Nolan Dalla — Updating My NFL Halftime Betting Angles
AN UPDATE (ENTERING 2012 REGULAR SEASON):
In 2001, I spent the entire summer creating my halftime betting angles, which could be applied across the board to all NFL regular season and playoff games.
I released these betting angles at a major sports betting information website. The angles were later re-printed numerous times in several other betting forums and publications.
These seven betting angles hit in the 53-60 percent rate over two decades. They actually performed even better after their public release — hitting around 62 percent in both 2001 and 2002. There were about 4 to 5 plays per week, so not only were these angles extremely profitable, they also produced a fair amount of volume. Best of all, these was absolutely no handicapping involved.
The downside to releasing and popularizing these halftime betting angles is many football bettors gradually caught on to them. They began to lose value as heavy money poured in every time there was a play. Opening halftime lines began changing. Totals moved by a point, or move. For instance, we never used to see anything below a 17 as a second-half total. Now, 16s are commonplace.
Over the course of the next few seasons (2003 and beyond), the sportsbooks/oddsmakers caught on to these angles and began adjusting their numbers so much that betting these angles blindly was no longer profitable.
Moreover, two trends in recent years have severely hurt the angles. First, NFL rule changes tend to favor offenses which creates more scoring. Second, NFL quarterback play is now at its all-time historic pinnacle, which kills opportunities to bet second-half UNDERS.
Unlike what I first released ten years ago, I do not have confidence that all of these angles will produce a profit. However, I am posting them here for consideration if anyone wants to tinker with them, try and refine them, or run the W-L results since 2005. Some bettors have told me that some of these angles (mostly the OVERS) are still profitable. But I have not run the actual the data. So, tread with caution.
You will please forgive one disclaimer. I put in a massive number of hours doing research coming up with these angles. Over the years, many writers and fellow football handicappers have purged them without proper attribution. All I ask is to be credited with doing the research. I think that’s fair.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED — MAY BE REPRINTED ONLY IF AUTHOR IS CREDITED
PART 1: GENERAL THOUGHTS
Just as there are “key” numbers is side betting and game totals, there are also key numbers in second-half totals. The key numbers are as follows: 17, 20, and 24.
What do I mean by a “key” number? What this means is — the point total will land on these three numbers more often than any other. This is important because a line move from 18 to 17.5 is not nearly as significant as a line move from 17 to 16.5. You must look closely at games where the totals are a half-point off of key numbers — such as 16.5, 17.5, 19.5, 20.5, 23.5 and 24.5
The most common total points scored in the second-half is 17. (UPDATE: THIS MAY NO LONGER BE TRUE)
Here’s a breakdown of the most common point totals for the second-half, along with the percentages of how often this occurs:
17 — 9.6 percent
21 — 7.0 percent
10 — 6.9 percent
24 — 6.6 percent
14 — 6.4 percent
13 — 6.0 percent
MYTH: One myth is that games tend to go opposite in the second-half of how they went in the first-half. Many bettors think if a game is high scoring in the first -half to bet UNDER in the second-half. The opposite is also widely believed. Statistics show no correlation. According to data from 1981 through 1998, the second-half actually REPEATS the same scoring pattern more often than not. The margin is very small, as 51.9 percent of games REPEAT, and 47.3 percent of games GO OPPOSITE.
HALFTIME BETTING ANGLE #1
Bet the underdog when the favored team is favored by more points in the second half than in the game itself.
This commonly occurs when the dog is blowing out the favorite, pulling off a “shocking” upset at halftime. Many bettors have a knee-jerk reaction and automatically go with the favorite in this spot to rebound big in the second half, which is a mistake.
Let’s say Pittsburgh is playing Cleveland. The Browns are ahead 14-3 at halftime (we’ll say the Steelers committed several turnovers). The Steelers were a 9-point game favorite and are now favored in the second half by 10 points. The Browns are clearly the play here in the second half, especially since they are an even bigger dog. Now, they are confident. They can make their season with a huge upset win over their rivals. Here are the results of this trend during three different trial periods:
1998 season — 80 percent winners
1994-98 seasons — 60 percent winners
1981-98 seasons — 56.8 percent winners
UPDATE: I believe this angle might still produce a profit. However, I have not run the data in recent years.
