Many consider fantasy football and sports betting to be two exclusive entities. And while those are two unique ways to get involved in the weekly NFL action, there’s more overlap between the two than you might think.
At its core, fantasy football and betting involves predicting outcomes. In fantasy, we try to predict individual player performance when we set weekly comps. In betting, the focus is more on the performance of a larger team, but this is starting to change with the emergence of betting on more individual player props.
More importantly, we can use the odds published by sportsbooks to help us make decisions regarding the lineup. In this article, I’ll break down a few ways you can use sages to your advantage.
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Use spread to predict game script
Let’s start with perhaps the most well-known term in sports betting vernacular, the spread. This is a number used by sports betting to even the odds between two unevenly matched teams. The spread is an indicator of how many points one team is favored over another.
For example, the Baltimore Ravens are -7 against the New York Jets in Week 1. This means the Ravens are considered a full touchdown better than the Jets. To “cover” the gap, Baltimore must win by at least eight points on the road.
So how do we translate spread into our analysis of fantasy football? We can use it to get an idea of what the game script might look like. And as we know, the game script can be vital in the utilization and success of a player’s fantasy.
Let’s go back to the Ravens-Jets game. With a Baltimore -7 spread, the Ravens are expected to control and lead most of the game. That means we’re more likely to see an already heavy Ravens offense going to the ground more often later in the game to protect their lead. That means there could be more runs for JK Dobbins and Lamar Jackson, but fewer pass attempts from Jackson to Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews.
On the other hand, as 7-point underdogs, the Jets may need to throw more to keep up with the heavily favored Ravens. That could be good news for receivers Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson and Corey Davis, but could mean fewer touches for Breece Hall and Michael Carter.
Point distribution isn’t the gospel, especially in the NFL, but it can help us get a better idea of the game’s script and player workload.
Consider totals in departure/seat decisions
Now let’s talk about plus/minus, otherwise known as the total. Total betting is simply betting on how many points you expect to score in a game. You can also bet on individual team totals. That same Jets-Ravens game has a total of 44.5 points. If you bet more, you think there will be at least 45 points scored. While an under bet means you expect the game to end with a combined final score of 44 points or less.
We can use the over/under to get an idea of which plays should score the most. Games with higher scores naturally provide more touchdowns and better fantasy performance.
For example, let’s say you’re torn between Cleveland’s Amari Cooper and Arizona’s Marquise Brown as your WR2 in Week 1. Both are their team’s No. 1 receiver and face relatively even matchups in terms of opposing secondaries. Tough decisions like this are where the total can come in handy.
The current Browns-Panthers game total is 41.5 points, tied for the lowest total in Week 1. Meanwhile, the Cardinals-Chiefs game total is 53.5, the highest total of the whiteboard. Essentially, the sports betting expects Arizona-KC to have a lot more points than a potential rock fight between Cleveland and Carolina. This information might help persuade you to start Brown with more confidence.
The same exercise can be done using individual team totals. Let’s take another example. Let’s say you’re deciding between JuJu Smith-Schuster and Elijah Moore for a starting spot. Kansas City’s team total is 28.5 points, while New York’s is 17.5. Bettors expect KC to score more which could provide more opportunities for Smith-Schuster.
Point totals can be a handy tool for comparing your players’ advantages.
Use player props as projections
Finally, let’s talk about emerging player accessory markets. This type of betting is growing in popularity and might be the most tangible way to compare players when setting your roster.
A player prop is a lot like a score tally, except it looks at individual player stats. Like the total, you can bet whether the player will finish above or below their respective prop. There are prop bets for just about every statistical category for quarterbacks and skill position players. You can bet on touchdowns, receptions, yardage, even rushing attempts and more.
We may use player prop ratings exactly like the projections that our respective fantasy providers publish weekly. For example, if Vegas odds show Elijah Moore’s yardage total at 68.5, while Smith-Schuster’s is at 80.5, that suggests JuJu might be in store for the big day.
They call bettors “wise guys”, for a reason, so don’t be afraid to factor their projections into your fantasy football lineup decisions.
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