As the NFL season progresses, we can begin to identify which teams are playing the same way this season as they did last year and which are changing.
This is useful for live betting, although we don’t want to overreact to a small sample. I will always look mainly for teams with fairly stable situations from last season for my live bets.
Overall, Week 3 provided moments where we felt we could be confident in one or both teams’ tendencies. Unfortunately, we had a few live bets on matches that then went in directions we couldn’t predict before ending the night with a win. But that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes, you know? We have had a successful live betting season so far, and we will continue to trust the process.
(And if you’re curious about how we approach live NFL betting in general, check out the end of this article.)
How We Were Live Betting NFL Week 3 Sunday Night Football
This one was a little tricky, with the new quarterback and coaching staff in Denver. One thing that has remained constant, however, is the 49ers.
Last season they ranked 29th overall and 32nd when games were close. They sped things up (relatively speaking) while trailing, coming in 24th.
This year they rank 29th overall, 31st when it’s close, and second (!) when they’re down to seven or more. However, they only spent about seven minutes in total in the latter scenario, so there are sample size issues.
Still, it painted a relatively clear picture of how to attack this one. If the Broncos had taken the lead early, we would have considered betting a few overs. Bonus points if we can get a better number than the pre-game 44.
On the other hand, just about every other storyline points to slower paced gameplay. That seems to be how the new-look Broncos prefer to play, ranking 29th overall. Remember their coach is ex-Green Bay OC Nathaniel Hackett – one of the slowest teams in recent seasons.
If this one is close or San Francisco takes a lead, jumping on a few pennies was the game – ideally with a total in the 40s, though I’d take anything higher than the 44 suspended before the game.
While we couldn’t get a better number than the opener, lLet’s stick with our pre-game analysis and take under bets with San Francisco holding a tight lead. Neither offense could do much here, and Denver could have been ruled out if not for a questionable decision by San Francisco to deny a waiting penalty that would push them out of reach. The best line was below 32.5 (-110) at Fox Bet.
The NFL live bets we made earlier in week 3 on Sunday
1 p.m. ET: Ravens-Patriots
While there were a few spots on the list from earlier this week that have slightly more telling splits than New England-Baltimore, I kept my attention on this one.
Both teams fired most of their coaching staff, along with their quarterbacks and most of the offensive staff. As such, their pace numbers are quite similar to 2021 so far this season.
Based on those numbers, the best-case scenario was a low-scoring game with the Patriots up front. This one should go about three seconds a game faster with the Ravens behind. Both of these teams also traditionally play faster in the second half, so everything would point to more offense if the Patriots took the lead.
On the other hand, if Baltimore scored multiple times early on, it could drive the total up – and Baltimore is more than happy to slow things down with the running game with a lead. The Patriots don’t quite have the explosive passing offense needed to get things done themselves, so we were looking to take under bets if the total approached the upper 40s with Baltimore ahead.
That second scenario is how this one played out, as we caught under 47 after the Ravens’ second touchdown gave Baltimore a 14-10 lead.
We expected this game to go almost as slow in a tight game as it did with the Ravens well ahead, which was what we were looking for going into the game. Again, this was before both teams decided to start racking up the points, so…
4:25 p.m. ET: Packers-Bucs
Although these teams are both fairly stable in terms of quarterbacking and coaching staff, Week 3 was an interesting storyline as both teams also deal with injuries in their wide receiving corps.
These teams both clearly have talented quarterbacks who can overcome a lack of talent…but this is a particularly trying situation for both. The pre-game total of 42 reflected that, and I was looking for any opportunity to get a live underbet at a better number than that. A quick score or two should have sent the total up almost immediately, but that’s not what we saw.
Here’s where things get even more interesting. I was projecting a much slower game if the Buccaneers had the lead than if the Packers had it. The Bucs will likely continue to pick up the pace if they fall behind, so I felt even more strongly about the under bets with Tampa ahead.
The pre-game analysis – Tampa’s drag should speed this one up – is exactly what we see at halftime. But instead of under, we took the 37.5 live over to FanDuel.
The total had fallen low enough that we only needed three touchdowns in the second half, which felt like a small ask with two MVP quarterbacks on the field. Instead, we had an almost scoreless second half. Good time. Good time.
How we approach live NFL betting in general
The NFL is perfect for live betting, with the breaks between games providing plenty of time to bet. This season, I’ve built a model to project the pace of play in a variety of game scenarios. These include first vs. second half, as well as which team is leading or when the game is under of a touchdown.
The main advantage concerns the totals of the bets. If the game is going to be faster or slower than expected before the game, the application is obvious. Faster games tend to produce more points.
Player accessories also present interesting opportunities. Sports betting offers a variety of props for live players, and faster or slower than expected games create obvious opportunities.
Take a long look around various books before placing bets, however. There is usually more variation between stores in live markets than there is pre-game.