HALFTIME BETTING ANGLE #2
When a team is ahead at halftime by 15 or more points, bet the UNDER in the second half.
This trend is even stronger when the road team is ahead. What happens is — the winning team gets much more conservative on offense and rushes more than passes. This eats up lots of clock time. The winning team can also bring in 5-6 defensive backs, since it knows the opponent will be passing more often. However, the opponent, which is losing badly and getting embarrassed sometimes will revert to fundamental play-calling. This happens often in games where the starting QB has gone down with an injury in the first half. Furthermore, if the winning team has the ball with under 5 minutes to play, they will often drive down the field and kneel in the opponent’s territory, instead of crashing in for another score. This means that anywhere from 1-5 minutes out of 30 minutes is wiped out so far as scoring chances. Finally — in blowout games, field goals become less likely, since the losing team needs touchdowns to get back in the game. Instead of kicking a 33-yard field goal the losing team will often go for it on 4th down and goal or 4th and long. Odds are, the team usually will not convert or score. That puts the other team deep in it’s own territory to start the next drive.
1998 — 21 UNDERS vs. 13 OVERS (61.8 percent)
1997 — 24 UNDERS vs. 10 OVERS (70.6 percent)
UPDATE: I suspect this angle is not longer profitable. However, I will leave it posted if anyone wants to run data.
SECOND-HALF BETTING ANGLE #3
This is related to the previous Angle (#2). But, it’s even stronger. When the ROAD team is leading at halftime by 16+ points, the UNDER occurs 60.5 percent in the second-half. OVERS occur only 34.9 percent of the time. It doesn’t matter if the road team is favored or the dog. This happens for the reasons previously explained. But it’s even stronger when the road team is winning big.
Another angle somewhat related to the blowout theory is to consider that IF THE HOME TEAM IS WINNING BY LESS THAN 16 POINTS, the UNDER still comes in 52.6 percent of the time. This angle is not worth betting alone, but it’s important to know that this means the OVER cashes only 43.4 percent of the time when the home team is leading by 16 or less points at the half. Those are bankroll-killing percentages.
SECOND-HALF BETTING ANGLE #4
This might be the most powerful angle on the list. Everything with this angle lines up perfectly — the past history, the key numbers concept, and the logic. It is so powerful, in fact, that I considered keeping this private because I know other sites will cut and paste this angle and tout it as their own.
On this one, I want to credit gambling writer John Granowski for actually running the necessary data.
When 17 points (exactly) are scored in the first-half, the game is more likely to go UNDER in the second-half. (**Caveat: the game is not a blowout, defined at one team leading the other by more than 16 points)
56.3 percent UNDERS
When 13 points (exactly) are scored in the first-half, the game is more likely to go UNDER in the second-half
55.8 percent UNDERS
Interesting enough — most of the other points scored (first-half) totals were about a 50-50 split. So, why are the games where 13 or 17 points scored in the first-half MORE LIKELY to go UNDER the total in the second-half than average?
First, oddsmakers are probably going to post a total slightly higher than 17 for the second half. If 13 points were scored in the first-half, it’s unlikely to see anything less than 17 (although you will see 16 and 16.5 occasionally). This let’s you capture the 17, the most common number to come up in half totals. If a game which was expected to be higher scoring produces only 13 or 17 points, oddmakers may also over-react and expect an explosion to occur in the second-half. You will often see totals in the 20s when just 13 points were scored in the first-half.
If 13 or 17 points were scored, it usually means it’s a CLOSE game where one misstep can cost the team the win. It means the score at halftime is probably either 7-6, 10-3, or 10-7. It’s a one possession ballgame. Under these circumstances, coaches and offensive coordinators are reluctant to take chances. They want a long sustained drives to take the lead — or ball control to keep the lead — or field goals. Indeed, they value field goals and will gear the offense towards picking up 3-points — which can be critical in a 10-7 type of game. They are not at all interested in airing out the offense and risking what is currently a very close contest. These factors contribute to UNDERS occurring in the second half.
UPDATE: I have my doubts as to whether this is still true. However, do feel free to run the data.
