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NFL Futures Betting Strategy

Strategies and Advice for Making the Best NFL Futures Bets.

Technically, future bets (or “futures”) fall under the category of “prop bets,” to which I have dedicated a whole separate strategy page. If you’re looking for future bets at a sportsbook, generally you’ll have to look in the section for prop bets.

And futures do share the defining characteristic of props – like prop bets, a future bet is not made directly on the outcome of an NFL game. However, in other ways, a future bet is a whole different animal from a prop bet, and thus it deserves its own discussion of strategy.

The thing that makes future bets unique is the length of time that passes before a bet pays out. The very term “future bet” can be confusing to uninitiated gamblers: After all, isn’t every wager placed on the outcome of a sporting event a bet on a “future” outcome? The distinguishing factor here is the length of time that the bet extends into the future.

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For most types of NFL betting, the outcome of a bet is determined in a matter of hours or days: For me, I most often place my wagers on Saturday afternoon for games that will play out on Sunday. What distinguishes future bets is that futures often take weeks or months to pay out. I will annually place season-long wagers during the offseason (or in preseason) not to be paid out until January or February.

I’ll go into more detail on what different future bets are available below, but generally speaking, these bets concern who’s going to win what: Who’s going to win the Super Bowl? Who’s going to win the MVP award? Who’s going to win a specific division? Who’s going to win the Rookie of the Year award?

Naturally, these bets require a different process and a different kind of strategy from most other kinds of bets: for example, the information you need to gather to pick the winner of a game is different from the information you need to gather to pick the winner of a division. For this reason, in the following guide I’ll clue you in on the following information:

  • How I tweak my three-stage NFL Betting Strategy specifically for futures
  • What types of future bets are available, and how to prepare for each
  • How to find good value with futures and how to make money on them

So without further ado, let’s dive into NFL futures betting strategy, starting with the specific process that I undergo to gather information for future bets.

What’s the Process of Preparing for NFL Future Bets?

I describe my three-stage NFL Betting Strategy in depth in a separate page. In brief, these three stages are gathering information, utilizing checks & balances, and then visualizing the game. By combining these three stages, I’m able to make accurate predictions about what the outcome of an NFL game will be.

Of course, I’m not correct 100% of the time – anyone who tells you that they can accurately predict the outcome of every NFL game 100% of the time is called a liar. But I’m correct more than 50% of the time (I average around 60%, sometimes higher, sometimes lower), which is more than enough to turn a profit in the long run with NFL betting if you’re smart. Making sure you’re using the right NFL Betting Sites certainly helps.

Importantly, the three-stage process I outline in the link to make NFL gambling decisions is dedicated exclusively to visualizing the outcome of individual NFL games. The more accurately and specifically I understand the entire course of a single game, the more I am able to make potentially profitable predictions for the moneyline bet, the bet against the spread, the total score over/under, and for various prop bets such as individual player performances and overall team scoring props.

However, the important thing to note is that this specific decision-making process does not directly inform my future bets. Now, it certainly doesn’t hurt – all of the film that I watch during the season certainly helps me make gambling decisions about how that team will perform during the following season.

But my point is that, naturally, it’s not the same thing to try and predict how a team (or an individual) will perform over the course of a game as it is to try and predict how a team (or an individual) will perform over the course of a season.

Even so, it’s important to note that much of the information that I present in the page on my three-stage NFL Betting Strategy is still applicable to the decision-making process that I undergo to place wagers for future bets. The process just needs to be tweaked slightly so as to apply to the longer-term nature of futures.

Specifically, here is a brief overview of what things change and what things stay the same when I utilize my three-stage NFL Betting Strategy in order to place wagers on future bets:

  • Stage 1: Gathering Information
    • The goal of this stage remains unchanged for futures: Check out a variety of different sources to gain an overall knowledge base for the team in question. For future bets, however, the sources of information change. Instead of looking at game film and statistics over the past few weeks of games, I’m instead looking at player transactions, and following every move that’s made in free agency and in the NFL draft.
  • Stage 2: Checks & Balances
    • The goal of this stage also remains unchanged for futures: Double-check to make sure I’m not falling into any classic gambling fallacies and deluding myself into making a bad decision. I still make sure to consult with the same experts and utilize statistics, but these statistics include more season-level stats, vs. individual game stats. I also still make sure to talk over my decisions with friends to get additional opinions.
  • Stage 3: Visualizing the Game
    • Once again, the goal of this stage remains the same: Combine together all of the information that I have gained, and balance out all of the perspectives that I’ve interacted with into one overall whole. The only difference, of course, is that instead of visualizing the arc of a specific game between two teams, I’m visualizing the arc of an entire season, with a host of variables that bring many different teams into the equation.

