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American Football (often referred to as NFL or Gridiron) is a popular betting
The format and duration of the game gives traders many opportunities to take
positive positions or minimize losses with the ebb and flow of possession.
The American Football season is very short compared to many other team
sports. It runs from the end of August early September until end of January early
After the ‘regular season’ which is 16 games long (played over 17 weeks) the
sport enters the post season ‘playoffs’.
These playoffs are one off games where the victor continues and the loser’s
season is over, eventually leaving the final two teams to contest the Superbowl.
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The league format can seem complicated to the uninitiated.
There are 32 teams, often called franchises, in the National Football League or
The teams are split into two conferences, the American Football Conference or
AFC and the National Football Conference, or NFC.
Each conference is then split into four divisions, North, South, East and West,
each containing four teams.
While the fixture list is a very complicated process it works, the idea being that all
teams have a fair chance of making the post season playoffs.
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Only 12 of the original 32 teams make the playoffs.
The teams are made up of the eight divisional champions and four wild card
teams. The wild card teams are the four best second placed finishers across
the eight divisions (two from the AFC and two from the NFC).
These twelve sides are then seeded 1 – 6 (per conference) based on their
season’s performances.
The first two seeds from each conference receive a bye in the first round of the
The first round of the playoffs is often called the wild card playoffs or wild card
weekend. The team with the lower seeding is always the home side during the
playoffs. So the better you perform during the season can give you home field
advantage during the playoffs.
The second round of the playoffs is the divisional round where the one and two
seeded teams play the lowest seeded teams to come through the wild card
The third round is the conference championships where the final two teams
from each conference play for the right to contest the Superbowl.
The final game of the NFL season is the Superbowl where the AFC and the
NFC champions play each other in what is one of the most watched annual
televised events in the world.
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American Football is played over four 15 minute quarters with a 12 minute halftime break (Superbowl half-time is much longer).
However, this doesn’t mean an American Football game lasts one hour and
12 minutes. Games are nearer the three hour mark – mainly to allow time for
television commercials.
A commercial can be expected whenever possession changes, whenever a
team calls a timeout, whenever a player is injured, and following each time
either team scores.
It’s these delays that put many people off this sport. However, these time delays
can be valuable as they give you time to consider positions and strategies for
the next set of downs or restart of play.
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There are three ways to score points in American Football:
Touchdown: this is the main scoring play and worth six points. It’s scored
when a player runs into or catches a pass in the opposition’s ‘end zone’. After
a touchdown the scoring team can then take an extra point by kicking the ball
through the goalposts from the defending team’s two yard line or they can go
for a two point conversion by running or passing the ball into the end zone.
Unless the extra points are needed to gain an eight or four point lead late in the
game (forcing the opposition to score more than a touchdown and/or field goal)
the usual option is to go for the one point conversion which is achieved the vast
majority of the time.
Field Goal: this is worth three points and is scored when the offensive team
kick the ball through the goalposts of the defending team. The field goal is
usually attempted on the fourth down or when the clock is running out.
Safety: This is worth two points and is a scoring play made by the team’s
defence. This two point scoring play can be achieved by tackling, forcing a
fumble or getting an offensive player out of bounds in their own end zone.
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In American Football keeping control of the ball is critical.
This is done by carrying or passing the ball 10 yards or more in four attempts
(called downs).
The team in possession of the football are the offensive team and they are
trying to achieve 10 yards or more with the ball.
Should they do that they’ll get a new set of four downs to do the same again
until such point as they get into the defensive end zone scoring a touchdown or
they elect to attempt a field goal.
However, should the offense lose possession of the football (a turnover) then
the roles are reversed and the opposition now become the offensive team
trying to move the ball 10 yards.
This control and or loss of the football that can create large swings in the
markets. Because possession is vital to a team’s success there’s an element
of the market that assumes points will be scored on this possession and a
turnover can result in large market swings depending on where and when the
turnover occurs.
Possession of the football also means control of the clock so a team can run
the ball and keep the clock Acking to run down time. However, just because the
time clock says 30 seconds the game could still last considerably longer than
that and double digit winning margins can be reduced or eradicated in a very
short timeframe with the use of an onside kick or a turnover.
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The NFL prides itself on being unbreakable from the forces of Mother Nature.
Sleet, snow, torrential downpours, high winds, even lighting have failed to stop
games in the past. But you don’t need to wait for the perfect storm to steal
the upper hand on trading “under” points. Check the weather forecasts on
game-day but remember that some oukits play inside domes where the outside
elements are immaterial.
Rain/Snow: wet conditions on grass render the terrain slower and play gets
bogged down. Sloppy surfaces lead to a slippery ball and attritional head-toheads, often premised on hard-yard running and a reluctance or inability to
throw deep downfield. Fewer points are invariably the result.
Cold: certain stadiums (Lambeau and Heinz Field in winter spring readily
to mind) get blasted by sub-zero temperatures in winter, with the effect of
hardening the ball to a rock-like quality. It’s far more difficult to catch and
kick, so one-dimensional games can happen. Make sure your preferred side
possesses both a strong ground assault and run defence.
Wind: perhaps the most overlooked game-changer and one which most
contributes to low scoring. Sides that rise and fall on the passing game (i.e.
proponents of the West Coast offense) will struggle in blustery tradewinds, as
will all field-goal kickers. Wind is also the element to which handicappers react
the slowest, giving accurate forecast-readers the chance to play the unders
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Look to back underdogs with a 10.5, 7.5 or 3.5 handicap advantage.
Seven and three are two important numbers to remember in American football.
Often a team is only concerned about winning the game and will run the clock
down if they have possession of the football and sufficient downs to finish the
This ultimately means the game is over and the teams just go through the
formality of finishing the game.
If you can get with the underdogs with a handicap greater than a scoring play
then you can enjoy watching the clock run down with the favourites three,
seven or 10 points ahead in the game.
Over the past five seasons of NFL action 33% of all games fell on either three
(17% of games), seven (10% of games) or 10 points (6% of games). These are
the three most significant key numbers in handicap betting.
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There are certain field positions where the market expects a touchdown.
When a team enters the red zone (20 yards to the goal line) with a new set of
downs the market expects a touchdown. However, statistically 1st and 15 is
only worth about 5.5 points.
Take advantage of this by laying the team with a first down in the red zone. If
they come away with a touchdown then red out, but if they only come away
with a field goal then you should be able to take a small profit and turnover a
nice green book.
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Every team sport has its pivotal players who are the crucial variable in the sum
of a side’s parts.
But in the NFL its quarterbacks are critical. Offenses can be based entirely
around these Goliaths. Therefore if a lynchpin gets taken out – as Tom Brady’s
ACL tear proved with the Patriots in 2008 - even a strong all-round team can
recede into oblivion.
The following websites provide indispensible aids and insight into some of the
latest news, opinion and stats in the NFL:
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