Betting Strategy for the NFL Pro Bowl
The NFL is a wonderful sports competition. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. Not only is it the most watched league in the United States, but it attracts countless dedicated fans from all over the world as well. Everyone agrees that the NFL is worth watching. This league provides non-stop entertainment from the start of the regular season right up until the highly anticipated Super Bowl.
It helps that the league is well structured, for the most part at least. The draft system and the salary cap ensure that each of the 32 teams has a realistic chance of being competitive in any given year. They also make it hard for any one team to dominate for long periods. This adds to the exciting and unpredictable nature of the league, as does the rotating schedule.
The NFL is not set up perfectly, however, and there are many areas in which it could improve. A prime example of this is its annual all-star game, the Pro Bowl. Every year, there seems to be a debate about how to “fix” the Pro Bowl to make it a more appealing event. And every year the debate reaches the same conclusion; the Pro Bowl simply doesn’t matter that much to fans. They often overlook it.
The apathy towards the Pro Bowl is entirely understandable. There’s nothing pressing riding on the game, and teams hardly ever give it their all. There have been a few exciting and entertaining games over the years, but they are very much the exception to the rule. Most years, the Pro Bowl is just not worth watching.
There is one way to make watching it a little more exciting though, and that’s by betting on it. When there’s money at stake, the game DOES matter. We actually start caring about what happens, which helps us to view the game with a whole new perspective.
A lot of experts advise against betting on the NFL Pro Bowl. They claim that due to the unpredictable nature of the game, it will be impossible to find value and make informed predictions. Although we understand this point of view, we don’t fully agree with it. It’s certainly not the best betting opportunity that the NFL has to offer, and it’s probably not a good idea to invest too much time or money into betting on this game. Still, we believe there are a couple of reasons why looking at the betting markets to see what’s available will be worth your time.
In this article we explain what those reasons are, provide you with a few basic tips and look at the mistakes you need to avoid. We’ve recommended some specific strategies for this game too. Before we get to all that though, we’ve provided some background information on the NFL Pro Bowl and what it’s all about.
About the NFL Pro Bowl
The Pro Bowl was first established in 1938 and it was previously known as the “NFL All-Star Game.” In addition to a name change in 1951, the Pro Bowl has undergone several changes; the basic principle has always remained the same though. This is an exhibition game between two teams that have been picked to showcase the most talented players in the league.
Most major sports leagues in the US have similar all-star games. They are typically played around halfway through the regular season though, whereas the Pro Bowl is played at the end of the NFL season. It used to be played the weekend after the Super Bowl, but was moved to the weekend before the big game in 2010. Since the change, anyone who was picked for the Pro Bowl would not be able to play if they were going to be playing in the upcoming Super Bowl.
Between 1970 and 2013, the Pro Bowl matched the best players from the AFC against the best players from the NFC. Between 2013 and 2016, the teams were not picked based on conferences. Two honorary team captains were named instead, and they had the opportunity to pick whichever players they wanted. The format has now switched back to being between AFC and the NFC.
As we mentioned in our introduction to this article, the Pro Bowl has received a lot of criticism over the years. The NFL has taken several steps to improve things, but nothing they attempt to do seems to help. The general consensus is this is unlikely to ever be a game that really captures the imagination of fans.
For years, it has been suggested that the best option might actually be to just recognize the players who have performed well over the season without actually making them play a game. While chances are high that this will inevitably happen in the future, the NFL is still trying to preserve it for as long as possible.
Pro Bowl Rule Changes
The NFL has introduced several rule changes for the Pro Bowl over the years. Some of these have been designed to help make the game safer, in hopes that fewer players would pull out for fear of injury. Others have been designed to make the game more competitive and appealing to the viewers.
It’s questionable whether any of these changes have made the desired impact, but we have to assume the NFL knows what it’s doing. Here’s a list of the more significant rule differences for the Pro Bowl.
- Teams receive two timeouts per period, once of which can be carried over to the following period.
- Kickoffs are eliminated, including free kicks.
- Teams start on their 25-yard line at the start of each period and after any score.
- Teams swap possessions after each period.
- Play clock is 35 seconds (rather than 40).
- Intentional grounding is allowed.
- Blitzing is not allowed.
- Offenses may have one or two receivers on the same side.
- Offenses must use a tight end in all formations.
- Each team roster features 43 players.
Why Bet on the NFL Pro Bowl?
We’ve already mentioned one good reason to bet on the Pro Bowl. When you place a few dollars down on the game, it quickly becomes more bearable to watch. No other professional football games take place during Pro Bowl weekend, so it’s worth making a couple extra wagers for fun if nothing else.
