NFL Playoff Betting Systems
by Trevor Whenham - 01/12/2007
Do you ever find yourself continuously fascinated by something you know is too good to be true? I've fallen victim to that kind of thing more times than I can count. It probably started out with Santa, and it was taken to the next level by the tooth fairy. In both cases, I probably knew that they weren't real before I was willing to admit it, but part of me just wanted it to be real so badly that I didn't want to accept the obvious truth entirely. As I've gotten older, Santa and the tooth fairy have been replaced in my mind by an even more elusive obsession - the search for an automatic sports betting system that works over the long term.
I don't think that there is anything more seductive than the prospect of a simple solution to handicapping. Think about it - you just crunch a few numbers, see what pops out, and bet it blindly and without thought. The hardest part of the whole thing would be figuring out how to spend all of the money you would make. I have looked high and low for that system. The fact that I am fairly certain it isn't there to be found doesn't seem to slow the search. A big part of the pleasure in the whole thing is the pleasure in testing a system to find out how it fails, because each system fails in a slightly different way. Thankfully, there is no limit to the number of failing systems available to examine.
I'm not saying, nor am I willing to say, that there aren't systems out there that actually work. In fact, if you believe everything you read then there are hundreds of people out there with perfect, foolproof systems. There are a lot of reasons, though, that most systems fail over the long term.
The first is correlation. You can dig through the statistics and box scores and find pretty much everything you want to find. You could discover that underdogs cover at home 80 percent of the time after they have lost four in a row by more than 20 and they are playing at night and their opponents have won more than three in a row but less than six, or something like that. The thing is that none of those factors cause the team to cover. The teams cover because they get an injured player back, or because they match up to the opponent well, or because the weather plays to their strengths. Systems tend to make decisions by attaching significance to factors that don't contribute to the outcome of the game. If you're going to handicap games that way, you might as well handicap based on which team's uniform you like better.
Another factor is sample size. Just because you have found a system that can pick 75 percent winners over three weeks, or two months or one season doesn't mean that you have a long-term winner. There are so few games each year that doing well in one year doesn't prove anything. It doesn't matter if you can pick 60 winners out of 100 games. You could probably do that sometimes with a coin flip, so it's not statistically significant. What matters is if you can pick 60,000 winners out of 100,000 games. You certainly can't do that with a coin flip, and you can't do that with most systems either. Remember, then, to examine whether something can win over the long term before you mortgage your home to win big.
Don't get me wrong - I still like looking for systems. Maybe one of these days one of them will be the pot of gold. The NFL playoffs are an especially fruitful time to be searching for them. More people are betting during the playoffs, and a lot of bettors have losses during the season that they are trying to erase in the playoffs. Cruising through forums the last few weeks, these are some of the more intriguing systems I have come across.
1) In games played since 1980, teams that have gone on the road after scoring 35 or more points in the playoffs are 0-15 ATS when they are playing against teams with a .690 record or better which gave up 14 or more points in their last game. As obscure as that seems, the Chargers fit the bill this week. Arizona scored 20 against them in their last game, they were 14-2 in the regular season, and New England scored 37 last week.
2) During the playoffs, a team that won games in a blowout three or more times during the year is likely to cover the spread against a team that hasn't won in a blowout three times during the year. For the purposes of this system, a blowout win is defined as having won by 20 points or more. It's claimed that this system has hit 15-of-17 times since 2003. If you're convinced, or even just intrigued, then you'll want to check out Chicago, New Orleans and Baltimore this weekend.
3) Fading the team that has scored the most points in the previous round of the playoffs is claimed to be very profitable since 1996. It was 2-1 ATS last playoff season, and 24-6-3 ATS since 1996. The Patriots scored the most points last week with 37, so the Chargers would be the choice here.