where the Kansas City Chiefs are
playing at the New England Patriots. The odds are as follows.

Chiefs vs Patriots
Point Spread
Chiefs (+3)
Patriots (-3)

The Patriots are the favorite here, and our initial instinctive view is that they’re going to cover the spread.
Now, the average recreational bettor would think no further than this. Having taken a view, they’ll simply back
that view by placing the relevant wager. So, assuming they had the same view as you, they’d place a wager
on the Patriots to cover.

They may well prove to be right, and they’d take their payout and be happy that they won. There’s nothing
wrong with this at all, but it’s not an approach that will be successful in the long run. They haven’t given any
consideration to whether their wager had any value at all.

If you were handicapping this game properly, then taking the view that the Patriots are going to cover would
only be the first step. The next step would be to work out how likely they are to cover. There are numerous
ways you could do this, but let’s say that you’ve developed a relatively simple handicapping technique based
on yards per point. This works by giving each team a rating based on their yards per point statistics, which
you calculate as follows.

Step #1

Calculate a team’s offensive points per yard by dividing their offensive yards gained by the
number of points scored.

Step #2

Calculate a team’s defensive points per yard by dividing their yards given up by the number of
points conceded.

Step #3

Subtract defensive points per yard from offensive points per yard for a rating.

Your technique involves then calculating the difference between the ratings of two teams. In this case the
rating for the Patriots is +2.3, and for the Chiefs it’s -0.7. So the difference is +3 in favor of the Patriots.

Let’s assume that you’ve carried out research that shows that teams with a +3 advantage or greater in this
rating win by three points or more 65% of the time. So there’s a (theoretical) 65% chance that a wager on the
Patriots will win or push, and the implied probability of the odds is 52.38%. When the chances of a wager
winning is greater than the implied probability of the odds, value exists. So in this case backing the Patriots to
cover would be the right thing to do.

Please note that the data used in the above example is hypothetical. It’s purely to illustrate how handicapping
techniques to make good betting decisions and spot where the value is. Now that we’ve explained that, it’s
time to look at exactly how you can develop your own football handicapping techniques.

What is Sports Handicapping?

If you’re going to have any chance of becoming a successful football handicapper, you have to know your
stuff. You can’t expect to accurately assess what’s going to happen to in games, or over the course of the
season, if you don’t fundamentally understand the game. So here’s some initial tips that you really should

  1. Watch as many games as you can
  2. Read games reports
  3. Learn about the teams, players and coaches

If you’re a major football fan then then you probably already do the first two things on this list, and you’re
probably already familiar with many of the teams, player and coaches too. If you’re not, though, then you
should to get into the habit of watching games and reading match reports as soon as you can. This will give
you real insight into the sport and its participants, and that insight will prove invaluable when trying to
handicap games.

This is an ongoing process too. A lot of things change every season, you so need to stay up to date. This is
one reason why we recommend learning how to use the off-season effectively when betting on the NFL. You
want to be aware of roster changes and coaching changes, and you want to start analyzing the potential
effects of them as early as possible. A new star quarterback, for example, could make a team much stronger
for the upcoming season. A new coach may mean an entirely new playing style, which may make a team
more effective against certain opposition but less effective against others.

Knowledge really is power for a football handicapper,
so you want to know as much you can about the sport.

You also need to understand the various factors that can affect the outcome of football games, and the
important team and player statistics that can be used in handicapping. Here are just a few examples of these,
in no particular order.

  • Motivation
  • Schedules
  • Injuries
  • Weather
  • Current Form
  • Home Advantage
  • Yards per attempt
  • Passing yards
  • Rushing yards
  • Yards per carry
  • Sacks per game
  • Turnover differential

For a more detailed look at all of these, and more, you should read our article on the factors and stats to
consider when handicapping football
. It’s only with a real understanding of them that you’ll be able to develop
and use your own handicapping techniques effectively.

Once you have that understanding, the work really begins. We mentioned earlier that our goal is to teach
you how to handicap for yourself, rather than just tell you what to do, and we should now explain further
why this. It’s not because we don’t want to give you the best chance of making money, as that’s precisely
what we ARE trying to do. We could simply share the techniques that are working for us currently, but there’s
a major problem with doing that.

Handicapping techniques need to be constantly reviewed
and adjusted.

It’s really hard to find value in football betting markets, because the bookmakers are very good at what they
do. Take the example we gave earlier of using yards per point stats to handicap point spreads. If such a
simple system was able to consistently beat the bookmakers, they’d soon work it out for themselves. Then
the lines they set would take that into account, so the technique probably wouldn’t be useful anymore. You’d
have to look at other factors and stats too, and use yards per point in conjunction with them.

The only way to consistently make money from handicapping is to consistently stay one step ahead of the
bookmakers. That’s incredibly tough to do, and there’s certainly so no easy step by step guide we can give
you for doing it. It absolutely can be done, but you HAVE to put in a lot of effort. You need to do a lot of
research and analysis, look for trends and patterns, come up with theories, and then put those theories to
the test. And, when you find something that works, keeping fine-tuning it.

That’s really what successful football handicapping comes down to. There’s no magic system that’s going to
tell you what to bet on each week. It’s about working hard enough so that you have the ability to spot when
there is value in market, based on your own analysis and assessments. If you’re patient and committed, then
you will find that value.