Are NFL teasers a good bet?

A Numbers Game: An Exploration into NFL Teasers

Sports betting is all about trying to find the smallest of edges to gain an advantage against the books. Every trend, every stat, every injury, anything and everything is considered before placing your money on a side. I recently got into betting teasers and I’ll be honest, I didn’t do any research on how to attack these prior to placing my bet. Instead, I started teasing games with spreads of 3 points as I found these the toughest to handicap.

The books always know! But in my mind, 3-point spreads are the books’ way of saying, “We don’t know so we will set the line at 3 and let the market dictate the action.” Typically, through observation, I assumed these games would finish as close as the line indicated they would – with something like a fumble or missed PAT deciding the result. I also assumed divisional games with spreads of 3 points would be even closer. But are these assumptions true? Are games with 3-point spreads as close as they appear?

I wanted to find the answer to that question with one objective in mind – if this was the case, could you just tease the underdog in these games to +9 or +10 using a 6- or 7-point teaser and come out profitable? Does it yield different results in non-divisional vs divisional games?

The Results

I had the Odds Shark data team collect information from the last five seasons of NFL games that opened with 3-point spreads. From the data I received, it turned out that there have been 170 games since 2014 (including this season) that opened with 3-point spreads. Of those 170 games, 58 were divisional matchups.

Non-Divisional Matchups

After analyzing the 112 non-divisional games with Sportsbook spreads of 3 since 2014, I was pretty surprised. No need to tell you why, let me just show you the numbers.

Total Non-Divisional Games: 112
  • Covered on both 6- & 7-point teasers: 74 (66 percent success rate).

Of the 74 total games that covered on both 6- and 7-point teasers, 39 (52.7 percent) saw the underdog win outright.

Here are two examples from this season:

1. Week 2: Seattle Seahawks (28) at Pittsburgh Steelers (26). Sportsbook line: PIT -3, closing line: PIT -4.

2. Week 4: Jacksonville Jaguars (26) at Denver Broncos (24). Sportsbook line: DEN -3, closing line: DEN -2.5

I actually had Jaguars +3 picked as my Guys & Bets best bet last week and even said I’d be taking the moneyline. Boom! What about divisional games? Let’s look at that, too.

Divisional Matchups

Of the original 170 games analyzed, 58 were divisional matchups. Using the same format as non-divisional games, here’s what the numbers had to say.

Total Divisional Games: 58
  • Covered on both 6- & 7-point teasers: 41 (70.6 percent success rate).

Of the 58 total games that covered when teased 6 or 7 points, 23 (39.6 percent) saw the underdog win outright.

Here are two examples from this season:

1. Week 4: Cleveland Browns (40) at Baltimore Ravens (25). Sportsbook line: BAL -3, closing line: BAL -7.

Who would have thought? For anyone who was brave enough to take the Brownies on the moneyline, they sure left with a nice payday.

2. Week 1: Denver Broncos (16) at Oakland Raiders (24). Sportsbook line: OAK -3, closing line: DEN -3.

Key Takeaways

These numbers are pretty promising, but I wouldn’t blindly put games with 3-point spreads on a teaser card. You should still consider injuries, performance, back-to-back road games, quarterbacks and, most importantly, juice and long-term profitability.

Something else to consider is making more moneyline underdog bets. If you notice, the success rate of a straight-up underdog win was higher in non-divisional games than that of a matchup between two division rivals.

Odds Shark writer Gilles Gallant is already ahead of the curve with this one as he recently wrote an article on taking the moneyline instead of the spread for underdogs of 3 points or less.

Before leaving, I must identify an issue with teasers and it’s the same one that’s true for parlays and why sportsbooks are so profitable year after year. When you introduce new variables and require more than one result to win a bet, you’re increasing your risk of losing. Even with a 66 percent success rate on individual games, you’re likely losing more often than not when you add in the second game that’s required to make a teaser bet, especially when you consider the juice.

Stanford Wong, who wrote “How To Maximize Basic Teaser Strategy In NFL Betting,” says that “for a 6-point teaser to break even, bettors must win each single leg 72.3% of the time.” So if you do want to play teasers, remember these points: be selective, make them a fun accessory bet and limit the number of teasers you opt to wager on.

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