On This Page

Football Betting Facts, Myths & Theories

People love to talk about football. Especially in the USA. As we mentioned on the very first page in our football betting guide, football is the favorite sport for nearly 50% of Americans. So we accept that it’s a regular topic of conversation, whether that’s in bars, at home, in the work place or anywhere else for that matter.

It’s not just the sport itself either. Many people also enjoy discussions about betting on football. This can actually be a good way to improve your betting results, especially if you have friends or colleagues that actually know what they’re talking about. For example, talking through each other’s picks together can help to ensure that you’ve thought through all the different angles.

The problem with talking about football betting is that not everyone DOES know their stuff. In fact, it’s often the people who are most vocal on the subject who actually don’t really understand what they’re talking about. They’ll just repeat stuff that they’ve read or heard somewhere else, trying to appear as if they’re some kind of an expert.

This is simple human nature to some extent. It’s not uncommon for people to want to appear more knowledgeable on a subject than they really are. Usually, this is pretty harmless, but it can lead to misinformation getting repeated so often that people start to believe it.

And there’s A LOT of misinformation about football betting that gets repeated. Not just by those you meet in person either. For example, there’s are hundreds of sites that provide their readers with false information. Spend enough time reading football betting blogs, forums and websites and you’re almost guaranteed to discover all kinds of “facts” that simply aren’t true. In addition to that you’ll find several theories that have no basis in reality at all. Even some of the many books written on the subject of football betting get things fundamentally wrong.

The purpose of this page is three-fold. For starters, we establish four key facts about football betting. It’s important that you know these to be true. Next, we list some of the biggest myths relating to football betting. These are myths that you’re likely to read or hear often. We explain exactly why they’re myths, and why you can’t accept them as fact. Finally, we discuss six popular theories that are relatively simple but also have some merit. It will do you no harm to understand and remember these.

Football Betting Facts

The four statements listed below are indisputably true. Some people will argue against some of them, or choose not to believe them, but this doesn’t change the reality. These are facts, pure and simple.

  • Most football bettors lose
  • Bookmakers are very skilled
  • Value betting works
  • Smart bettors do win

Just listing these facts doesn’t tell you very much of course. So let’s expand on them a little, and explain why they’re relevant.

Most football bettors lose

This is widely accepted as fact, so you won’t find many people arguing against it. It’s 100% true that most people who bet on football lose money. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they lose every single wager that they place. It just means that they don’t win enough wagers to make up for the ones that they do lose. So their overall position is a losing one.

We’ve included this fact because it illustrates just how hard it is to make money from betting on football. It’s really important that you understand this. Please don’t think that you can learn a few simple strategies and suddenly starting raking in the money. Success just doesn’t come easy. You have to be prepared to put in hard work if you want any chance of being profitable.

Most people who bet on football AREN’T prepared to put in the required effort. The majority are what we call “recreational bettors.” They only bet for fun or to make watching the games more exciting. Many of them are knowledgeable enough about football that they win just the right amount of wagers to keep them happy. They don’t mind losing overall, because they are doing something they enjoy. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s something else important to understand too though.

Just because most people lose, it doesn’t mean you have to.

Most is not the same as all. You don’t HAVE to lose. You CAN bet on football and win.

Bookmakers are very skilled

The bookmakers have an inherent advantage over their customers. They get to set the odds and lines. This enables them to build in a commission (known as the “vig”) into every wager placed, which is partly how they make their money. But HOW they set their odds and lines is very important.

Bookmakers don’t just get lucky. The advantage of charging vig only goes so far. They are, for the most part, very skilled at what they do. They make sure that they don’t give away value cheaply in their odds and lines, and that’s why it’s so hard to beat them.

The lines you’ll see at Vegas sportsbooks (and online) are very carefully compiled.

You need to realize that bookmakers are not infallible though. They’re just as capable of making mistakes and showing poor judgement as those of us who bet with them. When they do make mistakes, we have to take advantage of it.

Value betting works

If you’re not familiar with the concept of value in sports betting, you should be. Please read the article in our sports betting guide that covers the concept of value and how to identify it.

Some people completely dismiss the importance of value. That’s their prerogative, but they’re wrong to do so. It’s no exaggeration to say that value is one of the single most important aspects of betting. Identifying value in the odds and lines WORKS, and that’s a fact.

