High-stakes NFL action will dominate our TVs over the next three weekends. There's a pair of very important playoff games, the Pro Bowl, and then the Super Bowl, where 22 of the game's greatest players grind it out for the ultimate gridiron glory.
But watching is only half the fun. The real joy among betting types comes from wagering on which team wins the coin toss, how long it takes before somebody mentions Deflategate on-air, and whether or not there will be a Super Bowl safety (get long odds, as there have been only nine since 1967).
Walking us through this betting bonanza is the appropriately named Frank Betti, a lifelong professional gambler who shares wagering knowledge on lvasports.com. Here are his tips for hitting a football windfall over the next three weeks.
Panthers Vs. Cardinals
If you want to make easy money on the Carolina Panthers/Arizona Cardinals game this weekend, bet a friend on who will receive the opening kickoff. Betti says that, of the four remaining NFL teams, Arizona is the only one that takes the ball when it wins the coin toss. Everyone else defers.
So Arizona is pretty much a lock to have the ball first and is a pretty good bet for the first pass completion. There’s a reason bookies won’t take action on this, but your ill-informed “friends” just might. In terms of the game itself, Betti is focused on the slippery field surface in the Panther’s Bank of America Stadium, frigid weather this weekend, and two strong defensive teams.
The Takeaway: Betti just bet the under at 48-1/2 on this game, but he does not expect the number to stick around for very long. “You’ve got a game with a lot of running, lousy weather, and what I think is a funky total,” he says. The thinking here is to get down on the under before the total dips very much.
Broncos Vs. Patriots
In the Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots clash, The mighty Pats are a road favorite. Betti envisions it as a short passing game with Tom Brady making lots of pass attempts. There’ll be no wind to contend with and he looks forward to kickers booting the ball into end zones, resulting in more than the normal number of possessions starting on the 20-yard line. He likes the Broncos, but not necessarily at the current plus-3 line that’s out there. “One place had 3-1/2, which is good, but I missed it,” he says. “So you just hold water and hope for the line to move.”
The Takeaway: By Saturday, once the recreational bettors begin hitting this game, Betti expects the line to hit 3 ½. That’s when he will bet it. He’s already wagered the under at 45 and suggests you do as well if you can find that number. As for plus-3 vs plus 3 ½, he says, “The average guy doesn’t think that half a point is a big deal – or, if he does, he doesn’t pay it much mind -- but it is a big deal. It’s such a key number that 10- or 11-percent of the time, the winning team will win by three.”
The Pro Bowl
Rather than looking at the Pro Bowl as a standard football bet, where you take one side or the other, Betti suggests scrutinizing some of the oddball rules that traditionally get applied to the game and figuring out how they will influence the score. “Last year,” he says, “they made the width of the goal posts really narrow.
The impact was that teams tried for fewer field goals and went for more touchdowns. The idea is to stimulate scoring. They make it like arena football and then oddsmakers get carried away with the totals [bet].” For the last two years, says Betti, the total was 80 and, as he puts it, “That means you need to score on nearly every possession.”
The Takeaway: Scrutinize this year’s tweaked rules and look for changes that will increase scoring. If the last two years are anything to go by, the rules will move in that direction and the bookies will overdo it. If the totals number seems out of whack—as it was for the last two years, go for the under.
“Last year 75-percent of the bets were on the over because the public likes high scoring games,” says Betti, explaining that linemakers are all too happy to capitalize on that predilection. “But 50-percent of the money wagered was on the under because serious people who bet high went for the under.” The final score was 32 – 28 and the under bettors cleaned up handily.
The Super Bowl
If Denver makes it into the Super Bowl, Betti expects “people will be making excuses as to why they got in.” He anticipates that the Broncos will be a bit of a bargain. If New England makes it, anticipate Brady throwing 45 or so passes and bet the over/under on that one appropriately. In the event that Arizona is there, Betti will capitalize on the team’s propensity to receive opening kickoffs and he will go crazy on the Cardinals being first to do just about everything.
The Takeaway: “Who will catch the first pass, who will complete the first pass, who will get the first third-down conversion, those are all big deals,” says Betti, emphasizing that whichever team receives the ball first is a favorite to do all those things. That said, he says it could also turn into a nightmare. “A bad snap would murder me," Betti says. "It would be two weeks worth of work down the drain. I have other ways of figuring out what will happen and would rather do it that way.”