There are lots of ways to handicap football. There are those that follow systems and trends, others who extremely numbers oriented and devour analytics and those who make determinations purely on looking at lines and trusting their own judgment.
Not one of these methods are wrong, you just either have to find what works for you or align yourself with handicapper that fits your needs.
While I combine many of the instruments listed above, one that I am a staunch beleiver in is watching football games.
I am not your typical sports handicapper and bettor who has to have “action” on the game to feel I have to watch, since I actually prefer not watching games I bet on or have advised clients to watch. My concern is learning, not just following the pigskin.
The simple answer is I am seeking to have teams pass or fail the “eye test.” You can learn a great deal by reading and you can become smarter by using your eyeballs and having an intent.
Let me give you examples. I read in a several areas that the New Orleans Saints had made real improvements in their defense for the upcoming season. I liked them with the points in Minnesota in the season opener and went along with what I had read, as noted, in more than one location.
In watching, New Orleans if anything looked worse, not better. What caught my eye were deplorable schemes in which linebackers had underneath coverage 20-25 yards down the field on slot receivers, with safety help over the top. You don’t have to play Madden football to understand that is a horrible scheme. Sam Bradford carved them up and I suffered a loss.
Backed with this info, I had no problem backing New England on the road in New Orleans the following week even as the spread was rising on the Patriots and they had their way with the ‘Aints.
I limit myself to watching four games at time, which allows me to focus on details and I share thoughts on Twitter (@VegasProInsider) and other social media outlets. If I know what games I am going to watch, I make a note or two to follow something about each team, which makes viewing easier and learn more along the way.
If a game is blowout or I have determined there is nothing more to gain, I switch to another contest and restart the process.
Another part of watching football in understanding. If you see a team at their best or worst, that does not give you enough data to build on. Watching a team multiple times creates a truer picture.
Having seen Notre Dame three times, I can assure you their offensive line will punish weaker competition, but when matched against defenses that have more skill, size and quickness, they will have problems. This helped me downgrade their O-Line from Top 5 to Top 10.
If you saw all the problems the new Buckeyes secondary had in game against Indiana, you knew something was amiss and it was masked in second half with pass rush. Oklahoma fully exposed them and when Ohio State faces Maryland (10/7) and Penn State (10/28), I will be looking over the spreads and totals intently to see if oddsmakers are seeing the same things I have.
In all, I watch all or parts of over 350 football games a season (very understanding wife) and I am a better handicapper because of it.