NFL Live Betting Week 3: How We Live Bet Sunday’s Slate
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images. Pictured: Jeff Wilson Jr.
As the NFL season rolls on, we can begin to identify which teams are playing similarly this season as they did last year and which are changing.
That's helpful for live betting, though we don't want to overreact to a small sample size. I'll still be looking primarily to teams with fairly stable situations from last season for my live bets.
All in all, Week 3 provided spots where we felt we could be confident in one or both team's trends. Unfortunately, we got a couple of live bets in on games that then went directions we couldn't predict before wrapping the night with a win. But that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, you know? We've had a successful live betting season so far, and we'll keep trusting the process.
(And if you're curious how we approach NFL live 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 bit tricky, with the new quarterback and coaching staff in Denver. One thing that's remained consistent, though, is the 49ers.
Last season, they ranked 29th in pace overall and 32nd when games were close. They sped things up (relatively speaking) while trailing, coming in 24th.
This year, they rank 29th in pace overall, 31st when it's close, and second (!) when trailing by seven or more. They've only spent about seven minutes total in the latter scenario, though, so there are some sample size issues.
Still, that painted a relatively clear picture of how to attack this one. If the Broncos took an early lead, we would have considered betting some overs. Bonus points if we can get a better number than the pregame 44.
On the other hand, pretty much all other scenarios point toward a slower paced game. That seems to be how the new-look Broncos prefer to play, ranking 29th in overall pace. Remember, their coach is Nathaniel Hackett, former OC of Green Bay — one of the slower-playing teams the past few seasons.
If this one is close or San Francisco gets a lead, jumping on some unders was the play — ideally with a total in the high 40s, although I'd take anything higher than the 44 hung pregame.
While we couldn't get a better number than the opener, let's stick with our pregame analysis and take the under with San Francisco holding a tight lead. Neither offense has been able to get much going here, and Denver could've been shut out if not for a questionable decision by San Francisco to decline a holding penalty that w.ould push them out of range. The best line was under 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 some spots on the early slate this week that have slightly more telling splits than New England-Baltimore, I was keeping my attention turned to this one.
Both teams returned the bulk of their coaching staff, as well as their quarterbacks and most offensive personnel. As such, their pace numbers are fairly similar to 2021 so far this season.
Based on those numbers, the best case scenario was a low scoring game with the Patriots in front. This one should go about three seconds per play faster with the Ravens behind. Both of these teams also traditionally play faster in the second half, so everything would point toward more offense if the Patriots take the lead.
On the flip side, if Baltimore scored multiple times in the early going, that could cause the total to jump up — and Baltimore is more than happy to slow things down with the run game with a lead. The Patriots don't really have the explosive passing offense necessary to push things forward themselves, so we were looking to take live unders if the total approached the upper 40s with Baltimore in front.
That second scenario is how this one played out, as we snagged under 47 after the Ravens' second touchdown gave Baltimore a 14-10 lead.
Our expectation was that this game should play almost as slow in a close game as with the Ravens well in front, fitting what we were looking for before the game. Then again, that was before both teams decided to start pouring on the points, so …
4:25 p.m. ET: Packers-Bucs
While these teams are both fairly stable in terms of quarterback and coaching staffs, Week 3 was an interesting scenario, because both teams are also dealing with injuries to their wide receiving corps.
These teams both clearly have talented quarterbacks who can overcome a lack of talent … but this is a uniquely trying situation for both. The pregame total of 42 reflected that, and I was looking for any opportunity to get in a live under bet at a better number than that. A quick score or two should have driven 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 did. The Bucs will likely still push the pace if they fall behind, so I felt even more strongly about unders with Tampa ahead.
The pregame analysis — Tampa trailing is expected to speed this one up — is exactly what we're seeing at half time. But instead of unders, we took the live over of 37.5 at FanDuel.
The total had fallen low enough that we only needed three second half touchdowns, which felt like a small ask with two MVP quarterbacks on the field. Instead, we got an almost scoreless second half. Good times. Good times.
How We Approach NFL Live Betting in General
The NFL is perfect for live betting, with the pauses between plays providing plenty of time to get bets in. This season, I’ve built a model to project the pace of play under a variety of in-game scenarios. These include first vs. second half, as well as which team is leading or when the game is within a touchdown.
The primary benefit is for betting totals. If the game is going to be faster or slower than was assumed pregame, the application is obvious. Faster-paced games tend to produce more points.
Player props also present some interesting opportunities. Sportsbooks are offering a variety of live player props, and faster or slower than expected games create obvious opportunities.
Take a long look around various books before placing bets, though. There tends to be more variation between shops in live markets than there is pregame.