NFL – Some General Guidelines

There would never be a good reason to bet on every game during an NFL week. You can’t possibly have a legitimate opinion on a full slate. However, many people are involved in pools where they are required to chose each game with the spread. Under these circumstances, it is a good idea to have some default principles. When you have no real feeling about whether to lay points or go with the home team, what do you do?

General NFL Betting Principles

Road Teams

Home teams win more than road teams, everyone knows that, most of all sportsbooks. Prior to Monday night’s Green Bay/Philly tussle, home teams are 101-73-2 this season. That said, they are 81-85-10 against the spread. There seems to be no clear default angle here. However, there is money to be made at the bottom of the league. The four teams that have two wins or fewer, overall, are getting trounced at home. The Browns, Bears, Niners, and Jaguars are a combined 4-18 at home, and 5-16-1 for against the spread. When in doubt, fade really bad teams at home.


Sharp bettors tend to prefer getting points to giving them. This year, underdogs are 88-82-5; that’s a winning record, but a losing bet when you factor in the vig (i.e. the percentage that the sportsbook takes). However, there are some trends to follow here, as well. Five teams are unbeaten as dogs this season (Carolina, Dallas, New Orleans, New England, and Seattle). The Dallas and New Orleans are particularly live, going 4-0 and 5-0-1 when getting points. On the flip side, the Cardinals (0-3) and Steelers (0-1) have not covered as underdogs this season.

The Browns and 49ers, who are getting points almost every week, have been miserable ATS going 2-10 and 2-7-1. The default play is simply take points unless you are dealing with the worst of the worst. In those cases, look at who the bad teams are playing, and assess from there.


Only the Titans and Browns have byes remaining, but who wouldn’t like to add two wins to their season record? Teams coming off byes are 18-10-2 against the number this season. There is something to be said for getting extra rest and having time to game plan.


Let’s wrap up with an angle for those who really like crunching numbers. There is an adage that divisional games are usually closely played and defensive-minded. The latter has not been the case this season. Of 110 games played between divisional foes, the over is 62-48. Offense is winning out when familiar foes square off.

For what it is worth, the Ravens have covered all four of their divisional contests, while the Panthers, Eagles, and Browns are winless against the spread in their divisions.

Photo credit: Keith Allison (Cole Beasley) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

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