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NFL Public Money: Betting Against the Consensus

When it comes to sports betting, the NFL offers season-long opportunities to try out different betting strategies. Even fans who know little about wagering on football can (hopefully) make money by following Odds Shark’s NFL tutorials.

For those who are looking for a new tactic to approach football betting, why not try looking at the consensus and making picks against the public?

What is the NFL Consensus?

In betting, the consensus translates to what percentage the general public is taking on each side of a game. Some NFL bettors will always bet with the public no matter which teams are playing and what the betting trends say. For others, the public is always wrong and they will constantly bet against them when making their football picks.

Let’s say the New England Patriots are playing the Miami Dolphins. NFL odds for that game would look something like this:

TeamSpreadATS ConsensusOVER/UNDERO/U Consensus
Patriots-2.556%34 OVER58%
Dolphins+2.544%34 UNDER42%

In this case, 56 percent of the betting public believe the Pats will cover the spread and 58 percent of bettors believe that the total will go OVER 34 points.

If you believe that the 56 percent are right, you are betting with the public. Conversely, if you believe that the 44 percent are right, you are betting against the public. This is also known as “fading” because you are taking the other side of where the NFL public money is going.

Watch for Line Movements

Successful point spread betting involves trying to get the best odds. First-time bettors may put their money down on a particular team because they like them, which in turn forces the sportsbook to adjust their opening odds.

Sharps – experienced bettors – see these initial line moves and try to wait as long as possible until they believe the odds are at their peak before betting the other side. In the case of going against public money NFL bets, all you really need is the line to move to make a solid bet.

For example, the Kansas City Chiefs are playing the Los Angeles Rams and the odds opened like this on Monday:

Chiefs -7.5

Rams +7.5

Let’s pretend the public is heavily backing the Chiefs. But, by Thursday the line moves to -3.5/+3.5 because of an injury to a key player, shifting the odds. KC is no longer favored by a touchdown, allowing you to pounce on these new odds and take the other side.

Following NFL line moves gives you the chance to figure out who the public is betting on and determine which side of the bet you want to back. You can also look to our Betting Trends page for even more handicapping data, like how often the total has gone OVER or UNDER when these two squads played each other in the past.

Can You Outsmart a Sportsbook by Fading the Public?

A successful oddsmaker is one who anticipates the public by looking at betting trends, past scores and odds. If NFL bettors knew what they were doing on a consistent basis, online betting sites would not make any money. So, to answer that question: No, you cannot outsmart a sportsbook. Why? Because odds experts are the ones who set the opening numbers with the public in mind, trying to get them to lean in a certain direction. Since the betting community tends to be wrong as much as they are right, sportsbooks use these trends to their advantage when setting the odds and betting lines. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a profit betting against the NFL public and waiting for better odds.

Two of the most common public plays are taking the favorite and OVER odds in nationally televised games such as Monday Night Football. They also tend to like popular teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and whoever won the previous season’s Super Bowl. Lines on those teams are created accordingly so bettors willing to take the underdog are typically working with an extra point, if not more than that. That can be a significant edge and will pay off over the course of a season, resulting in a few extra wins.

If you’re unsure if fading the public is the right move for you, choose the moneyline. You can still bet against the consensus, but instead of trying to figure out if one team is more likely to cover over the other, or if the total is going to go OVER or UNDER the oddsmaker’s set number, you simply have to pick a winner.

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