The Use of Trends When Football Betting
Study the subject of football betting strategy to any great degree and you’ll almost certainly find many conflicting opinions. This makes things tough for beginners. There’s a lot to learn about football betting strategy, and trying to understand everything involved is hard enough without having to deal with contradictory and inconsistent advice.
How are you supposed to know the right things to do when even the “experts” don’t even agree?
The fact is that there’s NO singularly right or wrong way to approach football betting. There are some things that you absolutely should do, and some things that you definitely shouldn’t do. But in terms of an overall approach, there’s no definitively “correct” way to approach your betting. We’re still waiting for someone to come up with a perfect step-by-step guide to guaranteed success, but the sad reality is that such a program does not currently exist.
The only way to be truly successful is to absorb as much information and advice as you can. Experiment based on what you learn, and then draw on your own experiences to determine what works and what doesn’t. The ultimate goal is to develop your own methods and techniques that will be effective for you.
This is all especially relevant when it comes to the use of trends and patterns in football betting. There’s a lot of advice floating around on this subject, and much of it is very contradictory. Many betting experts (or so-called experts) believe that trends and patterns are vital components of football betting strategy, while others believe that they are virtually worthless.
As is often the case when there are such conflicting views, the reality is somewhere in the middle. It’s perfectly possible to implement football betting strategy successfully without using trends and patterns at all, so they can’t be considered vital. On the other hands, trends and patterns can certainly be valuable if used effectively. So they can’t be considered worthless either.
Many bettors rely heavily on these to make their betting decisions. And some of those bettors are very successful in doing so. They’re usually very smart people. They analyze all the relevant data in great detail, in order to discover trends and patterns that they can use to their advantage.
What these smart bettors DON’T do is make wagers based solely on the trends they discover. They use them in addition to other information that they may have at their disposal, as just one part of the decision making process. They are also careful to ensure sure that the trends they use actually have some value, and that they aren’t too vague or irrelevant to be meaningless.
In this article we’ll help you use trends effectively in your football betting. We explain about the different types of trend, and offer advice on measuring the value of trends. We also list some useful trends that are worth considering, and finish with some advice on more advanced use of trends.
Main Types of Football Trends
The first thing you need to know about trends in football is that there are various different types. There’s no “official” way to categorize these types, and trends and patterns can be found in all aspects of football. However, we broadly consider there to be two main types.
- Situational Trends
- Betting Trends
We’ve explained more about each of these types below.
Situational trends are essentially based on specific circumstances. Identifying trends of this type requires studying past results and trying to discover if there are any patterns that link performances and results to a particular situation.
To gain maximum benefit from situational trends you need to do some very in-depth research. The ultimate goal is try to uncover information that can really help you understand how likely teams are to perform in very precise situations. We touch more on that later in this article, in our section on advanced use of trends. To start with, though, you’re better off taking a more straightforward approach.
As a beginner, there are several situational trends you can uncover just by studying some simple data that’s easy to find. Here are some examples of the sort of data you should be looking at.
- Home record against stronger teams
- Home record against weaker teams
- Record when travelling long distances
- Record following heavy losses
- Record following big wins
- Record following a bye week
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to collate all the above information for a football team. You just need to set aside extra time for studying their results in each of the relevant situations. Once you’ve done that work, you’ve got a reasonably powerful tool that can be used to help make informed betting decisions.
For example, let’s say you discover that a team has an especially great record when playing at home against weaker teams. Over the last three seasons, they’ve won all but two of their home games when they’ve been the favorite. And they’ve covered the spread 80% of the time. That’s really useful information. It doesn’t mean you should back that team to cover EVERY time they’re a home favorite though. That’s not what you’re looking to do with situational trends.
Past data in general is not always a clear indicator of what’s going to happen in the future. So you shouldn’t ever automatically assume that a trend or pattern is going to continue. But past data can be extremely useful in football betting when you start properly analyzing team performances in specific scenarios. It is only then that you CAN start making some assumptions. If a team has consistently performed well in certain situations, it’s not unreasonable to think that they’ll continue to do so.
This nicely sums up the purpose of using situational trends. They can help you to more accurately assess the likely outcome of games. They’re not the ONLY factor to consider, but they can be very useful indicators when combined with other factors.
Let’s go back to the earlier example of the team with a good home record against lesser opposition. As we said, you can’t simply assume they’re definitely going to cover the next time they’re a home favorite. But if there are other reasons to think it’s likely that they will, then the trend can help you to make a final decision about whether to bet or not.