As you can see, the goals that I follow in these three stages to help make informed gambling decisions are exactly the same, whether I am taking a single week to make a decision about a moneyline bet that will be decided 24 hours from now, during Sunday’s game, or taking the entire offseason to make a decision about a future bet that won’t be decided until four months from now, when the postseason rolls around.

In the next section, I’ll take you through the different types of future bets that are available, and the specific things to note about each.

What Are the Different Types of NFL Futures Bets?

As I mentioned above, even though I utilize the same three-stage process for all of my NFL gambling decisions, the unique characteristics of future bets require a slight tweak to the process itself, manifesting itself primarily in sourcing different information to make the individual gambling decisions.

The type of information that I look at in order to make my decisions on which futures to wager on and which direction to wager depends on the specific type of future bet. In my experience, there are three main categories for NFL future bets: team performance, individual performance futures, and individual awards futures.

Let’s begin with the first category, team performance futures.

Team Performance Futures

The distinguishing characteristic of team performance futures is inherent in the name of the category itself: these are futures that concern the entire team’s performance over the course of a season, and that thus go beyond the level of an individual’s performance.

The most popular bet in this category, in my experience, is win total betting, in which the gambler attempts to predict how many games a team will win over the course of the season. The lines for win total bets are given as follows:

How many games will the Arizona Cardinals win in the 2017 regular season?

  • Over 8, -140
  • Under 8, +110

How many games will the Washington Redskins win in the 2017 regular season?

  • Over 7.5, -130
  • Under 7.5, EVEN

As you can see from the two examples above, (which are representative of typical win total bets), the odds hover around the range between -150 and +150, rarely offering better value than this. As with bets against the spread, the ability for the odds-makers to both set the line and set the odds provides an added level of flexibility in their attempts to promote even action on both sides of the line.

Another very popular type of team performance bet is “make the playoffs” bets. Here are some representative samples from this type of bet:

Will the Buffalo Bills make the playoffs in 2017?

  • Yes, +600
  • No, -1000

Will the New England Patriots make the playoffs in 2017?

  • Yes, -3000
  • No, +1500

The reason I juxtapose these two teams specifically is to demonstrate just how widely playoff odds can fluctuate. Heading into the 2017/18 NFL season, it was essentially unthinkable that the New England Patriots would miss the playoffs – they were the heavy offseason Super Bowl favorite.

For this reason, even with such a certain outcome, with odds at -3000 a $100 bet would pay out only $3.33 in profit, so there was essentially no value in the wager. You’d make roughly that rate of return putting your money in government bonds, and in that case there’s essentially no risk at all.

Another thing that you’ll notice for playoff bets is that, in contrast to the win total/over under, there is no line – it’s simply a yes or no question, will they or won’t they.

For this reason, the only mechanism that odds-makers have to promote even action on both sides are the odds themselves, which is why they can balloon all the way down to -3000 or all the way up to +1500, meanwhile the win total odds rarely go below -200 or above +200. This difference parallels the difference between moneyline bets and bets against the spread.

Other types of team performance futures that you will commonly see include the following:

  • Which team will win Division X?
  • Which team will win the NFC Championship game?
  • Which team will win the AFC Championship game?
  • Which team will win the Super Bowl?

The important thing to note about these wagers is that, unlike win total bets and playoff bets, there are more than two possibilities. Specifically, there are 4 possibilities for divisional odds, 16 possibilities for championship odds, and 32 possibilities for Super Bowl odds.