If you can do it consistently, you’ll almost certainly make money.

Of course, it’s doing it consistently that’s the challenge. If you’re already familiar with the concept, then you’ll probably know how hard it is to find value on a regular basis. But that’s exactly what you need to do if you want to be successful. Want to know more? Check out our detailed article on betting for value on football.

Smart bettors do win

It’s hard to make money from football betting. Most people do lose. It IS possible to win though. We already established all this a little earlier. So why are we mentioning it again? Because some people would argue passionately against this last fact that we’ve listed here.

There are many people who genuinely believe that it’s simply not possible to win money from betting on football. And these people are usually absolutely convinced that they’re right. We’ll come right out and say it though; they are wrong, completely wrong!

There ARE people out there who do show an overall profit from betting on football. It’s a fact. There are even some people who have made themselves extremely wealthy from their betting success.

What sets them apart from everyone else? They’re smart, and they work hard.

Don’t think that you have to be a genius to join them though. You don’t. You just have to be smart enough to know that you need to learn as much as you can about all the strategy involved. And then work hard enough to actually learn it.

Spend the time, put the effort in and you too can be a successful bettor.

Football Betting Myths

Now that we’ve established some important facts, let’s take a look at some of the most common myths relating to football betting. We’ve heard all of these repeated many times, so there’s every chance you have too. As you’ll discover, though, you can’t let them misguide you.

  • Bookmakers can’t be beaten
  • You can trust expert predictions
  • Parlays are for suckers
  • Buying points must be bad value
  • Stats and trends are everything
  • ATS data provides predictive value

Bookmakers can’t be beaten

We’re not going to write much on this one, because it’s absolutely ridiculous.

If it’s not possible to beat the bookmakers, why would any of us bother?

The bookmakers have an advantage, as we’ve already discussed. And overcoming that advantage is hard. There’s no doubt at all about that. But it can be done. You just need the right approach and plenty of dedication to the task.

You need some faith too, which is why we’re keen to dispel this particular myth. If you don’t believe that the bookmakers can be beaten, you probably WON’T beat them. Have some faith, though, and just maybe you’ll have some success.

You can trust expert predictions

Really? The experts ALWAYS get it right? Of course they don’t. This is a complete myth, perpetuated somewhat by the media.

The media is full of “experts” on football, and the NFL in particular. Some of them deserve that label. But many of them do not. The idea that you should trust someone’s predictions just because they’re on the TV is extremely flawed. Most of the time they’re offering personal opinion rather than any factually based insight. Sometimes they’re just flat out guessing.

Never place wagers based solely on what the guys you see on the TV are saying.

Let’s be clear here – you can certainly benefit from watching NFL coverage on the TV. You might even learn something. It’s just important to not automatically trust everything that’s being said. There’s definitely value in factoring other peoples’ opinions into your selection process, but they shouldn’t be the foundation on which you make decisions.

Parlays are for suckers

This is more nonsense that gets spread around freely. Amusingly enough, it’s often something people say when they’re trying to show what a smart bettor they are. And yet it proves the complete opposite.

Now, to be fair, there is a tiny bit of truth here. Parlays can be suckers’ bets for sure. But then, so can any type of wager. It’s how and when you use the different types of wager that defines whether you’re a sucker or not.

The fact is that a lot of people use parlays incorrectly. They make multiple selections on a single wager purely because they’re chasing the bigger potential payouts: without giving any thought to a strategy. This is obviously not a great approach. Parlays can be profitable though, when used with the right consideration to strategy. Check out our article discussing strategies for football parlays to find out more.

Buying points must be bad value

The question of whether it’s right to buy points splits opinion among betting experts, and there are solid arguments on both sides. However, there’s one argument that’s not even close to being solid. In fact, it’s downright ridiculous.

Bookmakers wouldn’t allow you to buy points unless it was bad value.

This is a myth. And an especially silly one at that. Anyone who believes this shouldn’t be betting at all. If it were true, it would surely also mean that every single wager offered by a bookmaker must be bad value. That’s obviously not the case, so this is just not a good argument against buying points.

Please note that we do fully accept that there’s a legitimate argument over whether buying points is the right thing to do or not. There’s just no merit at all in the suggestion that bookmakers wouldn’t allow it if it does offer value.

