NFL Betting: Don't Be Enamored With Wild Card Winners
by Robert Ferringo - 01/09/2009
I have stated many times about the recency effect and its impact on gambling. I feel like this, along with the primacy effect, is one of the strongest barriers that common gamblers must overcome when it comes to football betting. And the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs might be the most obvious example of the recency effect in action.
Basically, the recency effect states that people have a stronger attachment and reaction to information that has been gained most recently, and they have a tendency to be more influenced by the last thing that they've seen or heard. It's a natural psychological component of all humans and is difficult to get past. (The primacy effect, by contrast, is when people are most influenced by first impressions.)
So, as every wannabe wiseguy and pseudo-square strolls into the casino to place a healthy wager on Baltimore or Philadelphia this week the first thing that comes to this handicapper's mind is whether or not the general betting public is under the cloud of the recency effect. After all, both of these teams posted double-digit wins on the road last week. Both displayed a dominating defense and a timely and capable offense while rolling their opponents, and now both have been labeled as the hot bets for this weekend's action.
Contrastingly, their foes for this week, Tennessee and the New York Giants, respectively, did not play last week. By the time they line up this weekend it will have been two weeks since they have taken the field and it will have been three weeks since their starters received any meaningful time since both No. 1 seeds rested their key players in Week 17. That's a long time. And clearly long enough to forget how dominating these two clubs have been for the last four months. Long enough to forget that the Titans and Giants have already beaten their respective opponents. Long enough to forget that the Giants are Super Bowl champions.
While Baltimore and Philadelphia have each been doing their dirt the true top dogs have been lying in wait and preparing for this very weekend. They have been resting, scheming, focusing, and preparing for this exact situation. They have been sharpening their claws and are now waiting in their respective lairs to take on a familiar opponent. And now that all of the money is rolling in on the Ravens and Eagles it might have opened the door for the favorites to come through with a prosperous victory for those who are now, as strange as it sounds, going against the grain.
Over the past 11 years the No. 1 seeds in each conference are a combined 20-11-1 against the spread in the Divisional Round. That is a stellar 64.5 winning percentage. And a big reason why is because the lines for these games are generally lower than they should be because bettors are more willing to stock in what they witnessed last week than looking at the season as a whole. Remember: there is a reason that these teams didn't play last week.
There is also a general playoff trend that is not limited to just the Divisional Round but that is applicable in this week's games. That is when the spread is moving in favor of a road team - for example, if a road underdog is bet down from -7 to -6 - then that road team is a putrid 18-27-3 ATS. That's exactly a 40 percent rate for trailing the public jumping on the roadies' bandwagon. And if you have a No. 1 seed in the Divisional Round that is on the other end of this movement you now have a 64.5 percent trend and a 60 percent trend in your favor.
Further, both Philly and Baltimore are No. 6 seeds. And their backers might not be thrilled to know that the Divisional Round is the blowout round, with the margin of victory in the round at over two touchdowns per game over the last 17 years, at around 12 points over the seven years, and still at nearly 10 points for all divisional games played in the last five seasons. Now, that's not a problem if you think the underdog will win outright. In fact, it means they'll likely win via a blowout. But the bad news is that in seven of the last eight times that a No. 6 seed has advanced to the Divisional Round they have been blown out, losing by an average score of 34-15. In those eight games the top-seeded home team is 7-1 both straight up and ATS. The only time they didn't advance was in 2006 when Pittsburgh beat Indianapolis.
I'm not saying that Baltimore and Philadelphia won't win (or cover) this weekend. I'm not saying that they don't deserve some action. Not at all. I'm just saying that when a majority of wagers are coming in on two No. 6 seeds on the road against the top seed - and right now Baltimore is taking 60 percent of the action while Philly is getting 58 percent - then it sends up some red flags and I start thinking about going the other way.
Carpe diem, my friend. And good luck.
For info about Robert's picks? Check out his Insider's Page Here.