With more potential winners, the risk of wagering on just one team increases precipitously. Concordantly, the potential reward increases greatly. In other words, the number of options for these bets (especially Super Bowl bets) increases dramatically – the Super Bowl favorite usually ends the offseason around +300 or +400, and the third- or fourth-best option can often hang around +1000 or +1500. The team with the worst odds often ends up all the way down at +30000 or worse.

Contrast this with divisional odds, in which the favorite can often end up with negative odds, and the worst option can sometimes settle at odds as low (comparatively speaking) as +400 or +500.

The point is that a bet with many possible winners needs to be treated fundamentally differently than a bet with few possible winners. I’ll go into this in more detail in the section below, on how to find good value with future bets.

Individual Player Performance Futures

The second major category of NFL future bets is the performance of individual players. This category is distinguished from individual player awards because performance wagers depend only on the hard statistics. A great example of individual player performance futures is the following:

Which player will record the most passing yards in the 2017 regular season?

  • Drew Brees, +325
  • Tom Brady, +550
  • Aaron Rodgers, +800
  • Derek Carr, +800
  • Matt Ryan, +800

(Note that only the top 5 favorites are listed here.)

Occasionally you will see individual player performance futures that refer to quantities (i.e. will this player throw for more than X yards), but more often these NFL future bets are rank-order (i.e. which player will be the best compared to the rest of the league).

Here are some other types of individual player performance bets that you will commonly see:

  • Which player will record the most receiving yards in the regular season?
  • Which player will record the most rushing yards in the regular season?
  • Which player will throw the most regular season interceptions in the regular season?
  • Which player will throw the most passing touchdowns in the regular season?

One important thing to note from this list is that individual player performance futures do not concern exclusively positive outcomes. You can just as easily wager on who’s going to have a bad season (e.g. highest number of interceptions) as you can on who’s going to have a good season (e.g. highest number of touchdowns).

One added layer of difficulty with individual player performance futures is that there is always a possibility that someone could win who was not initially given odds.

If you are placing a wager on which team is going to win the Super Bowl, obviously all 32 possible options are going to be listed. It would be nonsensical for a sportsbook to disallow a team’s fan base from giving them money, even if there’s an infinitesimal chance that the team wins the Super Bowl. And it’s not like some new expansion team could join the NFL midseason, take the league by storm, and end up winning the championship.

But this contrasts with individual player performances, for which there’s always a possibility that a previously unknown entity could jump into the ring and make a huge leap, either coming back from injury or just exploding onto the scene as a younger player. This creates difficulties from the perspective of odds, which I’ll explain more in the section on finding good value.

Individual Player Awards Futures

The final major category of future bets that I’ve come across in my 15+ years of experience gambling on the NFL is individual player awards. The quintessential example of this (and one of the most popular NFL future bets every year) is the MVP bet:

Which player will win the NFL Regular Season MVP award?

  • Tom Brady, +550
  • Aaron Rodgers, +600
  • Derek Carr, +800
  • Ben Roethlisberger, +900
  • Dak Prescott, +1200

(Note that only the top 5 favorites are listed here.)

One of the key things to note about the MVP bet specifically, in isolation from other types of individual player award futures, is the fact that in the history of the NFL, the player who wins the NFL MVP award has never won the Super Bowl during their MVP season. For this reason, the goal is always to find the player who will have an incredible statistical season (usually a quarterback, historically) whose team will not win it all – a difficult task.

Other types of individual player awards futures that you will come across include the following:

  • Which player will win the Rookie of the Year award?
  • Which player will win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award?
  • Which player will win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award?
  • Which player will win the Defensive Player of the Year award?

Above, in the category of individual player performance awards, I made the point that individual player futures are complicated by the fact that the player who ultimately wins the award might not even be listed in the initial pool of odds.

This difficulty remains present with individual player awards futures, and is most pertinent in the rookie awards (Rookie of the Year, Offensive ROTY, Defensive ROTY). It’s nearly impossible to predict which rookies will go on to have an incredible statistical season in their first season in the league, which is why I rarely place a wager on a rookie-related individual player future bet unless there is truly great value.

Another difficulty that is peculiar to individual player award futures is the fact that there is an element of subjectivity with awards. Statistics speak for themselves, so in the individual player performance category the player who performs well enough statistically will be rewarded purely based on that criterion. But with awards, it sometimes happens that an individual can assemble all the necessary statistics and still get snubbed.