Don’t lose sight of this. Our football betting guide is heavily focused on betting to make a profit, but there’s nothing wrong with betting purely for entertainment as well. The Pro Bowl is a great time to do just that. The Super Bowl is just one week later, and that should be taken a LOT more seriously. So you could just view the Pro Bowl as a little light relief before the main event.
There are two other good reasons to bet on the Pro Bowl. These are as follows.
- There IS the potential to make some money.
- The odds and lines are often much looser than normal.
The NFL presents numerous betting opportunities throughout the season. There are 256 games during the regular season, followed by ten playoff games and then the Super Bowl. So it’s not like you HAVE to bet on the Pro Bowl due to limited opportunities elsewhere. However, successful bettors understand the importance of taking advantage of value whenever they find it. It might be just one more game out of many, but the Pro Bowl CAN offer value on occasion. Why ignore that? Any opportunity to find value should always be explored.
The second reason listed above is perhaps the best reason of all to consider betting on the Pro Bowl. Throughout the NFL season, the bookmakers and betting sites consistently set very tight odds and lines. They invest a great deal of time and effort into ensuring that there’s as little value as possible for their customers to take advantage of. This is why making money from the NFL is so difficult.
The bookmakers and betting sites typically don’t care as much about the odds and lines they set for the Pro Bowl. They still put some effort in of course, but things are usually a lot looser than at other times. This is partly because they don’t take a huge volume of wagers on this game, and partly because they’re focused on preparing for the Super Bowl.
We also can’t ignore the unpredictable nature of the Pro Bowl. Even the bookmakers struggle to determine how the game is going to turn out. How do we know this? A huge clue would be the often notable differences between the odds and lines available at different bookmakers and betting sites.
Loose odds and lines are much easier to take advantage of, as it’s generally far more obvious where the value lies. So by spending a little time assessing a few key factors, it would definitely be possible to find some spots to put your money down. Just make sure that you follow the advice that we have to offer in the rest of this article.
Tips & Mistakes to Avoid
Most of our football betting strategy articles go into great depth about what you should and shouldn’t do. Our goal is always to be as comprehensive as possible, and we make sure that we cover absolutely everything you need to know. We leave no stone unturned in our quest to help our readers make money.
When it comes to betting on the Pro Bowl, however, there isn’t really much depth to go into. We don’t recommend committing too much of your time to betting on this game. You just need to do some basic analysis of the two participating teams and their respective players, and then study the markets to see if there’s any obvious value available. If there is obvious value, then quickly get your money down. If there aren’t any genuinely good spots to bet, then don’t waste your time. Or, if you prefer, just place some low stakes wagers for fun.
This process should be enough to help you accomplish your goals, but there are still a few more things worth considering. That’s why we’ve put together this small collection of useful tips and mistakes you need to avoid. The advice we have to offer here should give you a better chance of gaining an edge over the bookmakers in the Pro Bowl.
Let’s start with the tips.
- Consider the dropouts
- Assess motivation
- Study the coaches
- Watch the line movements
- Know the rule changes
Consider the dropouts
Neither players nor fans seem to get excited about the Pro Bowl. Even though getting selected for either team should be looked at as an honor, players still choose to pull out of the game. Some have to, because they will be playing in the Super Bowl the following weekend. Others have legitimate injuries that prevent them from playing. There are also a few players that just pretend to be injured, because they don’t feel like playing in this game.
These dropouts can drastically affect the strength of the two teams. This doesn’t matter too much if the dropouts are spread evenly across both teams, but it can create an imbalance if one team suffers significantly more dropouts than the other. Although this will typically be reflected in the odds and lines, it’s worth bearing in mind when making your betting decisions.
Motivation is an important factor to consider when betting on any football game. Although most players and teams are usually motivated to win, their levels of motivation can change. When there’s a lot at stake, or the game’s against a big rival, motivation levels tend to increase. If there’s not much at stake, or the game is against a weaker opponent, then motivation levels sometimes drop.
Pay close attention to motivation when betting on the Pro Bowl. There can sometimes be a real imbalance between the motivation of players on one team and the motivation of players on the other. When this is the case, the team with the more motivated players is likely to have a real edge in the game.
Unfortunately, there’s no scientific approach to assessing motivation for the Pro Bowl. Instead, you are forced to rely on your own judgment. Ask yourself these questions. Which team is most excited about playing? Which players are likely to be focused on putting in a good performance? If one team has more of those players than the other, then that’s a good indicator of how the game is likely to play out.
Study the coaches
This particular tip is one that we mention in several of our football betting strategy articles. A lot of bettors focus entirely on the players when assessing the quality of teams, and ignore the role of the coaches. Trust us when we say that this is a huge mistake, as coaches always have a significant impact on their team’s performance.
