Jared Smith's strategies for betting the 2022 NFL season

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Well it’s that time again. For NFL fans and bettors, August is synonymous with hope and the excitement of a new season on the horizon. It also means new opportunities to grow as a bettor by applying lessons we’ve learned in years past, through wins and losses. 

Every handicapper has a different process for how and when they start diving into the NFL. For me, it’s more like a slow burn, with periodic check-ins throughout the offseason before the flood gates open fully in July when teams report for training camp. But sadly even if I wanted to take a break in the spring or summer, the hypersensitive news cycle is nearly impossible to ignore for long periods of time. 

I’m of the belief that you don’t need to put in a lot of offseason legwork on rosters and schemes to be a successful NFL bettor. For the most part I use the offseason to monitor and absorb the market itself, especially after breaking news when the most movement usually occurs. 

Don’t get me wrong, it probably won’t hurt to be extra prepared for the fall if you have the time. But keep in mind even the most diligent analysts will not hesitate to ditch their offseason research once actual results start coming in. 

“I don’t really factor in too much of what I thought the teams were in the offseason a month into the year,” NFL betting analyst Warren Sharp said on a recent podcast with notable professional NFL handicapper Las Vegas Cris

So just 4 games into a 17-game season, Sharp is willing to ditch months of preparation he did from March through July. That’s how fast the market can move in the NFL, which makes me further question how much value there is in doing a lot of offseason research. 

Should you bet on the preseason?

I’ve seen mixed reactions to this question amongst pros with solid arguments on both sides.

“I’m not trying to get down on small edges in the preseason,” Sharp added. “I’d rather process information to improve my decision-making and my thought process about this team so that when limits are high and the regular season is here I can be successful.”

Our pal LVC is also in line with that way of thinking and believes the preseason is “all about information”. 

But there is also valid opposition research to bring to the debate, like this tweet from noteworthy pro Steve Fezzik.

In this instance I align more with option #2 in Steve’s proclamation. Every individual bettor should create a plan about time and bankroll management for the NFL and stick to it, regardless of whether or not the games take place in the preseason or regular season.

If you want action and are willing to put in the work, the preseason can be beaten. But if you have a more long-term approach to the season and would rather start slowly, that’s also valid. 

That being said, you shouldn’t feel obligated to bet on the preseason just because there are edges to be had. If most recreational bettors made a wager on every edge available on the board every day, their bankroll would dry up very quickly. 

I think the most important thing you can do during this buildup time in August is develop a strategy for how you’re going to allocate your bankroll during the season and which markets you want to attack.

Maybe that strategy includes spending time and units every week betting preseason games. Either way, it should absolutely be set in stone before Week 1.

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The truth about teasers

I’ve written several columns about NFL teasers over the past year and it continues to be a popular topic among Vegas sharps this offseason. The pressure point with standard 6-point NFL teasers revolves around the price, which can fluctuate wildly from book to book.

For example, I’ve seen odds vary from -120 at a square shop such as Caesars all the way up to -140 at sharper books such as Westgate or Circa. Meanwhile, South Point charges -125 and MGM -130. That much variance in price for the same bet means some bookmakers are undecided on the true value of a standard NFL 6-point teaser. 

“I think a lot of my fear is that I don’t know the true price,” Circa sports director Matthew Metcalf revealed on another recent fireside chat with Las Vegas Cris. “I want to be in a position where if somebody walks in and wants to bet a $100,000 teaser I don’t have to think about it I can just say yes. So I put a price on the board that puts me in that spot where I don’t have to ever feel like I’m exposed. But I will accept that criticism because I do know our pricing is probably not up to the standards of Circa.”

Metcalf admitting he intentionally prices teasers higher also aligns with feedback I received from his colleague Jeffrey Benson in a chat last year about how Circa had a “challenging year with teasers”.

Hearing one of the sharpest books in Vegas is facing strong opposition with teasers gives me hope that if the price is right (laying 20 cents or less) I can find an edge betting them on a weekly basis this season. 

How to read the market

This might be the single most important skill a novice NFL bettor can apply their time and resources to getting better at, and is always at my top priority list when starting my process every week. Finding stats and information to back up your bet is easy, but knowing when to actually place that bet and being able to properly identify buy signals is a totally different story. 

Constantly communicating with professionals and betting syndicates is one way to accurately predict how the lines will move. But that practice is becoming increasingly difficult according to pros such as LVC. Plus very few people have access to that network, and by the time you hear it from a second-hand source, the market has already moved and you’re too late. 

Another way you can hone your skills in market timing is by having a better understanding of teasers. 

“When you see a week where all the games are at 6.5 or 7 or in that range where it’s going to create teaser liability, I think you’re conscious of it so you’re kind of trying to push those lines a little higher on the whole,” Metcalf added. “I think everyone does it.”

So how do we apply this? Well if you’re scanning the board for next week’s NFL games on a Sunday night or Monday morning, and you notice a lot of favorites priced between 7 and 8.5 on the spread, it’s safe to assume all or most of them will push through 9, which offers protection against teasing the favorite under the key number of 3. 

One such game in Week 1 matches that criteria with the Colts currently 8-point road favorites over the Texans for their opener. Barring some kind of major injury to Matt Ryan, I would expect that line to touch 9 at some point before kickoff. So if you like Houston as a home dog, it makes sense to wait because you will likely get a better number. But if you think the Colts are the right side, bet early before the line inevitably moves higher.

Metcalf also theorized why some books are being more aggressive about moving lines in a defensive manner to protect them from being heavily teased. 

“When you have a couple weeks in a row in the NFL where the teasers are coming in and there’s a lot of games that lend themselves to them a lot of times these books are getting negative feedback and pressure from upstairs as to hey stop losing on the NFL, stop losing letting these teasers come in. So they’re doing something to say ‘hey I’m doing all I can, look at what I did’. That to me is a short-term approach.”

Pro bettors agree that spotting these teaser lines early can assist you in reading the market. 

“I do see books intentionally pricing the line so that they don’t get burned by teases,” added veteran NFL pro bettor Ron Ace Sports. 

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Target the totals

I’ll be the first to admit this is a point of emphasis for me. I had a strong 2021 campaign betting sides and props, and overall it was a winning year for me in the NFL, but totals were a total disaster. In my defense, I didn’t put a lot of work into them last season, something that will change in 2022. 

Ron also gave me another reason to look harder when further prodding Metcalf about a discrepancy with Circa’s limits on totals compared to sides.

“We win at a lower clip on totals, probably by a couple percentage points,” Metcalf revealed. “For the most part, we don’t get a lot of recreational play to soften the blow on totals, and on sides we do, so we can afford to deal much higher limits on sides. But it’s changing, more and more guys are coming in and they just want to bet totals. I think the win percentage will continue to converge over time.”

I can’t promise you I will have a winning season betting NFL totals, but I can promise you I will be putting exponentially more work into finding an edge. Considering how good the Circa oddsmakers are at their job, if they are lowering their limits in a market because of narrower win margins, then that’s a market I need to be taking very seriously. 

While I’m not giving out any new bets in this column, you can expect some kind of futures portfolio update towards the end of preseason followed by an early look at Week 1 shortly thereafter.

Pickswise is the home of free expert NFL Picks and NFL Odds. Be sure to check out all of our season previews and NFL Futures Bets leading up to the 2022 NFL season.

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