The NFL has tried to expand its fan base internationally pretty much since its inception. Regular-season football games played abroad have become commonplace, and at least one has been played every season since 2005, except for 2006, and in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Prior to 2005, the NFL regularly played exhibition games in Mexico, Japan, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The 2022 season is no different, with regular-season games planned for London, Mexico City and, for the first time ever, Munich.
The first international game of the season takes place this weekend in Week 4 with the Minnesota Vikings taking on the New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Later in the season, the Packers will play the Giants in Week 5 at Hotspur Stadium, the Broncos face the Jaguars in Week 8 at Wembley Stadium in London, the Buccaneers face the Seahawks in Week 10 in Munich, Germany, and the 49ers play the Cardinals in Week 11 in Mexico City.
From a betting perspective, we were curious to see if these international games have produced any interesting betting trends that we can use to inform our wagers in these neutral-field settings. There is certainly a ton of travel and disruption involved when teams travel overseas for a one-week stint, but how does that affect the outcome of the games?
We used our incomparable data team here at Odds Shark to dive into a few nuggets we can apply to betting on neutral-site NFL games. Here’s what we found:
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NFL Neutral-Site Betting Trends
One of the first trends we looked at was how the game totals panned out. We had a theory that teams are generally more tired when they play abroad because of the longer travel, often just a week after playing another regular-season game (teams usually get a bye week after an international game, not before). The results were interesting.
When looking at the last 10 years of international regular-season games, a sample of 30 games, the UNDER hit in 10 of the last 14, dating back to the 2017 season. Even more interestingly, eight of those 10 UNDERs went below the total by at least a touchdown and seven went below by at least 10 points.
That trend of UNDERs was a massive switch from the previous 16 games in the 30-game sample where the OVER hit in 13 of 16 games.
Are teams more tired than usual in the recent international games? Have the games featured particularly poor offenses? Either way, this is a trend worth keeping in mind moving forward.
It also leads nicely into our second trend.
First-Half vs Second-Half Scoring
If we’re to assume that the extensive travel and condensed nature of the NFL schedule can lead to lower point totals in games, it would make sense that teams would probably start slowly in those games, right? Well, that’s exactly what has happened as the second half was the higher-scoring half in three of the last four and eight of the last 11 neutral-site games. This is decidedly abnormal as the first half tends to be higher-scoring in the NFL in general.
In the last 30 international games, the second half was the higher-scoring half in just 16. So, just like the point totals, we have seen a shift in recent years with slow starts and fewer points being the norm over the last 10 or so games.
First Score Of The Game
Another trend that correlates with the two above is the time of the first score of the game. Using a large chunk of recent data on the mean time of first score, the eight-minute mark seems to be about average for a first score in a regular-season NFL game.
Five of the last seven neutral-site games had their first score after the eight-minute mark of the first quarter. Like the other trends, this one has occurred more recently as just 13 of the last 30 neutral-site games had their first score after the eight-minute mark.
In that 30-game sample, nine of the first 10 games featured points scored within the first eight minutes.
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How Can Bettors Take Advantage Of These Trends?
The first thing to do is head over to our best NFL betting sites page and sign up for your favorite sportsbook. The second would seem to be betting on the UNDER, the second half to be the higher-scoring half and the OVER on a “first score time” prop if it’s at about eight minutes or less.
These trends can also help bettors take advantage of team total bets as well as player props if the assumption is the games will have less scoring in general.
With three games to be played in London, one in Mexico City and one in Munich this NFL season, there will be plenty of opportunities for bettors to try to take advantage of these trends.