The NFL season is upon us, which means it’s time to (break out the La-Z-Boy, stock the beer fridge and) book that annual trip to the Vegas betting windows. (Or, you know, New Jersey.) But before you fork over your dough, it pays to get educated. Thankfully, Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports at MGM Resorts International, gave us some sweet insider tips that should make you as irrationally ecstatic as Jets fans are right now. See below.
1. Seek value in parity
Last season, the NFL was full of doormats (Indy, St. Louis, Minnesota, Cleveland). This season, it’s looking like the name of the game will be parity. That’s a fancy way of saying that most teams will be pretty evenly matched. In terms of futures bets, sportsbooks are expected to hang a ton of team win totals between 6.5 and 8.5. Rood says that with so many middle-of-the-road numbers, bettors should be able to find value in an over here (Carolina, Arizona) and an under there (dare we say, San Francisco). As for Super Bowl odds, Houston at 15 to 1 is a steal.
2. Beware the Tebow effect
Most football fans have a strong opinion about Tim Tebow—some love him, many hate him. From the POV of bettors, however, Tebow represents the biggest question mark of the year. To what extent will the Jets give him the ball? To what extent will he drive action on either side of a spread? Until Gang Green opens up the playbook (or until Rex Ryan opens his big mouth about it), there’s no telling what kind of impact Tebow will have on his team. Even Rood says it’s probably best to simply stay away from the Jets for the first few weeks until answers materialize.
3. Live on the hedge
You don’t have to play all-or-nothing in the sportsbook to succeed; sometimes it’s actually better to commit to grinding out small wins. One way to do this: teasers. Rood says that with most point spreads expected to hover around a touchdown, buying down lines by seven points could turn a game with a prohibitive favorite into a pick ’em. Round robins are a good investment, too—unlike with straight parlays, which offer high reward for higher risk, you can lose one of your games and still come out (slightly) ahead.
4. Embrace props for Peyton
Uncertainty also swirls around another quarterback: Peyton Manning. Will he return to his pre-injury form? Is he finished? While we think only a sucker would pick the Broncos at 7 to 1 to win it all, the elder Manning should spark some intriguing proposition bets over the course of the season. Rood expects to hang one “prop” on the number of touchdowns Peyton will throw; the oddsmaker is toying with another prop comparing Peyton’s total yardage to that of his younger brother, Eli. In both cases, our money is on Peyton (especially in a lousy division like the AFC West).
The menu of potential wagers available at sportsbooks is larger than ever before. Perhaps it’s time to (judiciously) try something new. Particularly when there’s a big game, bet the total on a half or individual quarter, or take a prop on who will be first to score. Rood says this year he also likely will offer “index” bets that give odds on where teams stand after the first month. One caveat when branching out: know your stuff. Pushes often trigger refunds, and it’d suck to be tearing up your ticket at the very moment you figure out what’s up.