Coaches have a short space of time to prepare the players for this game, so their ability to get them drilled and ready for action is key to how they’ll perform on the field. Coaches that are flexible in their approach, and not heavily reliant on a specific playing style, are likely to have an advantage here. As are those who have a solid reputation for getting the best out of players and commanding their respect.
Check out each coach’s motivation levels as well, as it’s not unheard of for one head coach to be far more determined to win the Pro Bowl than the other.
Watch the line movements
The odds and lines for the NFL Pro Bowl are easily influenced by what the public are betting on. Sharp bettors don’t typically invest a substantial amount of money in this game, so when you see significant moves you can be reasonably sure that they are the result of action from recreational bettors. Knowing this to be true, you need to ask yourself; why is the public betting this way?
There will sometimes be very good reasons for the public to heavily favor one team over the other, or heavily favor one side of the totals. If you agree with their general sentiment, then you need to make sure that there’s still some value left in the market before betting. When the weight of money is on the selections that you want to back, it’s often best to not bet at all. At the very least, it would be wise to wait to see if the lines move back the other way.
Sometimes the action will be skewed in one direction for no seemingly valid reason. For example, the public may massively overvalue one team over the other if it has one or two especially popular players in it. Or they might overvalue the over due to the fact that there’s traditionally a lot of points scored in the Pro Bowl.
When this happens, there’s often value in betting against the public. This is one of the few occasions where you can risk doing this blindly, as there’s a good chance it will be a profitable move. Of course, there’s still merit in assessing the game for yourself and forming your own views.
Know the rule changes
As we mentioned earlier, the Pro Bowl has slightly different rules than regular NFL games. Be aware of these, as they can have a noticeable impact on how a game turns out. Try to think carefully about how these changes will affect certain players and the way they play, and whether either side will benefit from them more than the other. Being somewhat knowledgeable about the sport will allow you to draw some conclusions, but for the best results it helps to have a deeper understanding of every aspect of football. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: the more you know, the better.
Now that we’ve covered all the tips we have to offer, let’s move on to the mistakes you need to avoid making.
- Focusing on the starters
- Blindly betting the over
- Overvaluing season statistics
- Betting too much
Focusing on the starters
It makes sense to focus on the starting players when betting on a typical NFL game. These are the players who are likely to play most of the game, and therefore have the biggest impact on the outcome. However, the same principle does NOT apply when betting on the Pro Bowl.
Remember, this is essentially an exhibition game. The idea is to give all the players on the roster some game time. The backups are likely to play just as much as the starters, maybe even more. When it comes to the Pro Bowl, it’s wise to consider the entire roster: not just the starters.
Blindly betting the over
The Pro Bowl has traditionally been a high scoring game. A lot of recreational bettors automatically look to bet the over as a result, and this is a mistake. For one thing, the likelihood of lots of points is already factored in by the bookmakers and betting sites. The totals line is typically much higher than for a regular game, so you can’t expect to find instant value just by betting the over without considering all the relevant factors.
It’s also worth noting that the average number of points in this game has decreased in recent years. This difference reflects both the change in format and the changes to the rules that have been introduced in recent years. High scoring games are still a possibility, of course, but there’s certainly no guarantee. Lowing scoring games aren’t uncommon now, so you need to think carefully before placing a totals wager.
Overvaluing season statistics
When handicapping regular NFL games, there’s a lot of merit in studying and analyzing the relevant statistics. They can tell us a lot about how the teams and players are performing, and help us to make informed judgements about how games are likely to play out. However, the same statistics are of limited use when betting on the Pro Bowl.
This doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the stats when betting on this game; just make sure you don’t place too much value on what they tell you. The Pro Bowl is different than any other game you might bet on. Players are playing in unfamiliar lineups, with teammates they don’t train and play with on a regular basis. There’s a good chance that many of the players will be asked to play different roles to what they’re used to, so we can’t hold them to the same standards of what we expect to see during the regular season.
Betting too much
The extremely unpredictable nature of the Pro Bowl leads to a lot of bettors placing far more wagers than they should. Since making clear-cut decisions is extremely difficult, they end up making lots of different selections in the hope that at least some of them will be successful. This is a huge mistake. A much better approach is actually to be even more selective than usual.
Only put your money down when you’re truly confident that you’ve identified a good opportunity, and even then we strongly recommend that you stake less than you normally do. You CAN make money from the Pro Bowl as we’ve said, but never forget that this is a really tough game to handicap. With the Super Bowl coming up, the last thing you want to do is blow through your bankroll and leave yourself short for the big game.