Recommended Reading:
We explore this subject in more depth in our article on buying points when football betting. We look at the pros and cons, and examine situations where it might be the right thing to do.

Stats & trends are everything

Stats can be invaluable to a football bettor. There’s a wide variety of different team and player stats available, many of which are very useful for making informed judgments about what’s going to happen in individual games and throughout a football season. Trends are often time very valuable. They can help you make more accurate predictions, that’s for sure.

Stats and trends don’t tell us EVERYTHING we need to know though.

Many bettors rely entirely on stats to make their betting decisions. Many choose to faithfully follow trends they uncover. Some use a combination of both stats and trends. Any of these approaches are just fine. They can definitely work if used together with suitable strategies.

There are lots of other things that can be looked at too though. The value of stats and trends is unquestionable, but ignoring other aspects of the sport can potentially limit your chances of success.

ATS data provides predictive value

ATS (against the spread) data tells us how teams have performed relative to the point spreads set by bookmakers. It measures how many times they have covered the spread and how many times they have failed to, irrespective of whether they’ve actually won or lost games.

A lot of bettors use this data to make predictions. For example, some believe that a team with a good ATS record is more likely to cover the spread in upcoming games. This is based on the idea that if they’ve been good enough to cover the spread more often than not, they should continue to cover. This is incredibly flawed thinking.

Even more flawed is the idea that teams become “due” to cover after failing to do so a number of times. This is no different from betting on a specific number at the roulette table just because it hasn’t come up for a while. It other words, it’s pure guess work.

ATS data has no predictive value at all.

Use ATS data as a reference, by all means. It could be considered a useful guide to current form. Please don’t read too much into it though. It simply tells you what has happened in the past, and is very little help when it comes to predicting what’s going to happen in the future.

Simple Football Betting Theories

We’ve heard a lot of theories over the many years we’ve been betting on football. Some of these are questionable to say the least, and some are outright ridiculous.

Some theories are sensible and well thought-out though, and learning about them can be useful. They can help you to understand why certain things happen, or don’t happen. Some theories can even directly help you to make good betting decisions. These are the ones we’ve discussed below. They are all relatively simple, but there’s at least some merit in each one of them.

  • Good teams win, bad teams cover
  • Fading the public theory
  • Steam betting theory
  • Bounce-back theory
  • Sandwich game theory
  • Bye week theory

Good teams win, bad teams cover

The idea behind this theory is basically that “bad” NFL teams are often not as bad as they are perceived to be. While good teams are expected to win their games straight up, the so-called bad teams are more than capable of covering the spread.

This theory is valid, but it doesn’t really tell us anything.

It should be somewhat obvious that teams are capable of covering the spread. A point spread is essentially to make the two teams in a game even-money propositions for the purposes of wagering. The underdogs are SUPPOSED to have the same chance of covering as the underdog.

People often quote this theory as an actual reason for backing an underdog though, and this line of reasoning is not especially sensible. Yes, it’s often right to back the underdog, but you shouldn’t do so blindly based solely on this theory.

Fading the public theory

Remember how we said earlier that most bettors lose? This theory is based on that fact to some extent. The idea is that if most people are losing, then most people are betting on the wrong outcome. Therefore, betting the opposite to those people is likely to be a winning approach.

against the majority is known as “fading the public,” and it used to be a reasonably effective strategy. After all, there’s some sound logic at play here. If you do the complete opposite to what the losers are doing, then surely you’re going to make some money?

Sadly, no. Not anymore. Fading the public did actually used to work, but this was back when the bookmakers set their odds and lines based almost entirely on how the recreational bettors were likely to bet. For example, they’d make a popular team -8 when they really should be -6. They’d know that the betting public would still back the favorites at that spread, so they didn’t need to offer a “fair” line.

Bookmakers can’t get away with that now. The market is too competitive, and even recreational bettors know to shop around. Plus, there are too many smart bettors who would quickly take advantage of a skewed line just like in the example above. They’d bet heavily on the underdog, and the bookmakers would stand to lose big sums of money. So the odds and lines we see these days are almost always very close to being fair (with some vig built in of course).

As a result, fading the public doesn’t really work as a standalone strategy. However, the basic theory does still have some merit. The bookmakers still factor public opinion into the odds and lines they offer. In the right circumstances, this can be taken advantage of. Check out our article on using public opinion when NFL betting for more information.