This is the best way to use situational trends in our opinion. Make an assessment of likely outcomes based on other factors first. Then see if there any trends that support that assessment. If there are, it’s probably right to make a bet. If there aren’t, then maybe you need to re-evaluate.
Betting trends are based entirely on the volume of money being wagered with bookmakers and betting sites. They’re more useful than you might initially think. Even though they don’t directly tell us anything about what’s likely to happen on the field of play, they still provide us with some useful information.
Specifically, betting trends help us answer these two questions. Here’s the first.
Knowing where the majority of the betting public are putting their money forms the basis for using the contrarian betting strategy. Also known as fading the public, this is a popular and simple strategy that can be used for betting on football. Although it’s somewhat limited, the logic behind it is solid enough.
If you’ve read our article on football betting facts, myths and theories, you’ll know that most people who bet on football lose. That’s one of the facts included in the article. It’s also the foundation for the contrarian betting strategy. In very simple terms, the idea is that you bet against what the majority are doing. Because if they’re losing more often than not, it must make sense to do the opposite.
Although this simple strategy can work in some situations, it’s not as effective as it used to be. The bookmakers and betting sites all set their odds and lines very efficiently these days, so it’s hard to find value just by going against the public. You need to be a little smarter than that. You need to look for specific opportunities where the weight of money from the betting public has moved the odds and lines so far in one direction that it’s created value for betting the other way.
Studying betting trends to determine where the public money is going is relatively easy. You can just watch the odds and lines and see how they move. If a favorite’s odds are coming down and/or the point spread is widening, then this suggests the public is going in heavily on the favorite. This is only a general rule, but it applies more often than not.
In our opinion, it’s far more effective to follow the smart money than it is to simply go against the public. Of course, these two things will often be one and the same. As where the smart money goes is regularly the opposite to where the majority of the money goes.
It’s a little harder to figure out where the smart money is going though. Movements in the odds and lines caused by the weight of public money are generally quite easy to spot. Movements caused by smart money are not always so obvious though. However, there are some specific trends to look out for that do tend to indicate what the smart bettors are doing. We cover those later in this article.
We firmly believe that following betting trends can be useful for betting on football. As with situational trends, though, they shouldn’t be blindly followed in isolation of other factors. They’re most useful when used to support (or oppose) judgements and assessments that you make based on other factors.
Understanding the Value of Football Trends
So we’ve talked about two specific types of trend and how they can help you to make your football betting decisions. We’re now going to discuss something else you need to understand; how to assess the value of a trend or pattern.
Before we continue, please know that there’s no precise calculation for measuring the value of trends and patterns. This is NOT an exact science. You can’t definitively state exactly how much value a specific trend has, or even if it has any value at all. All you can do is apply your own judgment and try to make as accurate an assessment as possible.
In order to do that, you need to know the three main factors that contribute to the value of a trend. Refer to our list below!
- History & Sample Size
- Validity vs Anomaly
History & Sample Size
There are two initial questions you need to answer when assessing the value of a trend. How long has it been in effect? And how much relevant data is applicable? This will give you an instant idea of whether it can actually tell you anything at all. If it’s been continuously in effect for years, and there are lots of data points to support it, then there’s a good chance it has some merit.
Consider bye week trends for example, which we explain more about later. The bye week was first introduced back in 1990, and every team has had one bye week in each regular season since then. That gives us over 25 seasons to look at, with several relevant games in each season. Any trend based on how teams perform before and after bye weeks should therefore be reasonably useful. There’s a long history to look at, and plenty of data points.
Now suppose you’re looking at a trend based on how a particular coach does when his team are road favorites. The guy has only been coaching his current team for 2 seasons, and they’ve only been road favorites on eight occasions. Even if he’d won or lost them all, there’s not enough data there for a trend to have any value.
A trend isn’t even really a trend unless it’s accompanied with a large sample size. Let’s take this to the extreme. A team wins its first game of the season. Have they set a trend for winning this season? Or have they simply won one game? Obviously it’s the latter.
So make sure that you look at history and sample size when assessing the value of a trend. Only trust trends that are based on meaningful data over a reasonable period time.
Validity vs Anomaly
This is harder to judge, but it’s something you need to at least consider. Some trends exist for absolutely no reason at all, and as such they don’t really have any value. There needs to be some kind of valid reason for a trend to exist, otherwise it’s just a bunch of meaningless data.
