Betting on the NFL and playing the stock market are, in many ways, a similar venture. Both stock prices and NFL betting strategy are largely fueled by public perception and aren’t necessarily reflective of the true value of the commodity. In playing the stock market, use of inside information is illegal. In gambling on the NFL, actual inside information is virtually impossible to attain. The theory behind the stock market, which makes so many Americans willing to invest their money, is that there is a level playing field among Wall Street experts and anyone else willing to take on a risk. But that’s not necessarily true.

While there may not be inside information available, there is often complicated public information on a company that, if examined properly, can provide insight to the direction of a stock and allow those with expertise to more accurately recognize actual value. The same applies for NFL teams. No fan is actually able to watch and examine every NFL game and ultimately is forced to rely on what they read in the paper, see in a box score, or hear in the media. But the information (the game tape) is available for those willing to, and capable of, actually understanding the value of a team.

The severity of Peyton Manning’s neck injury is an example of inside information. You’d have needed access to private information, and unless you knew someone on the Colts’ medical staff, you weren’t going to know anything that anyone else did. There was no way to know Manning wouldn’t play a down for the Colts in 2011 before the media was able to come to that same conclusion. But, if you’d paid close attention to the Colts’ roster and seen how incredibly dependent it was on Manning, you could have predicted the collapse of Indianapolis earlier than the general public. This is why the most effective tactic you can take to betting on the NFL is to trust what you’ve actually seen on Sundays. When what you’re hearing said in the media contradicts or understates the conclusions you’ve drawn from studying a team’s gameplay, that’s the best time to lay down a big bet.

Let’s say, for example, that the Cowboys are on a three game winning streak. Public opinion, and thus the money line or spread of a game, will probably be telling you that Dallas should be a heavy favorite this week. But, you may have watched these last three games and seen a team that relied on a few lucky breaks or got by on the mistakes of their opponents. Perhaps their offensive play calling has been predictable and you think their next opponent’s defensive coordinator can capitalize on this. What you’ve actually experienced is probably more valuable information than the general public is using. In other words, the Dallas Cowboys’ stock is overrated; it’s time to sell. Trust what you’ve seen and bet on your own insight.