There are many different ways to handicap a NFL Football game. However, there are very few places that will attempt to lay-out a step by step guide as to how to properly handicap a NFL football game. The below is a skeleton guideline as to how to handicap a NFL football game. You should use the below as a guide and then make changes as it suits your style. This system is set up to be completed on Sunday Night or Monday Night preceding the upcoming week.
Use a lined piece of paper or a computer screen in column mode and write the visiting team on the left and the home team on the right.
This is one of the most important steps. Prior to looking at the lines for the week write down your own line. For Example if Tennessee is playing at Carolina, you would just from your general knowledge come up with what you think the line should be. (IMPORTANT: do not write down what you think the line will be, write down what you think the line should be, in other words if you were setting the lines in Tennessee at Carolina, what would you make the line be). You must do this before you look at the actual lines. So for our example, lets say we think that Tennessee should be favored by 4 points, we would write down next to Tennessee -4 and next to Carolina +4. (Note you can do the same thing for the Over / Under).
Without looking at the actual line, underneath Tennessee write down AT LEAST three reasons (preferably six) why you think Tennessee will win by four or more points, some examples are:
* OLT for Carolina is out: matchup favors Tennessee DL
* Carolina will not be able to run well against Tennessee DL
* QB for Carolina is dinged up and listed as probable
* Carolina has not rushed for more than 100 yards against worse defenses
Without looking at the actual line, underneath Carolina write down AT LEAST three reasons why Carolina will cover the line (lose by 3 or less or win straight up):
* Carolina is at home and Tennessee is 5-0 at home but 1-3 on the road
* RCB of Tennessee is doubtful and backup is rookie
* Carolina has a significantly better special teams than Tennessee
Consider the date, location and time of the game:
* If it is a west coast team traveling to an EST location and playing at 1pm EST, then the West Coast team is likely to lose straight up
* Who is the home team on a prime-time game. Road Favorites do not do well in prime-time games, in particular if the line is more than 7 points. If one or both teams are on a short week or off a bye, make a note of this. Remember that if both teams are on a short week and one team is coming off the road and is on the road in this game, the situation favors the home team. Look for three straight home games or three straight road games. If a team lost the first two of three straight home games, look for them to win the third, or if a team won the first two of three straight road games, look for them to lose the third. Write down all the notes regarding each team.
Review the injury report (Note you may have to wait until Thursday for the injury report). You should always note that when a star player is injured it usually over-effects the line. For example if the starting QB for Carolina is out and the rookie QB is starting, that factor should have been considered in you creating the line and it will have already affected the actual line (which you still have not looked at). You are looking for important injuries to the Starting OL or DL. The old adage that the game is won in the trenches is true. Write down important information under the team name.
Review the previous games of the teams. This step is often overrated by most cappers. A football season is really 5 little seasons comprised of 3 or 4 games. Nothing is more frustrating than a 0-4 team playing a 4-0 team and the 0-4 team blowing out the 4-0 team. There is a way to account for this. If you have looked at the last 3 or 4 games you may have seen the improvement, you may have seen why the 0-4 team started 0-4 (3 of the 4 on the road against really good teams and the starting MLB was on a drug suspension). In Week 12, the information from weeks 1-8 are not that helpful. The starting defense could be as much as 6 different players. Write down important information under the team name.
Review Trends. This step is also overrated by many cappers. The fact that the New York Giants are 0-7 against the AFC East in the last 7 meetings is meaningless. There are 4 teams in the AFC East and this trend is more of a coincidence than anything else. However, the fact that the NYG had not scored more than 17 points in the last 4 meeting against the Dallas Cowboys has some value. NYG plays Dallas 2 times per season, so the data is fresh. The NYG do not play AFC teams once but every 4 years (with some exceptions). Write down important information under the team name.