Statistical anomalies are reasonably common in football. They’re basically outliers from the norm that happen for no logical reason. This means they can’t really be useful for judging what might happen in the future.
Let’s compare two trends here to illustrate the point. Imagine there’s a team that has lost the last nine times they’ve played in a nationally televised game. That’s a trend worth thinking about, because there could be a valid reason for it. Perhaps the team doesn’t respond well to the added pressure of playing on national TV.
Now imagine there’s a team that has lost the last nine times they’ve played in games televised by NBC, but they’ve done just fine in games in televised by ESPN. Does this tell us anything? Is there any logical reason why their performances would change based on the network televising their games? Of course not. This type of trend is better off ignored.
Of course, you probably wouldn’t look at the television network data anyway, precisely because it’s not relevant. Nonetheless, the example serves to illustrate our point. Some so-called trends are simply coincidences and nothing more than that.
Relevancy is closely linked to validity in some respects. Because for a trend to be valid in the first place, it has to be based on data that’s actually relevant. As we just explained, some data isn’t relevant at all. But when we consider relevancy as a measure of value by itself, we’re talking specifically about the period of time for which data remains relevant.
Remember how we spoke earlier about trends based on bye week data? That data has remained relevant over many years, because the effects of playing before or after a bye week have always remained constant to some extent.
Now imagine a trend based on a team’s performances against a specific opponent over the last 20 years. How relevant is most of that data going to be? How many roster changes have the two teams gone through over that period of time? How many times have they changed their head coach, or other key coaching staff?
Think about this. A team is just about to play an opponent that they’ve lost to 90% of the time over the last 20 years. That’s a clear trend. It scores well in terms of history and sample size. And it scores well in terms of validity too, because there are genuine reasons why some teams perform especially well or especially poor against specific teams. So you might assume it’s sensible to back against this team based on their poor record against their opponents.
BUT what if this team just happens to be the strongest they’ve ever been? They’ve got a well-balanced roster filled with quality players, and an experienced and successful head coach in his second year on the staff. Their opponents, on the other hand, have just seen their head coach retire after several successful years. Their star players of the last few seasons are entering the final stages of their careers and are no longer at their best.
Is what’s happened over the last 20 years even remotely relevant here? At a push, you could say that there might be some psychological impact at play here. If teams have a bad history against their opponent, that can play on the minds of the players. Overall, though, the trend here is pretty irrelevant. The two teams are both very different prospects to what they have been over the last two years: so past data doesn’t really tell us a lot.
Remember this point, because a lot of people seem to overlook it entirely. Some data is relevant over a long period of time, while some data is ONLY relevant over shorter periods of time. You have to assess the relevancy of the data you’re looking at if you’re going to extract any value at all from trends and patterns.
You’ll almost certainly have heard reference to key numbers if you’ve spent any significant time betting on football. If not, allow us to explain. In this particular context, the term key numbers refers to some clear patterns that have developed over years of football games. Specifically, these numbers relate to the most common margins of victory in football games and the most common points totals.
Knowing the numbers for the most common margins of victory can be helpful when determining whether a point spread wager offers value or not. The five most common margins of victory in NFL and NCAA games are as follows.
|NFL Games||NCAA Games|
|3 points||3 points|
|7 points||7 points|
|10 points||10 points|
|4 points||14 points|
|6 points||17 points|
By the same token, knowing the most common points totals can be useful when betting the over/under in games. The five most common points totals in NFL and NCAA games are as follows.
|NFL Games||NCAA Games|
|37 points||45 points|
|27 points||41 points|
|34 points||52 points|
|40 points||44 points|
|41 points||51 points|
Understanding key numbers is useful for several aspects of football betting. We mention them a few times throughout this guide. We’ve covered them in detail here because they’re obviously related to trends. Key numbers form some of the most consistent patterns you’ll ever find in football.
As with most other information discussed on this page, these numbers are practically useless in isolation. It’s a good idea to be aware of them though, as there will definitely be occasions when they should be factored into your decisions. You can find more detailed information on how to use them on these following pages.
Simple Trends & Patterns To Use
Everything we’ve discussed so far is largely theoretical. What we’ve tried to do is give you an understanding of the most important aspects of using trends and patterns when betting on football. We’re now going to look at some practical ways to incorporate the use of some specific trends into your betting strategies.
