NFL Futures Betting Overview and Strategy

NFL Betting Strategy Course 108

While the NFL season spans only 22 weeks of the calendar year, there is no need to limit betting action on the sport to that small window. Sportsbooks everywhere offer several different NFL futures wagering options, with some hitting the market right after the final snap of the preceding season’s Super Bowl. Betting NFL futures is fun and can be a profitable endeavor if done correctly, but there is a lot that must be calculated and considered for bettors to find success. This article will break down what NFL futures bets are, look at examples of offerings in this category, and provide several tips and strategies that can be applied to the NFL futures betting process.

NFL Futures Bets Overview

Before trying your hand at the NFL futures market, it is important to fully understand just what a futures wager is and the types of bets that are a part of this category. By definition, a futures wager in the NFL or any sport is any bet that is made for some time in the future. Sportsbooks assign the odds to futures offerings based on the likelihood of each potential outcome. A result that is more likely to occur will carry shorter odds and be less profitable to bettors. A result that is viewed as unlikely, or a long shot, will carry much larger odds. Because of the unlikely chances that this future occurrence would come to fruition, a small bet on a long shot future could payout a significant amount of money should the bet actually cash.

Types of NFL Futures Bets

When it comes to futures betting on the NFL, there are a whole host of different options available to bettors. The following examples are some of the most popular NFL futures wagers.

Super Bowl Champion Futures

The most popular type of futures bet in any sport revolves around who will win the championship. For the NFL, that means betting on the Super Bowl winner. In most cases, the winner of the previous season’s Super Bowl is at or near the top of the NFL Super Bowl futures odds.

Win Super Bowl

Conference Championship Futures

Sportsbooks also offer the option to sidestep the Super Bowl and bet on the winner(s) of the AFC and NFC with Conference Championship odds. These odds will always be shorter than a team’s Super Bowl odds because winning a conference championship requires one less victory than winning the Lombardi Trophy, thus making it a more likely occurrence. We can see this reflected in these NFC Championship futures odds. Compare some of these numbers to those of the same teams in the Super Bowl futures odds above.

NFC Championship

Division Winner Futures

The next step down on the NFL futures ladder if you will is betting on teams to win their respective division. Again, these odds will be much shorter than the Super Bowl or conference championship odds for any team. Winning a division means just finishing ahead of three other teams in the standings. Here is an example of division winner futures odds for the NFC West division.

Win Division

Playoffs Futures

In the NFL, teams have the opportunity to qualify for the postseason without winning their respective division. The league has three wild card teams that make the playoffs in both the AFC and NFC. Given that teams don’t need to win their division to make the playoffs, these futures present even lower odds still.

Make Playoffs

Season Win Totals

Another popular kind of NFL futures wager is team season win totals. This type of bet focuses on a single team’s performance in the regular season only. Bettors choose whether they think the team will finish with more or fewer wins than the posted line. The concept is similar to a totals over/under wager on an individual game. In this case, the over/under is on the number of games a team will win over the course of an entire season.

Win Totals

Player Futures

The final types of NFL futures wagers to note are those that revolve around individual players. Some refer to these as player props rather than futures, but unlike prop bets that are decided within a single game, player futures options are wagers on future occurrences like winning an award, or a season-long stat line. The most popular of these bets is picking the NFL MVP, but sportsbooks offer many other options, including the examples below.

Player Futures 1

Player Futures 2

Player Futures 3

NFL Futures Betting Strategy

There are several different things to consider when attempting to find an edge betting on NFL futures. The market can be tricky to figure out for many bettors due to the levels of math involved in the odds. If approached correctly, however, futures betting can see some significant return on investment. This section includes several things to do and keep in mind when handicapping the NFL futures market.

Diagnosing Implied Probabilities

To truly understand what the listed odds for NFL futures offerings mean, bettors must perform mathematical calculations to determine the implied probability of the future occurrence happening. The easiest way to do this is to convert whatever futures odds you are working with to fractional form. There are many easy-to-use odds converter tools to do this.

Once you have the odds of your future in fractional form, you can calculate the implied probability of the odds by dividing the denominator of the fraction by the sum of the denominator and numerator and then multiply the outcome by 100 to convert to a percentage. In equation form, you would perform:

{Denominator / (Denominator + Numerator)} * 100%

Let’s use the New York Jets odds to win the AFC East division as an example. The current odds list this Jets future at 15/2. To determine the implied probability, our math would be as follows:

{2/(2+15)} * 100%

= {2/17} * 100%

= 0.11764706 * 100%

=11.76%

The Jets’ 15/2 odds imply an 11.76% probability that they will win the AFC East. Or do they?

Accounting for Casino Juice

Finding the true implied probability goes one step further than the above calculation. Expressed as a percent, no outcome can have greater than a 100% chance of occurring when spread out across all potential options. Following the same procedure as above for the other AFC East teams (New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins) generates the numbers of 50%, 38.46%, and 10% respectively. The four calculated implied probabilities of each team to win the AFC East add up to 110.22%. Don’t worry, the math is not wrong. The extra 10.22% is the casino juice on the lines to ensure the sportsbooks themselves will turn a profit. To uncover the actual implied probability that the Jets have for winning the division, simply divide the previously calculated 11.76% by the total percentage of 110.22% and again multiply by 100 to convert back into a percent like so:

11.76% / 110.22% = 0.1066957

0.1066957 * 100%

=10.67%

The final implied probability of the Jets winning the AFC East at 15/2 odds is 10.67% after accounting for the casino juice on the price.

