U-Match Fantasy Betting Offers Value in the NFL
by Trevor Whenham - 12/21/2007
When I first saw the U-Match Fantasy bets being offered by betED I dismissed them as a gimmick to draw in more square money to their site. Something about them stuck in my mind, though. The more I think about them, the more I think that there could be situations where they make a lot of sense.
The U-Match Fantasy bets are available on both the NBA and the NFL, but I'll just talk about the NFL for now. The concept of them is very simple. You pick any two teams that are playing a game on a given weekend, and betED will give you a point spread to bet. The teams don't have to be playing each other, and they don't even have to be playing at the same time or on the same day. The point spread will be applied to the difference between the points the two teams score, just like it is in any other game. The biggest difference between the U-Match Fantasy Betting and regular point spreads is that instead of having to choose between just 16 games in a full weekend of action, you can now choose from 496 different combinations of possible matchups. The lines are released on Wednesdays at noon EST.
There are at least four situations where I think that this bet could be worth a look. Before we get to those, though, we do need to look at one problem. Because we are dealing with teams playing in totally different games we are essentially betting on two totally separate events. We need to not only be concerned with the performance of the two teams in question, but also the two teams that they are playing. That increases the things that could go wrong and cost us the bet. In many cases, then, there wouldn't be enough value in these fantasy bets to make them worthwhile. Playing the U-Match Fantasy bets will require extreme diligence to ensure that the spreads are soft enough to make them attractive. With this many options on offer, it seems likely that there will indeed be vulnerable lines. Here are three cases where I might look at these bets:
Weather - Let's say that we have two reasonably strong offenses that pile up the points through the air on a consistent basis. That would likely mean that the U-Match Fantasy point spread for those two teams would be fairly small. Now let's imagine that as Friday rolls around you see that the forecast for the team that is playing in Miami is sunny and warm, while the team that is playing in Cleveland is for a horrific blizzard. It would seem reasonable to think that the passing team playing in Florida will fare much better than the one in Ohio if the forecasts become reality. That could create a betting opportunity. The same could be true if one team is playing on a sloppy field while the other is in a dome, or in any other extreme difference in field conditions.
Opponent mismatches - Two teams could have very similar offenses but could produce very different but reasonably predictable results based on who they are playing. For the sake of simplicity, let's imagine that we are looking at the two best running teams in the league. Both teams score most of their points on the ground, and rely on their running game to create passing opportunities. If one team is playing the fifth best rush defense in the league while the other team is playing the fifth worst then it would seem reasonable to believe that the team with the easier opponent will score more points. It would seem likely that you would find circumstances in which the line wouldn't reflect your perceived advantage and you would have betting value. The same could be true with pass defenses, or in any case where you feel one similar team matches up better against their opponent than another.
Leverage a strong opinion - Sometimes you sit down to do you handicapping and you come up with a situation where you strongly feel that a team is ready for a huge performance. Instead of piling a huge bet on the point spread of their game, you may want to use the U-Match Fantasy spreads to diversify your opinion and spread out your risk. If you are confident that your team will score a lot of points then you could match them up with several teams that might struggle offensively.
Find a better spot - It's reasonably common that you will find a spot in your handicapping where you feel certain that a team will score a lot of points, or that they will score very few, but you can't translate that into a bet on the spread because you can't be sure how the other team is going to perform. It seems like a waste to have to discard your confident knowledge in these cases just because they don't fit the spread of the game. Instead, you could use the U-match Fantasy to shop around for a better situation where your confidence of the offensive output of your team can be matched up with another team you are confident in to create a more compelling matchup.