NFL Playoff Betting Adjustments
by Trevor Whenham - 1/7/2010
The NFL playoffs are finally here. Anyone who has been sports betting for a while knows that the NFL playoffs are a very different animal from the regular season. If you approach the games in January in the same way you handicapped games in October then you are going to be in trouble. Here's a collection of some of the adjustments you'll want to think about making before you make your first bet:
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Expect full effort - In the regular season there is all sorts of cause to be an amateur psychologist. Players and teams can't reasonably give 110 percent in 16 consecutive games, so at times you can safely guess that a team is going to be less than their best. Perhaps they are playing a bad opponent on the road, or they are coming off a hard-fought win or a tough loss, or they have a short week. Whatever the reason, less-than-full effort can be a very powerful tool for bettors. In playoffs that just doesn't exist. That doesn't mean that teams won't put up terrible playoff performances, but it does mean that you can't assume that they are going to.
If they are playing, they'll be ready - In the regular season there are all sorts of questions about the injury status of players. How healthy are they? How much will they play? Will they play at full effort? The stakes can't get higher than they are in the playoffs, so if a player is playing then you can absolutely assume that he will play at full effort and give off a full performance. Small injuries that hurt and hamper performance in the regular season have a strange way of not hurting anymore in the playoffs.
Quality matters - As a general rule, the better team wins in the playoffs. That doesn't mean that you should just bet on the home team each game and forget about it. More often than not, though, you can look back after a playoff game has been played and see that the team that won clearly deserved to win for reasons that were established before the game.Because both teams will be playing at as close to full capacity as they ever do you have the luxury in the playoffs more than ever to figure out which team is the best and bet accordingly.
Beware of line movements - The betting volume is higher for the playoff games than it is for most regular season games - there are only a maximum of four games a weekend instead of 16 in a regular season week. Higher betting volumes mean a couple of things. First, it means that the value is bet out of lines quite quickly. If you have done some homework and a line seems like it is wildly wrong then you probably need to go back and look at the game again because books aren't going to make major mistakes, and even minor mistakes will be quickly corrected. Second, you need to be very aware of line movement that doesn't make sense. If a favorite seems popular to the public yet their line falls then something is up with the smart money, and you need to consider what that means.
Shop around - With the high betting volumes on playoff games books may have to quickly change a line to react to the action they are getting. Over the long term those changes will be mirrored across all books,but in the short term you can find big differences between the numbers books are posting. Because the lines are typically so strong in the playoffs a half a point or a point can make a huge difference. That means that you really need to shop around among different sports books for the best odds to get any value you possibly can.
Don't get fooled by meaningless games - When you are trying to assess how a team is playing you need to make sure that you are looking at games that are actually a reflection of the status of a team. The obvious example would be the Colts - their first 14 games are a much better example of where the team is at than the last two games are. You just can't let yourself get fooled by false indicators.
Don't trust anything you read - The deeper we get into the playoffs the more 'experts' suddenly emerge to tell you how it is. Most of the people who are part-time prognosticators don't have any real insight to offer, and quite often don't even worry about nuisances like the fact as they are spinning their tales. Before you make any decision based on anything you read in the playoffs do yourself a favor and dig around a bit to make sure that what you are reading is fact not fiction.
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