The following are some simple trends and patterns that we recommend studying. They’re not particularly ground-breaking, but they can help you make good betting decisions in the right circumstances.
- First Half Scoring Trends
- Sharp Line Moves
- Coaching Trends
- Home Underdog Trends
- Bye Week Trends
- Bounce Back Trends
First Half Scoring Trends
There are many different ways for teams to approach a game of football. As a general rule, though, most teams like to take control of a game right from the very start. They try to establish a lead as quickly as they possibly can. This allows them more options for how to play later on in a game. They can choose to play to use up time, for example, or they can push on offensively to increase their lead.
On the other hand, teams that don’t start well give themselves less options later in the game. When a team falls behind, they usually end up having to taking bigger risks on the field to get back into the game. Taking those risks often results in making errors. A slow start can therefore prove very costly.
This is why we like studying first half scoring trends. Teams that regularly score well in the first half should generally be viewed as strong teams. They certainly have an advantage over teams that consistently have low first half scoring numbers. These trends can, therefore, be useful to look at when two opposing teams are well matched in other areas.
Sharp Line Moves
We talked earlier about betting trends and how following the smart money can be a good approach. You don’t necessarily want to blindly do what you think the smart guys are doing, but it IS useful to get some insight into where they might be putting their money. At a minimum, it can help to validate betting decisions you’ve made based on other factors.
The problem is that it’s not always easy to know where the money is going. Odds and lines are regularly moving all the time, so it’s often not immediately obvious who’s betting on what. However, some line moves can be quite telling. These are moves where the odds, the spread or the totals line make a SUDDEN and SIGNIFICANT jump in one direction. This is typically a sign that big money is coming in from respected bettors.
We’ve studied sharp line moves extensively over the years, and we’ve found certain trends that are especially telling. In particular, we’ve found that the following moves are good indicators of smart money.
- Instant moves off opening lines
- Moves away from key numbers
- Late moves against previous flow
The general betting public don’t tend to bet opening lines. They usually bet nearer game time. So significant moves that come shortly after opening lines are posted tend to be the result of the professional bettors. It’s only really them who get straight in on the action when markets open.
Moves away from key numbers on the point spread are almost always a sign of smart action, especially when those moves are favoring the underdog. This is because it takes A LOT of money to move spreads away from the most common winning margins. So if you see something like a +2.5 underdog dropping to +2, or a +6.5 underdog dropping to +6, it’s safe to assume that the pros are backing the underdog in that game.
A late move against previous flow suggests that the pros have been waiting for the public money to move a line to specific numbers. Then, when it’s hit the numbers they want, they’ve pounced and got their money down. So, again, it’s safe to assume that these kind of moves are the result of smart money.
Now, understanding these trends is useful. But you also have to know how to use them to your advantage. Remember that you’re not trying to just copy the smart guys. You’re looking to factor what they’re doing into your overall decision making process. So you still have to think about other reasons why you might be making a particular wager.
Home Underdog Trends
Betting on home underdogs is a nice and straightforward strategy to use when betting on football. It simply involves looking for spots where the home team is the underdog against a popular team, and then seeing if there’s any value in backing the home team to cover the spread, or even to win outright. Generally speaking, the public will back popular teams on the road without too much thought, creating value on the other side of the line.
As with all extremely simple strategies, this approach is a little limited. Home underdogs will cover against popular teams frequently and will even win outright on special occasions, but backing the home team EVERY time they’re an underdog against a popular team is unlikely to be a wise approach in the long run. We can not express enough the importance of being selective!
This is where home underdog trends come are found to be the most useful. If a team has a strong record of winning at home when it’s the underdog, or at least covering, then that’s a valuable trend to consider. If you restrict your use of the home underdog strategy to when such a trend exists, then it CAN show long term profits.
Coaches have a bigger impact on games than a lot of people think. This is why we strongly recommend taking the ability of a head coach into account when assessing the overall quality of teams. There are also certain coaching trends that are worth looking out for.
For example, when betting the over/under for a game you might want to look at whether the respective coaches have track records of playing especially aggressively or especially defensively. This is very useful information when trying to assess how many points are likely to be scored.
There are countless other examples too. Some coaches show trends for doing especially well against defensive teams. Other coaches show trends for doing rather poorly against fast paced teams. Some coaches do very well when playing stronger teams, other coaches tend to do badly in high profile games. This kind of information can be very valuable when trying to make assessments about likely outcomes. So please, by all means, study coaching trends.
