Handicapping NFL games correctly is not an easy thing to do.
As sports gamblers, we know that we can study a game for hours and formulate a great game plan for how to bet a certain contest, only to have our wager blown when a star player gets hurt or a last-second interception is returned for a touchdown. It’s why we love and hate betting on the NFL at the same time.
However, recently, there is a new wrinkle that must be taken into account when breaking down which side we are going to wager our hard-earned money on NFL football games.
Kickers and key numbers
We know that a high percentage of games in the NFL end with a margin of three. From 2006 to the start of this season, 14.5% of all games ended with a three-point margin. That’s why 3 is a key number and the number that sportsbooks do not like to move off of it, if they can help it. There is tremendous value in getting a game at -2.5 or +3.5 and that hook can often be the difference in cashing a ticket or not.
NFL teams that have clutch field goal kickers give gamblers the confidence to lay three or take three points in a game more often. There is confidence in betting on someone who can make a game-winning boot that might be the difference for their wager.
However, it’s no longer just field goals that we have to take into account and worry about when we are betting a game with the line of three.
When the NFL moved the extra point attempt back to 33 yards in 2015, the thought was that it would make the play more exciting and more impactful on the game. The NFL was correct as the previous chip shot was boring and nearly automatic. In 2014, the year before the rule change, only eight extra points were missed the entire season. While the influence on the outcome of games has mattered slightly, the impact on sports gambling has been massive.
This year missed extra points are becoming a huge story and something that we have pay attention to for playoffs. This is particularly important for games played in nasty weather, especially if you betting a game with a three-point line.
Through week 11 of this season, NFL kickers were making extra point attempts just 79.7 percent of the time. According to SportRadar.com, that’s the lowest percentage since 2003 for men being paid to kick a ball through an upright. This is all these guys do for their job and yet, they are missing two out of 10 tries right now.
The aftermath of one missed kick
Take what nearly happened on Monday Night Football with the Seahawks hosting the Vikings. Seattle was a 3-point favorite and up 10 when Minnesota scored a touchdown to cut the lead to six. If you were like me and on the Vikings plus-3, the extra point was crucial. Vikings kicker Dan Bailey badly missed the attempt to keep the lead at four.
When the Vikings got the ball back with four minutes to play, they knew they needed a touchdown, not a field goal. There is no way to know if the game would have ended differently than it did but Seattle got the ball back after holding the Vikings on fourth down to win and cover.
As the season heads toward the playoffs and lines get tighter and tighter, we have to pay close attention to who the kickers are for each team. This used to be something we did for field goals but until teams like New England, Tennessee, and the Jets get competent kickers, be wary of lines where a missed extra point can blow your bet.