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by Joe "Reload" Freda

Joe Freda has been an avid gambler and writer for the past two decades, covering casino and sports wagering. His efforts include several years of articles at Sportsbook Review and Don Best Sports, while enjoying trips for blackjack, craps, and poker throughout North America and the Caribbean. Freda can be reached at or through Twitter (@ReloadSports).


Now that it's summer time in the gambling world, we know it means the football season is fast approaching. While other sports have their share of betting value throughout each year, the fall's "football fever" hits everyone and has its opportunities.

Both professional and college football games add up to many teams, players, and schedules to stay on top of as the season arrives. Early betting starts with futures odds to win the Super Bowl and the College Football Playoff title, while preseason wagers and propositions, such as season win totals, are ready for action.

Finding Early Overlays

Futures odds can be the best place to start in terms of researching teams, and getting action down early. Even if you end up making very few or no futures odds bets, you will still feel more prepared going into the early weeks of football by going through related homework. Every season has its share of early surprises and late bloomers, while intangibles during the year (like injuries) can quickly change a team's fate.

The current favorites to capture each championship are the NFL's New England Patriots (15/2 odds) and college football's Alabama Crimson Tide (7/1). These prices are rather lukewarm for ‘chalk' and signify a few underdogs should have their chances.

The Denver Broncos won last season's Super Bowl but are presently 12/1 thanks to changes, such as quarterback Peyton Manning's retirement. Other top contenders include the Seattle Seahawks (9/1), Pittsburgh Steelers (10/1), and Green Bay Packers (11/1). Longest shots are reaching triple-digit odds, such as the San Diego Chargers (100/1) and Cleveland Browns (200/1).

College football's Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes slightly trail Alabama with both sitting at 15/2 odds, while other popular choices include the Michigan Wolverines (8/1) and LSU Tigers (12/1). The playoff system makes it challenging to take longer shots, but you can get a whopping 2000/1 on the Duke Blue Devils.

My strategy with futures odds is to think of the football season as a horse race lasting many furlongs. You can feel safe putting a portion of your bankroll on a top contender, but it is best to mix in a few midrange long shots with the hope that one picks up steam. Remember that hedging bets can also open up late in the season, setting up a chance to lock in a profit should your outlook change in the final stretches.

Some popular NFL teams will be undervalued "out the gate" due to tourists in Las Vegas backing the same choices every year. The Dallas Cowboys (18/1) will get their share of "oil money" while the "New York bias" hurts pricing for the Giants (32/1) and Jets (40/1). West coast teams will also tend to have their odds drop as the California contingent visiting Nevada will bet the Oakland Raiders (30/1), Los Angeles Rams (60/1), and San Francisco 49ers (75/1). Tip: You may find better prices for your teams at offshore sports books so it is always worth shopping around.

Betting the NFL Preseason

While some may think the preseason's exhibition games are not worth betting on; however, you can usually find a few good opportunities with the correct research. Reading news articles online, and finding quotes from coaches about game plan, can give some good indications about what to expect. Some teams will clearly be taking certain games more strongly than others, such as letting their starters play longer. Nationally-televised games can often bring bigger effort out of players looking to make squads, while newer coaches may be using the spotlight to make an impression.

The home field advantage can often mean much less in a preseason game as both player and fan enthusiasm are far less than normal. Road teams tend to not travel far and it can be more of a refocused break from the practice-field grind. Special teams' situations tend to be the biggest intangible since you will often find more blocked kicks and turnovers, with squads using makeshift personnel.

Tips as the weeks unfold

The first week of the regular season for both college and professional action can often bring out the most impulsive betting you will find all year. Be sure to use good money management and remember there are many weeks still ahead.

Overreaction can quickly set in by the second week, with media experts jumping on bandwagons after just seeing one flawless game. Teams can often drop in performance once the grind of the season's heart hits, while factors like home-road disparity can set in. Sports books will set point spreads based on public perception, and you will often see lines move faster in the earlier weeks of seasons.

The "vigorish" charged by odds makers with each wager (for example, risking $110 to win $100) can have its challenges to overcome through the year. I tend to focus on betting underdogs with at least two thirds of my wagers for both college and pro football. You can also look through betting menus for other options such as ‘totals' and proposition bets.

Money-line wagering as opposed to the point spread can also be beneficial to leverage for a percentage of your bets. For example, if you like an underdog receiving three points in the spread, you can opt to bet a money-line price, such as plus 130 (giving you $130 in winnings on $100 risked).

It is also best to look at schedule situations and field conditions through the year. Some teams are geared for more success on a "faster track" like turf or domes, while others like to ground and pound on old-fashioned grass. Emotional spots can also find teams charged up for revenge against a big rival, while also feeling letdowns against foes after notching a big comeback victory the week before.

Summary for football betting success

  • Look for early overlays in futures betting.
  • Have a group of multiple sports books at your disposal to line shop.
  • Set a bankroll for the season with money management through each week.
  • Avoid overvalued favorites and media hype surrounding teams.
  • Be a spot handicapper and look at situational influences beyond statistics.

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