The advice we’ve offered so far should help you make the most out of the betting opportunities presented by the NFL Pro Bowl. We can’t promise that you’ll make a profit each and every year, but you’ll certainly have a fair chance. By using our recommended strategies, you may even be able to increase that chance even further.
Our Top Recommended Strategies
The strategies that we typically use for betting on NFL games are of little use for the Pro Bowl. It’s such a unique game that it requires an entirely different approach. Some people argue that there isn’t much strategy involved at all, and they have a point to some extent. Making informed decisions about what’s likely to happen in this game can be very challenging.
However, there are three strategies that we’ve found to be quite useful over the years. Although these are fairly simple strategies, they do have the potential to be profitable when the right circumstances present themselves. We’ve listed them below and then explained how to use each one. There are no guarantees that these will ALWAYS work, but they’re well worth considering in our opinion.
- Betting the moneyline underdog
- Betting player props
- Looking for arbitrage opportunities
Betting the moneyline underdog
The point spread tends to be very small for the Pro Bowl. There are exceptions to this, especially when the public is heavily favoring one team over the other, but the spread is usually no more than two or three points. This is simply a reflection of how hard it is to determine which of the two teams is the strongest.
This means that when the underdog covers, they typically win the game outright too. As such, backing the underdog on the moneyline is frequently the right thing to do. You’ll get positive odds, meaning you stand to win more than you lose. When you consider that the winner of this game is often a 50/50 proposition, this represents clear value. In theory, the underdog is likely to win the Pro Bowl around half the time. So by backing them at positive odds, you should make money in the long run.
Please note that this does NOT mean you should just blindly back the underdog each year. It’s always important to assess both teams and check that the underdog has a realistic chance of winning.
Betting player props
There are far fewer props available for the Pro Bowl than there are for the Super Bowl. However, most bookmakers and betting sites still offer a reasonable selection. In our experience, this is where the best opportunities to use real judgement are found. We suggest looking at player matchup props, as there are typically less unknowns to deal with for these betting markets.
It’s not uncommon to find spots where a player has a real edge over the player he’s matched up against. For example, we often see some of the following scenarios.
- A player is likely to be more motivated than his matchup opponent.
- A player is in better form than his matchup opponent.
- A player is more familiar with his teammates and/or coach.
- A player is better suited to the likely setup.
Each of these scenarios provides us with a valid reason for betting on the relevant player matchup. There’s still some uncertainty of course, but betting in these spots is almost always the right thing to do. Be sure to check out the following article for some more useful advice on betting props.
Looking for arbitrage opportunities
Arbitrage betting is a straightforward, but powerful, strategy. It can be used on any sport, but suitable opportunities are limited. They’re especially limited in football, due to the efficiency of the football betting markets. Seeing as how the Pro Bowl betting markets are significantly less efficient than they are for regular NFL games, arbitrage opportunities do sometimes present themselves.
The basic idea of arbitrage betting is to find spots where you can bet on all possible outcomes for a guaranteed profit. These spots occur when there’s a big enough difference in the odds and lines available at different bookmakers and betting sites.
We’ll use a hypothetical example to demonstrate. Let’s say that a betting site is offering the following totals line for the upcoming Pro Bowl.
Now let’s say that another site has a slightly different view on this market, and has the following line on offer.
By taking advantage of the disparity between the two sites, which isn’t too uncommon to find when it comes to the Pro Bowl by the way, you can actually make a guaranteed profit. All you’d have to do is back the under at the first site, and back the over at the second site. Let’s say you did this, with $100 staked each time.
- If the game features less than 56 points, you win $115 at the first site and lose $100 at the second. Your total profit is $15.
- If the game features more than 56 points, you lose $100 at the first site and win $110 at the second. Your total profit is $10.
- If the game features exactly 56 points, you win $115 at the first site and push at the second. Your total profit is $115.
This is clearly an excellent situation to be in. Your profit won’t be substantial unless exactly 56 points are scored, but at least you’re guaranteed to make something. So we strongly recommend spending time looking through the Pro Bowl betting markets, and seeing if you can find any arbitrage opportunities. You won’t always find any, but when you do you should snap them up quickly.
Sadly, the Pro Bowl will never be the highlight of the NFL calendar. It’s not a great game from a fan’s perspective or from a betting perspective. Still, any game that has the potential to present good betting opportunities is always worth looking at. That’s why we choose not to just simply ignore it.
Don’t expect to make lots of money from betting on the Pro Bowl, as that’s just not going to happen. What you may find is some value in the betting markets, especially if you’re following the advice we’ve offered here. Just remember to be selective with the bets you do make, as you’ll want to preserve your bankroll for the upcoming Super Bowl.