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What To Look For In an NFL Underdog

Posted by Matthew Forrester on 7/24/2015 11:10:01 PM

If you think that you’re going to make money betting on favorites, then you’ve got another thing coming, which is why I’ve made a list of what to look for in an NFL underdog.

Statistically speaking, underdogs will have various metrics that will speak volumes, such as home record and performance against double digit spreads.

We’ll get to those as the season gets underway, but below are more general guidelines to imbed in to your betting instincts.


Each week, fans and analysts of the NFL react to what happened the week before as if it is the definitive statement on the state of NFL teams. Everyone is quick to pile on what looks like a flaming school bus, without stepping back to consider the circumstances of a loss. Just remember that “a million people have been wrong and will be wrong again”.

A lot of people will jump all over a team for a bad performance, and that’s fine. Still, you have to understand that the 16-game sample size we have for NFL betting is tiny compared to the 162-game marathon in baseball or even the 82-game runs in hockey and basketball. One game does not and will never define a team’s season, and this negative public sentiment can be something you can look for in an NFL underdog on a weekly basis.

If you’re high on a team that nobody else seems to be, don’t follow the herd. Do you believe that whole heartedly in Arizona’s coaching staff? Love Phillip Rivers’ never-say-die attitude? Then go for it. Tune out the hype machine, the public outcry and stick with your guns.


The top-five teams in terms of ATS records last year were Arizona, Indianapolis, Dallas, Kansas City and Minnesota. Seriously. Aside from Dallas, none of those teams are what you’d consider “public teams’. There were many sharps that leaned against the Colts because the team was comprised of corrugated cardboard outside of quarterback Andrew Luck.

So the advice here is to look in the uninhabited corners of the general market. Do you think anyone was cashing in on Minnesota’s glorious run at the end of the season? Nope! When you look for NFL underdogs, solid small market teams going up against big market juggernauts is usually a strong play.

Betting against a big market team that also happens to be a sinking ship is a great idea. San Francisco was in the midst of a meltdown in 2014 that pundits refused to believe in, and bettors followed suite. Meanwhile, they went 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 games of the season with spread losses to teams like San Diego, Oakland, Washington and St. Louis.


Sometimes teams are just good bets for no explicable reason. Case in point is the 2014 Cleveland Browns, a team that went 9-5-2 ATS and continued to reward people that took chances on them. It didn’t make any sense, and that’s the point. If you can’t pinpoint some mathematical data stream that explains a team’s success, it makes everyone else nervous. The cold fact was that people who rode the Browns made money last season.

There are occasions where things really are too good to be true, and other instances where it’s just flat out good and true. Look at the top five betting teams from last year. Do you think anybody would’ve earmarked those teams as the best bets of 2014? In hindsight we can explain why those things happened, but at the time people were scared.

This is my casual reminder that betting on underdogs sometimes means taking chances, and if you’re risk averse in sports gambling you’re not going to succeed. Keep these guidelines in the back of you heard when you’re looking for NFL underdogs in 2015 and reap the rewards.


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