How Do You Find Value and Make Money with Future Bets?

Now that I’ve described the specific modifications that I make to my three-stage NFL Betting Strategy when I’m gambling on future bets and also taken you through the major types of NFL futures betting, let’s talk about how to find good value with futures and make money in the long term.

The most important piece of strategy that you need in order to unlock the profitability of futures is an understanding of value. In short, value defines the balance between risk and reward: A good value bet is one where the risk is low, and the reward is high. This calculation is different with future bets than it is with almost every other type of bet, and I’ll tell you why.

When you make popular short-term bets like moneyline bets or bets against the spread, it’s exceedingly rare that the odds will offer payouts greater than +200 (that is, a profit doubling your principle). Most often, these bets will hover around even odds (i.e. +/- 100, or offering a profit equal to the principle).

For experienced gamblers, even odds often signify a shorthand for a 50-50 shot of a bet paying out. Let’s give an example. Let’s say that you place two $100 moneyline wagers on two separate games, both of which are getting even odds. So you’re risking $200 total, and each of the two wagers offer a total payout of $200 ($100 profit, plus the return of your $100 principle).

Now the fact that these two games are both getting even odds indicates that they are both very close games – even odds are rare, because it’s rare that odds-makers will decline to pick a favorite in a game. So let’s say that you pick one of the games correctly, and pick the other game incorrectly. This would mean a $100 profit for the one, and a $100 loss for the other. This, of course, is a net gain of zero.

The reason I explain this is just to demonstrate a simple NFL gambling principle: when the odds are close to even, your overall profit margin will also hover close to even. Put another way, when the risk is low, the reward is also low. Experienced gamblers know that when they are placing wagers that are low-risk, low-reward, the overall money-making strategy is to be disciplined in picking and choose only the “surest” bets, and then hunker down and stick it out for the long haul.

But how does this pertain to future bets? The point is this: Future bets are a whole different animal, and thus require a totally different money-making strategy than other types of NFL gambling.

Specifically, the difference lies in the amount of risk that is inherent in NFL futures betting. Let’s take an example.

Think back to the two games that I mentioned above – two moneyline bets. Both had even odds (the equivalent of +/- 100). Now, contrast these picks with, say, a wager on Andrew Luck to win the NFL MVP award. During the 2017 NFL offseason, Andrew Luck had odds of +5000 to win the MVP award in 2017.

If you were to put $100 on the moneyline bet with even odds, and win, you would gain a $100 profit. As we saw above, two equivalent bets like this – one win and one loss – end up with a net gain of zero. But if you put $100 on Andrew Luck to win MVP with +5000 odds, and win, you gain a $5000 profit. That’s five thousand, with three zeroes instead of two.

This is the key piece of strategy that you need to understand about future bets: Because future bets offer larger payouts, it becomes possible to hedge your bets. At the same time, the reason these bets offer a higher reward is because they are also higher risk, and thus it becomes not only possible but necessary to distribute that risk among a larger number of different alternatives.

Let’s go back to the example of Andrew Luck for MVP. The reason why Luck offers a $5000 profit is because odds-makers don’t believe that Andrew Luck has a very good chance of winning MVP – that’s why they’re offering such good odds in the first place, to incentivize gamblers to wager on him and thus prompt even action amongst all the different options.

Specifically, if Andrew Luck has +500 odds to win the MVP award, this implies that odds-makers believe that Luck has a 1 in 50 chance to win the award – a 2% probability.

Contrast this with the moneyline odds in our previous example. Even odds (+/- 100) imply a 1 in 2 chance; 50% probability – a toss-up. And this makes sense when you consider the number of different options: There are only two possibilities for the winner of a moneyline bet, whereas there are usually around 40 players given odds in the NFL MVP award bet, and potentially more who could win.

You would never bet on more than one possible outcome in a moneyline bet. Given that there are only two options, you would be guaranteed to lose money if you wagered on both teams to win, (despite the fact that you’d also be guaranteed to be correct, for one of the teams, assuming the game didn’t end in a tie).

This is the fundamental difference in NFL futures betting strategy: it is necessary to wager on more than one party in the same bet, and to strategically select your options.

