Is it Better to Bet Against the Public in NFL?

As you become a more experienced bettor, you will learn to understand industry jargon. Today, let’s focus on the term “public.”

Understanding “public betting” is incredibly important. This is where profitable sports bettors can find value, whether on the NFL or any other sport. The public refers to where the majority is placing its money on a particular bet. If there was a game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, a website might show 75% of bets coming in on the Cowboys to cover the point spread. That 75% represents the betting public.

Knowing what the betting public is doing is especially important in the NFL because of how far in advance betting lines are released. The sportsbooks may react to what the betting public is doing. Therefore, you can monitor moving odds and spreads every day leading up to kickoff.

In this guide, we will take you through the basics of public betting in the NFL and explain how this knowledge will be crucial to profitable bettors when sports betting goes live in the state of Texas.

What is public betting?

Public betting shows where the majority of bets are going on a particular wager. That could be the point spread, moneyline, total or virtually any other bet type.

Sportsbooks will constantly monitor public betting and may consider moving the lines to even out betting action. For example, if there is an upcoming matchup featuring the Dallas Cowboys as five-point favorites over the Philadelphia Eagles and the public is all over the Cowboys with 90% of bets, there is a good chance the sportsbook will move the line to the Cowboys being 5.5 or 6-point favorites. This should entice bettors to place money on the Eagles.

In general, sportsbooks like relatively even action on each side of a bet. This minimizes risk and liability in the event a large portion of the bettors win big. Sportsbooks are in the business of making money, and they would like to lose as little as possible whenever they are on the wrong side of things.

Public betting and the NFL

The above example is just one of the many scenarios where tracking NFL public bets can be of value to a football bettor. Changing the mindset from a sports fan to a sports bettor can take time. But with more experience, you will likely get better at knowing how to deal with the betting public.

Other NFL-specific tactics might be going against a team playing consecutive road games, or maybe you side with the franchise that had extra days of rest compared to the opponent. The NFL schedule makers try to limit that impact, but there is only so much they can do. Those two scenarios are classic trends that sports bettors think about but the NFL betting public doesn’t.

All of this is magnified when games get bigger. Recreational sports bettors love betting on the Super Bowl. This is another area where you can take advantage and potentially return a profit by doing what recreational bettors are not.

Who is the public betting on?

There are a number of ways to find where the public’s money is headed. Indeed, this information is more and more available with the recent surge in sports betting legalization across the United States.

Plenty of websites will provide the betting splits for the point spread, total and moneyline for each NFL game. These resources show where the majority of bets are coming in as well as the percentage of money going to each side. Truly, this info is just a web search away.

Zooming out for a second, sports betting has become so mainstream that referencing what the public is doing with its money is discussed on the most prominent sports programs. You might even find these percentages running on the bottom line ticker on certain networks.

You may also figure out where the majority of bets and/or money is going based on simply tracking the lines yourself. These aren’t strictly percentages, but you may have a clear idea when you see the lines move. Of course, make sure this movement isn’t due to injury, roster or weather updates. But when there is no major news surrounding an event, and the lines move one way or the other, you can assume the sportsbooks are reacting to the betting public’s behavior.

What are NFL public betting percentages?

But what do those aforementioned stats about public betting behavior indicate? Believe it or not, there’s actually a substantial difference between the percentage of public bets and the percentage of public money. Let’s consider a potential matchup between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens. Say you are doing your research and find that 56% of bets are coming in on the Texans but only 43% of the money is coming in on the Texans. How can that be?

Well, it’s because bettors who are willing to put more money on the line are siding with the Ravens. But it’s the majority of smaller bets coming in on the Texans. Many sites that provide betting trend information will make this distinction plain for you.

What does ‘consensus’ mean?

The “consensus” refers to the team attracting the majority of bets in a matchup. Because truly even betting is rare, there will be a consensus pick in most NFL matchups.

Of course, the sportsbooks will try to minimize the consensus by shifting lines and sports betting odds to elicit even betting. The reason sportsbooks would want some action on both sides is due to the vigorish, a.k.a. the vig or juice. If you’ve ever noticed the -110 odds for spreads and totals, this is the sportsbooks maintaining an advantage for themselves. The standard -110 means you would need to bet $110 to win a $100 profit.

Due to that $10 margin for the books, bettors who get 50% of their bets correct are actually losing money. They would need to hit at 52.38% in order to break even. By the way, that’s an incredibly difficult feat to perform consistently.

Is it better to bet with or against the public in NFL?

Every scenario could be different. But when in doubt, go against the public. Assuming the line has gone toward the side of the public, any value you may have squeezed out is gone by the time the line moves.

For example, let’s say the Houston Texans are 2.5-point favorites against the Indianapolis Colts. If the public goes heavy on the Texans spread, and oddsmakers adjust to the market by moving that number to 3-point favorites, the value you could’ve gotten on Texans -2.5 is gone. Being on the wrong side of the value play is not where you want to be. In this case, consider staying away or waiting for another line movement instead of giving yourself a bad number.

What is ‘fading’ the public?

As a whole, the public is not very good at sports betting. Most dabble in this world for recreational purposes. This is fine, but for those taking sports gambling seriously, “fading the public” (or going against their trends) is a solid strategy.

Initially, it can take some mental reprogramming to figure out what the public believes and then do the opposite. For example, if the most recent Sunday Night Football game showed the Dallas Cowboys crushing the New York Giants in front of a massive TV audience, the next game could be the perfect time to fade the public.

After watching that game, many sports fans will remember how awesome the Cowboys looked and decide to bet on them the next week simply because the image of them playing so well is fresh in their minds. Fans can get caught up in the moment. This is what makes sports fandom so exciting. But sports bettors understand Dallas will not bring its ‘A’ game every week. A regression from Dallas’ recent dominant performance is a strong possibility.

Public betting systems for NFL

Predicting how the public will bet is a tricky proposition. But many profitable bettors can forecast how the market will react to a particular wager. In general, the public likes betting on favorites and the over (when it comes to the point spread and game total). Some of the best sports bettors will track the betting public. Once oddsmakers adjust to a number they like, that’s when the bettors can pounce.

Let’s say the Dallas Cowboys are 6.5-point underdogs against the Green Bay Packers, and money comes pouring in on the Packers to cover the 6.5 points. Because so many NFL games end in a 7-point deficit, bettors could wait for the public to get their wagers in, and right when the sportsbook moves the number from 6.5 to 7, that’s when bettors can swoop in and get the Cowboys as full-touchdown underdogs at 7 points. That half-point is incredibly valuable to sports bettors. Those who bet on the Cowboys at 6.5 points are at a disadvantage.

This strategy works in reverse as well. Instead of waiting until the line moves based on public money, bettors could get in early before lines shift. That said, the issue here would come with predicting what the public bettors will do incorrectly. You could get burned and be at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the betting public.

Becoming a profitable sports bettor is all about finding these tiny edges. We all hope “the public” has fun on NFL Sundays, but maybe you can make a little cash off that fun.