By Phil Simon
First time football gamblers need to be aware of just how important key numbers are when throwing down a wager on a NFL game. Being familiar with those numbers and how they play out in a game will help you be more informed and increase your chances of cashing a winning ticket. So, what are key numbers and how do they work? We’ll touch on some of the basics in this article to help you become a smarter bettor.
What are Key Numbers?
Simply put key numbers are the most common margin in the final score of a game. The importance of knowing and understanding key numbers is valuable for wagering on football games. Since there are different point values for a score the number changes and in different amounts. The most common margin for an NFL game is three points, which is the value of a field goal. Think about how many times a team ran its two-minute drill to get in position for a game-winning field goal. While overtime games aren’t that common, we typically see a field goal as the difference in those contests.
A study was conducted recently that included research of the NFL and the final margins of games dating back to the early 1990s. Over 15 percent of all games had a final scoring margin of exactly three points, which was nearly twice as much as the next number on the list. Can you guess what the second number is?
The second most common spread in a NFL game is seven points, which just happens to be the amount of a converted touchdown. You can sense a pattern developing here. Add those two numbers together and you get 10, which is also a key number when it comes to wagering on the NFL. It’s a little different in college football since there is a larger gap between teams, but the idea remains the same. Multiples of the three most common key numbers – 3, 7 and 10 – are used quite often when determining a point spread.
How to use Key Numbers?
Now that we know what the key numbers are, how do we use that information when placing a bet? The first thing is to shop around. Beginning and novice gamblers probably don’t want to spend the time to find a half-point on a line, it isn’t worth the time. Well, that’s the furthest from the truth. Football teams can’t score a half point in a game, but it can make all the difference on winning or losing a bet.
Key numbers can apply when wagering on the total, but for our example we’re going to use the point spread, which is the most popular form of wager on a NFL game. Below is an example of the betting line for a game between the Cowboys and Patriots.
New England Patriots -3 ( -110 )
Dallas Cowboys +3 ( -110 )
In this matchup the Patriots are favored by 3-points, which as we now know is the most common key number. It’s also the most common point spread for obvious reasons. Sportsbooks aren’t in business to cash winning tickets otherwise they wouldn’t be in business at all. The people setting odds spend countless hours handicapping games in order to come up with a line. And they typically won’t move off a key number. Instead they will increase the amount of money it costs you to make the bet. The juice or vigorish on a bet is the number designated by a + or – sign at the end of the line. If the Patriots prevailed in the example above your $100 wager would net you a return of $90.91.
One way to look at the point spreads and key numbers is to notice the difference between say -3 and -3.5 on a betting line. If the Pats win this game 17-14, it’s a push or tie. Nobody wins and nobody loses. A half point in this case makes all the difference.
Now that we know what key numbers are, keep in mind they are not a magic elixir for winning bets. The information is designed to make you a more informed bettor and have an understanding of how the sportsbooks work. Coming out ahead in your bets still requires some research and a little luck. But you also now have an important tool to help you understand how the sportsbooks think.
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