Betting the NFL Pro Bowl - Tips and Advice
by Trevor Whenham - 1/27/2011
The Pro Bowl is, without a doubt in my mind, the most pointless event in sports. There isn’t a major sport that requires more practice, game planning and precision than football, so it is all but impossible to create a team that can play together effectively in just a week of practice. That means that offenses are simplistic, and defenses are vanilla. On top of that, most of the players in the game have been banged up during the year and are thinking more about taking a bit of time off than in risking injury by trying too hard in this game. It’s incredibly boring to watch, and largely uninteresting to bet on as well.
Despite the Pro Bowl not being the best betting opportunity ever -- or even close to it -- there still is some temptation to make a bet on it. Between the NFL and college football this is the first weekend since the start of September that we haven’t had a meaningful game -- and usually dozens -- to bet on. The Super Bowl is looming, so football is on the brain, and doing nothing this weekend seems wrong. Even a terrible football game is probably better than no football at all.
If you are going to bet on this game then you need to have a plan. Here are five things to keep in mind along with some tips and advice for betting on the NFL Pro Bowl:
Running game is easiest to establish - A straight forward running game is the easiest thing for a team to establish in a short time frame -- hand off the ball, block to open a hole, run through the hole, repeat. There is also a relatively low chance of getting hurt with that approach to the game. That means that teams with up-the-middle, pounding running backs are going to have a reasonably easy time establishing an effective offense. If one team has more running backs like that than the other, then you could have an edge.
Smart quarterbacks will have a better day - If a quarterback makes the Pro Bowl then he has obviously had a very nice year. There are different ways for a quarterback to have a good year, though. Some guys -- like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning -- put up big numbers because they see the field so well, can sense when a guy is open, and knows how to make things happen. Other guys with not quite as much talent benefit more from strong systems, good coaching, and great talent around them. The smarter a guy plays, the easier it will be for him to adjust to the challenges of playing with new guys under a new system against defenses that can’t really be scouted.
Think about motivation - For some players playing in the Pro Bowl is a very big deal. Maybe it’s their first time, or they are excited to play with players they respect and admire. For other guys the game is less of an honor than an annoyance -- or at the very least just an excuse to go on vacation with the family. Needless to say, the more motivated a player is, the more effort they are going to put into the game, and the better off the team will be as a result. Motivation is often a tough thing to judge, but it is sometimes obvious. If a team has a clear edge in motivation then they are clearly one to look at.
Think about the coaches - The coaches aren’t likely to be much more excited than the players to be here. The rules have changed this year -- it used to be the coaches that lost the conference championship games coached the Pro Bowl, but because of the timing the coaches are now from the divisional round losers that are highest in the standings. Because the coaches probably would rather be a hundred different places instead of this game, they are likely to look for ways to make things easier for them. That means that they will use basic systems that they are comfortable with, and will rely on the players that they know best. That means that the more of his own players a coach has on his team, the better. It also means that a coach who has done this before is likely to have a better sense of what is involved, and will be more prepared by game day.
Props may be the way to go - It can be very hard to make an educated decision about who to bet on in the game because of all of the handicapping nightmares it presents. Prop bets are often much easier to handicap in this game because there are fewer factors that need to be considered and you can make a more comfortable decision with a higher chance of success.
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