There’s one particular coaching trend that we’ve found to be very rewarding over the years, and that’s pre-season trends. These can help you understand just how seriously coaches take pre-season games.
Knowing a coach’s attitude towards pre-season games can be very helpful if you choose to bet on these games. If a coach who takes them seriously is up against a coach who doesn’t, then that’s obviously a significant piece of information. It’s not enough by itself to tell you which way to bet, but it’s certainly a great indicator. The following articles explain this in more detail, along with other things to consider when betting on pre-season games.
Bye Week Trends
We touched on bye week trends earlier. We believe they can be very helpful, and they’re absolutely essential to consider if you plan on using the bye week strategy. This strategy is based entirely on placing your money on teams in their first game following a bye week, so it obviously helps to know how they perform in such circumstances.
The most basic version of the bye week strategy is to simply automatically bet on teams immediately after their bye week. This is extremely flawed, as it doesn’t take anywhere near enough factors into consideration. But it can be a reasonable strategy when the necessary adjustments are made. All you need to do is study exactly how well individual teams tend to perform after their bye week. If there’s a trend that shows a team usually does very well, then you’ve got a good reason to back them. If no trend exists for a team, then maybe the bye week doesn’t benefit that team as much as others.
Bounce Back Trends
How do you think most teams respond to a heavy defeat? Or after losing a heartbreaker? Or after losing to a big rival? It’s natural to assume that teams are going to be really fired up after such results, and will go all out in their next game and have an amazing performance. But, as with almost all aspects of football betting, making such assumptions is dangerous.
You can’t simply assume that a team is going to react well to a particularly crushing defeat. Some teams have the mental fortitude to do exactly that, but some teams don’t. It’s not uncommon for a team to go on a winning streak after a setback, but it’s also not uncommon for a team to suffer from a loss of confidence and go on a losing streak.
So if you want to take previous results into account, you need to look at bounce back trends. Teams that have a record of responding well after defeats should obviously be favored to do so again. And teams that have a record of responding badly after defeats should be expected to continue to that trend. As always, you need to consider other factors too. These trends CAN definitely help with making betting decisions though.
Advanced Use of Football Trends
The main advantage of all the trends that we’ve just discussed above are that they’re very simple to discover. You don’t need to study a lot of information to determine when these trends exist, or don’t exist. They’re also relatively easy to interpret and factor into your betting decisions.
They all share one fairly significant drawback though. A lot of other bettors use them in their betting decisions, and the bookmakers also consider them when setting their odds and lines. So their worth is limited when it comes to finding real value in the betting markets. They absolutely have some merit, but they’re not as powerful as some other trends.
This is perhaps the most important point of all. If you want to get the maximum possible benefit out of using trends, then you really need to try to discover ones that no-one else has found. Finding unique trends that are relevant to the bets you are making can definitely help you identify value in the betting markets.
It’s questionable whether this approach is the right one as a beginner though. You need an in-depth understanding of what you should be looking for, and that only really comes with experience. You also need all of the following.
- A lot of data
- A lot of time
- An analytical mind
To find truly powerful trends, you need to assess a lot of data. It’s the only way to know the true worth of any particular trend. This obviously takes a lot of time, and as a beginner you may be better off spending that time on other things. Especially if you haven’t yet honed your analytical skills, or are not blessed with a naturally analytical mind.
Now, there may be a time when you’re ready to spend more time on the use of trends in your football betting. And that time might even be now. If you feel you’re capable of discovering genuinely valuable trends, and then using them effectively: this may be the way to go for you.
As a general rule, though, we don’t recommend investing too much time and effort into trends as a beginner to football betting strategy. There’s enough information on this page to give you a fundamental understanding of how they work and how to use them. In our opinion, that’s all you need for now. Revisit the topic when you have some more experience, and are ready to progress to another level.
Looking for trends and patterns is a popular approach in football betting. It certainly has its merits, and the trends we’ve discussed on this page can absolutely help with finding good betting opportunities. We believe it’s important not to ever exclusively rely on trends or patterns though. Although they can provide us with some additional insight and information to work with, they’re only truly useful when combined with other factors.
Spend only a limited amount of time studying trends and patterns. DON’T make any betting decisions based solely upon them. They can definitely be used as part of the decision making process, but they shouldn’t be given too much weight. Remember that what has happened in the past can only tell us so much about what’s likely to happen in the future.