SECOND-HALF BETTING ANGLE #5
The converse of the argument above occurs with two possible OVER bets in the second-half, when conditions are right. Although this angle is not as strong (and not as statistically reliable, since there are far fewer trials), it still deserves a mention.
When 23 points (exactly) are scored in the first-half, the game is more likely to go OVER in the second-half. (**Caveat: the game is not a blowout, defined at one team leading the other by more than 16 points)
58.7 percent OVERS
When 30 points (exactly) are scored in the first-half, the game is more likely to go OVER in the second-half. (**Caveat: the game is not a blowout, defined at one team leading the other by more than 16 points)
54.8 percent OVERS
(An interesting thing was to compare results for 23 versus 24. One would think the results would be much the same. But when 24 points are scored, UNDERS prevail 116-113 — so the kink in the 23 and 30 might be a key)
What I mean by “the kink” is that if 23 points were scored in the first-half, it usually means two touchdowns and three field goals. That’s FIVE scores in 30 minutes. That’s a lot of yardage and ball movement for one half. By contrast, the 24 may mean only 4 scoring possessions — so while the actual points scored was HIGHER, the offenses may have racked up more yardage and are better primed for an OVER when 23 points are scored. This is my theory only — so I take what I say with a huge grain of sand. However, if you combine this with the fact that the number 30 also produces significantly more OVERS than UNDERS (and 30 is a close cousin to 23 — given the scoring multiples), I’ll stand on this hypothesis.
What’s interesting is that NO OTHER first-half totals from 9 through 32 produced a profit for second-half OVERS — except 26 (a rare occurrence given the number of trials but still a 30-22 edge for OVERS). Not surprisingly, 26 is semi-related to 23 as it probably means a game of many field goals. For OVER plays, 23 and 30 clearly stood out from the crowd.
UPDATE: I believe these angles might still be profitable.
SECOND-HALF BETTING ANGLE #6
This angle is closely related to the previous two, but is more focused to try and identify a higher percentage of UNDERS and OVERS based on first-half results.
Let’s take a look at games which are expected to be low scoring. By “low scoring” we’ll take game totals set at 38 or less. This means that oddsmakers initially expected the game to be below average in scoring, which has ramifications for halftime betting.
Let’s look again at the key number — 17.
When 17 points (exactly) are scored in the first-half, and the game totals is 38 or lower, the game is more likely to go UNDER in the second-half. (**Caveat: the game is not a blowout, defined at one team leading the other by more than 16 points)
70.2 percent UNDERS
Note that while the 17-point first half goes UNDER 56.3 percent on all games, the percentages are even higher when we narrow this down to games with totals at 38 or less. In fact, we get a 15 percent increase (based on 74 trials, I deem these results to be statistically significant)
On all games where the game total is 38 or lower, the second-half goes UNDER 52.4 percent while the OVER cashes only 47.6 percent of the time.
UPDATE: A 70 percent win rate was no accident when it was tracked. I suspect the number is lower now, but it still might be profitable.
SECOND-HALF BETTING ANGLE #7
Now, here’s the converse angle. However, before relaying it to you, I must admit that this does not have quite enough trials to be beyond scrutiny. Note that games which are expected to be offensive shootouts — based on game totals 42.5 and above tend to go OVER in the second-half when 21 points were scored in the first half.
When 21 points (exactly) are scored in the first-half, and the game total is 42.5 or higher, the game is more likely to go OVER in the second-half. (**Caveat: the game is not a blowout, defined at one team leading the other by more than 16 points)
64.4 percent OVERS
I believe this happens for a good reason. First, 21 first-half points probably means a halftime score of 21-0 or 14-7. It also means touchdowns have been reasonably easy to come by. Furthermore, the losing team will be much more interested in 7 points than a field goal. It also means that if the team in the lead goes ahead by 14 points, the losing team will panic and shoot for the end zone.
The only other first-half point total which produced significant data was 23.
When 23 points (exactly) are scored in the first-half, the game is more likely to go OVER in the second-half.
63.3 percent OVERS
UPDATE: Again, these still might be profitable, but tread with extreme caution.
FIRST-HALF SCORING (TOTALS)
Let’s look at some key numbers for first-half wagering, and try to determine which line openings and moves are more significant than others.