Finding Value

By performing the above calculations to see the probability your sportsbook is giving to a specific future offering, you can compare this with your probability, research, and projections regarding the future event outcome. As with any sports bet, if your projection sees a higher probability than the casino’s line, there will be a positive expected value (+EV) on the line. Remember that EV is relative to the posted odds, not to who you may necessarily favor overall. Going back to the example from above, if you figure that the Jets’ chances of winning the AFC East are closer to 15% or 20% than the odds-implied probability of 10.67%, this would be a good bet to make. For more on finding NFL betting value, CLICK HERE.

Numerical Power Rankings

Many bettors use a power rankings system around which they base their in-season NFL handicapping. When it comes to NFL futures, you can use a similar power rankings approach to find value amongst the lines. These power rankings are based around calculations of each team’s season win totals which then afford the ability to create lines and projections for every single game throughout a season. By comparing the power rankings season win totals to those on the betting market, bettors can find discrepancies and bet accordingly. There is any number of systems out there. An example of a strong formula for calculating win totals and creating individual game spreads is the Pythagorean theorem. For more on this system and on handicapping NFL win totals, CLICK HERE.

In addition to win totals futures themselves, power rankings systems can shed light on where value may lie in other NFL futures markets such as reaching the postseason, winning the division, or hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Comparing your projections to those implied by the market will help you find different wagers that you can feel confident about. In the case of futures odds to win a division, you would look for a situation in which two teams are listed with very similar or perhaps identical odds to prevail. If your projections rate one of those teams considerably higher than the other, you have found a good futures betting option.

Shopping Lines

A critical aspect of any type of sports betting involves shopping the lines across different sportsbooks. Different books will offer different odds on NFL futures just as they will on game spreads and moneylines. Even if your projections show an edge on a future price at one book, you are still best advised to check other outlets as well. Exploring the odds at various sportsbooks allows turning a good advantage on a future bet into a great advantage.

NFL Futures Betting Bankroll Management

When it comes to betting NFL futures, there are some noteworthy things to consider with regard to managing a bankroll. Because futures betting involves wagering on events whose outcome won’t be determined until a future point in time, placing a futures bet means that you will be down the wagered money for an extended time, even if you do eventually win the bet. With this in mind, it is important to factor this into your bankroll management practices ahead of time. Knowing that you will be tying some of your bankroll up in a future offering, you must adjust your strategy for other wagers accordingly. For more on NFL betting bankroll management, CLICK HERE.

Hedging Tactic

Once you have placed a futures wager, there is a way to net some return without having your ticket cash. If the team or player that you backed in the future bet is doing well and moving towards cashing the ticket, the tactic of hedging comes into play. This involves betting on the opposing side of your future ticket. If you do this correctly, you are guaranteed to at least return some of the money wagered on the futures bet.

Let’s take a bet on the Los Angeles Rams to win the Super Bowl for example. Assuming that this bet was made with a level of research and knowledge, the Rams will likely at least make the postseason, thereby giving themselves a chance to cash the ticket. To hedge this bet, the bettor would simply wager on the moneyline of the Rams’ playoff opponent, say the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round. By doing this, the bettor would either continue toward cashing the future ticket if the Rams win, or at least return some of their investment if the Eagles win.

Through hedging, bettors can effectively negotiate their way to a payout on a futures bet that may or may not come to full fruition. Whether this is in the form of reducing the overall loss or even reaping some positive return through hedge bets, it is a very sound and important aspect of NFL futures betting. The potential opportunity to hedge a futures bet down the road should only reinforce the need to always be on top of one’s bankroll management.

Final Thoughts

NFL futures are a fun and exciting way to bet on football both during the season and throughout the offseason. As with any bet, it is important to know every aspect of a potential future bet before you place it. Taking the time to do the math and find the implied probability or utilize a power rankings system will greatly aid the quest to find value in the posted odds. Shop around for the best line on the bet you hope to make and be sure to note what placing a futures bet will mean for your bankroll. If the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of the hedging tactic. Follow these strategies and you will be on your way to a successful NFL futures betting campaign.

  
Henry is pursuing a Communication Studies degree and a Psychology minor at SUNY University at Buffalo. He has been a passionate sports fan from a young age and got hisstart writing about Fantasy Football. In an effort to combine an aspect of specialization along with his enjoyment of any and all sports, Henry expanded to cover other Fantasy Sports while also foraying into the Sports Betting sector. He continues to relish every opportunity to learn, grow and network within the industry. He counts the New York Jets, Toronto Raptors, Vegas Golden Knights and San Diego Padres among his team loyalties. In addition to school and sports, Henry is passionate about health and fitness and is currently studying to earn certification as a personal trainer.

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