Now that you have reviewed the pertinent data and have tailored out what you think is important, re-examine the line that you came up with in step 1. We had written down Tennessee -4. However, after examining our information we decide either (1) we were right; (2) Tennessee should be favored by more or (3) Tennessee should be favored by less or should be the underdog. Now adjust your line by writing a comma or slash next to the "-4" you had written down before and write the adjusted line. This would look like one of the following:
Tennessee -4 / -4 (no change)
Tennessee -4 / -1 (our "handicapping" made use adjust our line down)
Tennessee -4 / -7 (our "handicapping" convinced use to favor Tennessee even more)
Review the actual line. (You may want to skip the injury step (from step 6 above) and review the line earlier in the week and make an adjustment after thursday). The following situations develop:
(1) Tennessee -4 / -4 - Actual Line Carolina -7
This is the ideal situation. You think Tennessee should be giving 4 points, but you are getting 7, this is 11 points in your favor.
(2) Tennessee -4 / -4 - Actual Line Carolina + 4 (or Tennessee-4)
You should stay away from this game. You have agreed with the odds and you have no advantage.
(3) Tennessee -4 / -4 - Actual line Tennessee -7. This is a good situation, but not perfect. You think Tennessee should win by 4 and you convinced yourself that this was correct. However, Tennessee is better in the odds eyes eyes than yours. You should probably stay away from this game. However, according to your handing you would take Carolina +7 (because you think Tennessee will win by 4)
(4) Tennessee -4 / -1 - Actual Line Carolina -7.
Again this is the Ideal Situation, Take Tennessee with the points.
(5) Tennessee -4 / -1 - Actual Line Carolina +1 or +2 or +3 or 4
You stay away from this game, you are thinking like the oddsmakers and you have no advantage.
(6) Tennessee -4 / -1 - Actual Line Tennesse -7. You would take Carolina. Your gut said Tennesee -4, but you realized that was too high, now you can get a 6 point swing with Carolina
(7) Tennessee -4 / -7- Actual Line Carolina -7. Again the IDEAL situation.
(8) Tennessee -4 / -7 - Actual Line Carolina +1, +2, +3, +4. Good situation take Tennessee minus the points.
(9) Tennessee -4 / -7 - Actual line Tennessee -7. Stay away from the game.
You would proceed to do this same process which each of the 10 to 16 games of the week until you have handicapped every game. It is best to do as much as you can on Sunday Night and Monday Night while the previous games are still in your head. Once the games end on Sunday (this is the key to handicapping). Pull out your documents and write the scores down next to the team names, so that the top of your paper would look like this:
"Tennessee -4 / -4 Actual Line: -7 (31) Carolina + 4 / + 4 Actual Line +7 (34)"
Since you now that Carolina beat Tennessee by 3 at home. Your line was -4, you normally played on Carolina because the line was too high. If so you properly handicapped the game. If you played on Carolina and Carolina lost: 31 to 10. You need to read articles about the game to determine why Carolina did not cover. When you find out the reason you will know if you properly handicapped the game, here are some examples:
(1) In the first quarter, two OL went down and did not return - there is nothing you could have done about this.
(2) It was 14-10 in the third quarter, when a fluke fumble occurred and Tennesee returned it for a touchdown. Carolina then turned to the pass being down 21-10 and Tennessee knew what was coming. You could have accounted for turnovers but you did not.
(3) Carolina could not pass against the Tennessee defense and could not stop the Tennessee passing game.
Write down your three conclusions of the game (it is better if you watch the game and come up with your own conclusions). Using this information review your notes and see where your capping went wrong. Sometimes it is easily found (you thought Tennessee would not be able to run the ball, but they ran for 200 yards) sometimes there is nothing you could have done (you had Carolina +3 and with 1 minute left the score is 21-20 and Carolina fumbles and Tennessee returns the fumble for a touchdown - you properly handicapped the game, but a fluke play messed it up).
The following week you will then do the same process. As you go through the process you will come up with what you know and do not know about each team and you will hone in on what mistakes you are making. You will also develop your own techniques as to what really works for you. You will also find the teams that you are not familiar with and have to learn about them or just not bet on their games.