The most common number of points scored in the first-half of NFL games is 17. UPDATE: No longer true, I suspect.
This is followed by 13, 20, and 24. Football is the only major sport that includes KEY numbers, because of the numerical combinations that are most likely to occur. For instance, if 17 points were scored in the first half, you can be almost certain that the halftime score is either 17-0, 14-3, or 10-7. This has some very important carry-over effects into the second-half.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common number of points scored in the first-half:
17 — 9 percent of all games
13 — 8 percent of all games
20 — 7.9 percent of all games
24 — 7.3 percent of all games
UPDATE: This is old data. Numbers are probably higher today.
Judging by these figures, you should be wary of laying a half point on either side of these key numbers in the first-half. For instance, if you expect a low-scoring first-half and want to bet UNDER, 17.5 is a much stronger total to go UNDER than 16.5. That extra point means you pick up 9 percent of value. With 20 and 24, the same holds true. It is generally advisable (all other factors being equal) to bet OVER 23.5 and UNDER 24.5. The half point can play a really big role, when there is only 30-minutes of football to be played.
Most totals (for halves) fall somewhere in the 17 to 24 range. A very small number of games may have a first-half totals set at 16.5 or less (when there are two dominant defenses, or inclement weather). A few games have totals set at 24.5 and higher (usually Saints and Patriots home games and other teams with explosive offenses playing at home).
The actual average number of points scored in the first-half is 20.8
MORE ON SECOND-HALF SCORING (TOTALS)
Here’s a question: What do you think is higher scoring, the first-half or the second-half? I think most people would say the second-half. Many people think that since at least one of the teams gets desperate in the closing minutes of a game, more scoring is likely to happen. There is also the general view that it takes a series or two for the offense to get into the flow of the game and for the quarterback and receivers to establish a rhythm. Finally, there is the idea that both teams are fatigued at the end of a game, which favors offensive players who know their routes and intentions. It’s very difficult for a tired defense to react.
I was surprised to learn that second-halves are slightly lower scoring than first-halves. It took me awhile to think about it, but the reasons for this now seem very clear. As I stated in “Halftime Betting Angle #2,” one of the teams will not be as interested in scoring points — as much burning off clock time. If the team that’s ahead has the ball in opponent’s territory in the closing minutes, they will run off clock time, instead of running a wide-open offense. Also, field goals become less likely if the losing team needs touchdowns to get back to even. These factors contribute towards making the second-half slightly lower scoring than the first-half:
Average number of points scored in the first-half — 20.8
Average number of points scored in the second-half — 19.5
Here’s a breakdown of the most common number of points scored in the second-half:
17 — 9.6 percent of all games
21 — 7 percent of all games
24 — 6.6 percent of all games
14 — 6.4 percent of all games
13 — 6 percent of all games
UPDATE: Remember, this is old data. Not sure if it’s still true.
Here is a powerful concept that you MUST remember if you have any interest in betting second-halves:
When compared with totals posted by oddsmakers, second-half point totals go UNDER 50.1 percent of the time based on the data. This might not seem important, but add the fact that PUSHES also occur 3.5 percent of the time. This translates to only 46.4 percent OVERS in the second-half over a 17-year period! So, this should be a directional signpost that doesn’t necessarily prove that betting UNDERS is profitable, but is sure does show that betting second-half OVERS is a sure way to lose money. If you are betting a second-half OVER, you better have some good reasons — such as following a few of the angles above!
THE AVERAGE ODDSMAKERS TOTAL:
The average second-half total posted by oddsmakers is 20.2 However, since second-halves produce only 19.5 point on average, this means there is a difference of .7 points. That fraction of a point might seem insignificant, but if you can pick up a half-point here or there off of key numbers (17, 20, 24, etc.), you clearly have value. You are not only getting .7 points in value by betting the UNDER, but you have the hook off a key number. Betting UNDER on totals of 17.5 and 20.5 would be excellent examples of this.
I am not suggesting to play UNDERS across the board. Nor am I suggesting to always bet the hard side of a key number. If a second-half total of 19.5 is posted, linesmakers are doing this for a reason. However, in a climate where OVERS seem to be the prevailing attitude, and given the shift upwards on totals over the actual point average, you should be playing more UNDERS than OVERS.