If you had bet moneyline on those two games with even odds, and won 1 out of 2, you’d end up with a net gain of zero. But if you had bet on Andrew Luck and one other player to win MVP, and Andrew Luck won, you’d end up with a net gain of $4900. Heck, in this case, you could have bet on Andrew Luck and 47 other players to win MVP, and if Andrew Luck won, you’d still be up a hundred bucks.

This is the key insight that you need to understand in order to turn a profit with future bets. Because the odds are higher risk and higher reward, you need to hedge your bets between multiple different outcomes within the same bet, and calculate out the odds so that, provided one outcome pays out, you will turn a profit on all of the component wagers combined. This strategy has an official name called “dutching”, but it really just defines the conventional wisdom of “hedging your bets.”

But how do you calculate the odds in order to ensure a profit? Simple. Just follow this one rule: Don’t put down more in principle than any individual outcome could pay out if it won.

For example, if you placed three $100 wagers on three outcomes that would pay out +350, +450, and +600, (assuming one of those three outcomes pay out) you’re guaranteed to turn a profit. But let’s say you put three $100 wagers on outcomes that would pay out +250, +275, and +900. If the +900 pays out, you make bank. But if either of the other two pay out, you’re left with a net loss.

This is the general principle that you need to understand in order to make money with future bets. It takes time to develop the skill of picking good candidates to include in these multi-entry, hedged bets. But the general idea is to distribute your principle amongst several good candidates, each of whom have a decent chance of winning and also offer a high enough payout to make the whole wager worth it.

Summary: NFL Futures Betting Strategy

The term future bets (or “futures”) can often be confusing, because technically every NFL gamble is on the outcome of a “future” event. The distinguishing characteristic of futures is that the time course of a future bet is on the scale of weeks and months, rather than hours and days. Even still, these bets are most often listed at sportsbooks under the heading of “prop bets,” for which I have a separate page.

Futures require different strategy from most other kinds of bets. But my process remains the same: My three-stage NFL Betting Strategy involves the following: gathering information, utilizing checks & balances, and then visualizing the game. The only thing that changes is that the sources of information are different, and I visualize the course of a season instead of just the course of an individual game.

There are three main categories of futures. The first category of future bets are team performance futures, which concern the entire team’s performance over the course of a season. Examples of this type include win total betting, “make the playoffs” bets, as well as which team will win each division, win the AFC and NFC Championship game, and of course which team will win the Super Bowl.

The second major category of NFL future bets are individual player performance futures. These bets include which player will record the most passing/rushing/receiving yards in a season, which player will throw the most touchdowns/interceptions, etc. Most often, these are rank order bets, but occasionally you will see bets that ask specifically about the statistical performance of an individual player.

The final major category of future bets are individual player awards futures. The quintessential example of this is the MVP bet, but other bets in this category include which player will win Rookie of the Year (plus Offensive ROTY and Defensive ROTY), as well as Defensive Player of the Year, among others. This category is made difficult by the fact that statistically deserving players are sometimes snubbed.

What unifies these three betting types, and makes them particularly difficult in comparison to other types of NFL gambling, is the fact that there are multiple possible outcomes. With more possible outcomes, risk greatly increases. This is especially the case in future bets that concern an individual player, when the ultimate winner of the bet may not even be present in the initial betting pool.

The most important piece of strategy required to reliably make money with futures is to understand value, or the balance between risk and reward. In order to arrange future bets such that there is low risk but high reward, it is necessary to hedge your bets by distributing your principle between multiple high-reward outcomes. This strategy is known in the business as “dutching,” and is vital in futures.

The key principle you need to follow in order to execute this strategy effectively is as follows: Don’t put down more in principle than any individual outcome could pay out if it won. For example, if you place three wagers of equal value, each of these three wagers needs offer greater than a 3-to-1 payout (+300). In this case, so long as one of the three wagers pays out, you are guaranteed to turn a net profit.

In conclusion, this is the NFL futures betting strategy that I have employed for 15+ years. Futures are one of my favorite types of NFL betting, and the only one available during the offseason. I hope that with the guide above, you will be able to have as much fun betting on NFL futures as I have.