As the NFL season progresses, teams are ranked by their wins and losses into standings. These charts are easy to read, once a bettor understands the symbols and numbers, and give readers a ton of information at-a-glance.

In the NFL, as in all world sports, the determination of which teams go to the postseason and which are left on the outside looking in is made based on that team’s position in its division and its conference.

Team Standings Basics

Every NFL team exists in a division that totals four squads. Each conference (the NFC and the AFC) contains four divisions, so that the entire league is broken up into the NFC North, NFC South, NFC East, NFC West, and the accompanying divisions in the AFC as well.

The NFL awards two Wild Card berths in its season-ending playoffs on top of the four berths given to each conference for Divisional champions. The awarding of Wild Cards, and thus all entrance to the pro football playoffs, has everything to do with a team’s position in the standings.

In NFL standings, teams are ranked not just by their overall performance in-conference, but also how they perform against teams in their own division. The most basic numbers on a chart listing the league’s standings is the win-loss column, which tells readers how many games each team in the league has won and lost. Wins and losses are the league’s way of selecting squads for postseason appearances.

But what about the other numbers listed on a standard NFL standings chart? They add value to sports bettor’s understanding of the game as well.

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How to Read NFL Football Standings

Normally listed as W – L, wins and losses are simply added up and presented next to the team’s name. The higher the ratio of wins to losses, the better a team’s standings.

Next to the W – L column is normally a number that represents a team’s winning percentage, how often a team is winning during a given season. If twelve games have been played and a team has won 9 of them, their winning percentage is 0.75, or 75%. Divisional titles are awarded to teams with the highest winning percentage – in the rare case that two division rivals have the same percentage tiebreaker rules exist to determine the true champion – but winning percentage usually prevails.

Other valuable details available to bettors in standings charts are a team’s home and away records, in-conference and in-division numbers, and winning or losing streak data. Home and away records can be valuable, especially in the case of NFL wagers involving a team like New Orleans that historically under-performs on the road.

A team’s performance against opponents from its own conference and division is a strong indicator of their ability to perform in the postseason, should they land there. A squad with a large number of wins against non-divisional opponents is more likely to suffer defeat in the early rounds of the NFL playoffs than a team that can consistently beat inter-divisional rivals.

Bettors should not neglect standings charts that include stats labelled “PF” and “PA.” These symbols stand for Points For and Points Allowed respectively, and give readers an overall picture of how well a team performs offensively and defensively.

Useful NFL Standings Numbers for Bettors

Though a standings chart isn’t exactly a “little-known tool” for handicapping pro football games, they do contain valuable details that can be used to begin a betting strategy.

Comparing two teams’ Points For and Points Allowed numbers would be a good start to gaining a basic idea of how a game may play out. Comparing wins and losses at home and on the road for two competing NFL teams is another way to build a basic handicapping technique. The trick is to begin with these simple statistics before venturing into more minute details in order to help determine the outcome of a game.

Depending too heavily on numbers pulled directly out of a football standings chart printed in every local newspaper could be a bad habit for a sports bettor competing against a world’s worth of professional oddsmakers and handicappers. But this simple device should be a part of every NFL sports bettor’s basic plan for predicting winners and losers.

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