Steam betting theory

This is essentially the reverse of the fading public theory. It’s linked to the fact that odds and lines sometimes change quickly and drastically due to the serious bettors putting their bets on. These big changes are known as “steam moves.” The theory is that you should follow those moves, and place your bets accordingly. It’s based on what’s essentially a very simple idea.

It makes a lot of sense to do what the smart bettors are doing.

If smart bettors win, and steam moves tell us what these smart bettors are betting on, then surely we can copy them and win money too. Right? Not quite. Once again there’s some logic linked to this theory, but this theory is not without its flaws.

If you could place the exact same wagers as winning bettors, then of course you’d win money too. Following steam moves doesn’t allow us to do that though. It only gives us some indication of where the smart money is going. It doesn’t tell us EVERYTHING that the smart guys are doing, as their bets don’t always cause steam moves.

In any case, the whole point here is that their money moves the odds and lines. So by the time we’ve seen the moves, it’s usually too late anyway. You can only really take advantage if you see the moves early, and quickly get your bets on at a betting site or bookmaker that hasn’t made the same adjustments. This is a challenge in itself.

There’s no harm in keeping an eye out for steam moves and trying to work out what the smart bettors are doing. So this theory does have some merit. But any strategy based on steam betting is ultimately going to be limited, for the reasons outlined above.

Sandwich game theory

The sandwich game theory is also based on sound reasoning. It’s something that’s worth taking into account under certain circumstances. Its value is often overrated in our opinion though.

You may already be familiar with the term “sandwich games.” They occur when a team’s schedule gives them a tough game, then an easier one, and then another tough one. The easier game in the middle is defined as the sandwich game. It’s common to see a few of these situations throughout a season, and it’s considered to be reasonably likely that teams will underperform in their sandwich games. The theory is that their focus will be on the more challenging matchups.

We understand the logic behind this theory. We even agree with it to some extent, but we also feel that it’s a potentially dangerous theory. It can encourage people to make betting decisions for one single reason, and that’s rarely a good idea. The sandwich game theory is definitely something worth considering, but we’d never recommend going against a team based on this theory alone.

Bounce back theory

The bounce back theory is very simple. The idea is that you should bet on teams that have just suffered a significant setback, as there’s a good chance they’re going to put in an improved performance the next time they take to the field. For example, a team that has just suffered a blowout is going to be very keen to make amends as soon as possible. So you should back them to win in their following game.

You’re basically looking for teams who are trying to prove themselves.

Once again we understand the logic here. Teams very often do “bounce back” from big losses and other setbacks. A heartbreaker, where a team loses late in the game, can provide great motivation to win the next one. So can losing to a major rival. There are plenty of other examples too.

The problem is, there’s no way of knowing for sure how a team will react to a setback. They might get fired up and improve their performance levels, but they might equally get demoralized and actually perform worse. So you can’t really be certain that backing a team after a setback is the right thing to do.

As with most theories, the bounce back theory is simply one more factor to consider. You should definitely be looking at previous results, and thinking about what impact what they might have on upcoming games, but don’t ever back a team solely because they just got badly beaten. That’s not a good enough reason by itself.

Bye week theory

The bye week theory suggests that games involving a team coming off their bye week can provide good betting opportunities. It’s based on some simple statistical analysis showing that teams have a higher than average win rate in the games they place immediately after their bye week.

This is a solid theory, but you must interpret it correctly. Keeping track of the schedule and studying games involving teams who have just had a week’s rest may enable you to highlight some additional betting opportunities. It will also give you something else to to consider alongside all the other factors. Don’t just start blindly backing teams playing after their bye week though. You still have to analyze the relevant games and assess the likely outcomes.

In Summary

There’s a lot you need to learn if you want to make money from betting on football. But there’s a lot you need to IGNORE too. You can’t take everything you hear and read at face value, as there’s all kinds of misinformation floating around.

For the best chance of success, you need an in-depth knowledge of both football and football betting strategy. This means spending some serious time studying these subjects. If you don’t want to do this, you’re better off just betting for fun. Only with real effort will you ever be able to make regular profits.

The information on this page is a great starting point. It only really scratches the surface though. If you’re truly prepared to put in the effort required to be a consistent winner, please take the time to read through the rest of our football betting strategy guide.