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Tipico Tips: Betting NFL futures

NFL Bets

The NFL is everywhere, all the time. That was the goal. The league has done an amazing job of keeping the shield relevant even when we are months away from actual football games. They make a big deal out of a normally mundane task like the free agency signing period. They turned the NFL draft into a three-day cross-country debutante's ball, fully equipping family homes and team war rooms with cameras and microphones to catch all the action and reactions. Now that sports betting is becoming more mainstream, the sportsbooks and affiliate providers are even adding another layer to this marketing cake with the explosion of betting NFL futures. 

The last piece to offseason team building is the NFL draft. Once that is over, Tipico Sportsbook begins to post a robust menu of NFL future bets. The most common one many are familiar with is the eventual Super Bowl winner. This tends to be the biggest market and a very important one for the other futures that are tied to it. Every team is assigned odds based on their probability of winning. The favorites are going to pay less and likely take more betting action. The bad teams with little chance to win are going to pay more when they hit, but those tickets are much less likely to cash and ever produce a profit. The Super Bowl winner is about as easy and straightforward a bet as you can make in the futures market, so it is a good starting point to understand how the market works. 

While Super Bowl champion is the big one, we also have many team bets that are derivatives of those odds to win it all. Tipico uses the odds for winning the Super Bowl to price the winners of each conference. The pool for conference winners has half as many teams as the pool for Super Bowl winners since the league is split in two. This means we have fewer potential options to bet on and a higher chance of winning that conference bet. As is the case in sports betting, the fewer the options, the more likely each team is to cash that ticket. This is why you get smaller payouts on the same team for winning their conference than you do for winning the Super Bowl.

This same concept can be broken down even further as Tipico also offers a futures market on which team will win each division. The Super Bowl winner market has 32 teams. Each conference winner market has 16. The divisional markets have just four teams in each, so obviously that is going to be the easiest market to cash a ticket. That said, the odds will again decrease from what they were in the conference market as now we have even less chances and a higher probability of picking a winner. It is not uncommon to see a favorite priced at +200 to +300 to win the Super Bowl and then have that same favorite at +125 or +200 to win the conference and probably even -150 or so to win their division. A Longer shot may be +10000 to win the Super Bowl, +7000 to win the conference and maybe +1000 to win their division.

If you want to navigate the team futures markets, then you need to take two things away from this. The first is that the better the team’s chance of winning, the lower the payout you will receive. The second thing is that the more potential winning options that are in the pool, the better payout you will get. Betting on the biggest favorites in the smallest pools (division winner) will produce the smallest payouts because you are taking the smallest risk. Taking bigger chances will pay out less often, but the payout when it does hit will tend to be much bigger. It is a multi-layered balancing act between taking a bigger risk and still giving yourself a chance to cash. Remember, at the end of the day, 31 teams will have worthless Super Bowl futures bets, while 15 in each conference and three in each division will also end up not worth the paper they are printed on. Which market you should play in is a function of how risk averse you want to be. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward, but also the less likely you are to ever be able to cash that ticket and see that reward. 

Team futures tend to be the more commonly bet and the market a sports book will take more money on, but you can also bet NFL futures on individuals. The main ones that sportsbooks tend to offer revolve around award winners for the upcoming season. Tipico had bets on Rookie of the Year Award winners for offense and defense very shortly after the draft was complete. Other player futures markets that you can find include things like offensive and defensive MVP, which also tends to be a major market. Besides award winners, you also will find statistical leader future bets. These futures tend to be on things like the QB to throw for the most yards in 2021, the defender to lead the league in sacks, and which RB/WR/TE has the most yards or receptions. The number and wording of the offered futures may vary somewhat, but the gist of it is basically some variation of the aforementioned awards and milestones. 

One thing I want to caution about these different types of markets is that the math is very different. With team futures, you have a closed set of options. That means the eventual winner has to be one of the 32 teams in the NFL. No teams get added midseason, so if you bet on all 32 listed teams you would have to cash at least one of those tickets. The same is not exactly true of the awards. We had seven rounds’ worth of rookies drafted into the NFL this year. On either side of the ball, Tipico only offers futures on a handful of the top options most likely to take home that award. Theoretically, there’s a 95-99% chance one of those handful of options will win the award, but the set of potential winners is not closed. A random sixth-round running back who was not listed could break out for a 2,000-yard season and sweep the Rookie of the Year, MVP and rushing title futures despite not being an option to even bet on this early in the futures market. These types of pools are what we call an open set. Sometimes you will see a bet that says “field” in these markets. The field bet is a catch-all that pays out if the eventual winner of one of these awards or milestones is not one of the listed options. If the market does include a field bet, then it is effectively closed because either one of the listed players wins or none of them do and the money goes to the field bettors. If the market does not have a field option, you could theoretically see a sportsbook clean up as they would not have to pay out any tickets on that market if the player who ultimately ends up winning was never offered. It is rare a player comes out of nowhere to win an award or milestone bet, but it has happened. This is why it is at least worth understanding as you are taking on an added layer of risk.

Overall, betting on NFL futures is big business whether we are talking about team or individual goals. In every futures market, the concepts are the same. The most likely winners tend to have the lowest payouts and the longshots tend to have slim to no chance of winning and paying out. The bigger the risk you take, the bigger the potential reward you will receive if you are right. The bigger the risk, the less likely you are to ever see a return from that investment though. Being able to balance this risk/reward equation is what makes someone a good futures bettor. You can absolutely make money in this market, but remember you are betting on future events, which means your money is locked up until the end of the season when these wagers are final. You will likely get a better payout this early in the season rather than a week or two before the season ends, but you also have a ton of added risks from injuries and bad play to navigate through with such a broad horizon. Now that you understand what the futures markets are and how they function, we can start looking at which teams fit the description of good or bad plays in order to start getting some money down. 

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