Betting Trends and Advice for NFL Picks for the Wild Card Round
by Trevor Whenham - 1/7/2011
Wild Card Weekend is here again. A lot of bettors will tell you that this is the best weekend of the playoffs for making a big profit. That may or may not be true, but like every weekend of the NFL season you are better off approaching it with as much knowledge as you can. In this case one of the best means we have of learning about how to bet the Wild Card games is from history.
I don’t like going too deep into history when looking at betting trends because of how quickly the game changes. Four years is pretty much a perfect time line, though -- enough of a sample size to be relevant without letting the results get too stale and pointless. Here are four of the more interesting things that emerged when I looked back at the last four versions of wild card weekend: These betting trends and advice should be able to help with your NFL picks for the weekend.
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Games aren’t necessarily close - One thing you’ll hear time and again -- because it’s true -- is that the lines in the playoffs are very solid. The increased betting volume combined with the small number of games means that the books can set strong lines to start, and any problems with them get bet out of them very quickly.
People make a common mistake when thinking about lines that are solid, though -- they assume that they are a good predictor of how the game will actually turn out. That’s just not the case.
Strong lines are meant to balance the action and not give one team an obvious edge -- the books have no financial interest in predicting the score. In fact, over the last four years, the lines have been far off of the score as a general rule.
Eleven of the last 16 Wild Card games saw the team that covered the NFL point spread do so by at least a touchdown, and seven of those teams covered by double digits. There are a lot of things you can learn from that, but chief among them is that if you see one team having a clear edge and you have done enough research to have faith in that conclusion then you shouldn’t let the strength of the lines scare you away from making your bet.
What home field advantage? - We hear a lot about how hard the task is for Wild Card teams -- they have to four road games to hoist the hardware. Because of that a lot is made about the importance of earning that home field advantage in the Wild Card round -- at least those teams get one home game.
As it turns out, that home field advantage isn’t as advantageous as you might assume. Over the course of the last four years home teams are just 9-7 ATS. In the last three seasons the teams at home are just 6-6 straight up.
In short, don’t let the location of the game weigh too heavily in your decision making process.
Don’t favor the favorites - What the books want to do is not to predict the score of the game, but to balance the action so that they don’t lose heavily in the playoffs.
Public bettors, or ‘squares,’ bet heavily on the NFL, which means that they can’t let the favorites cover too much because the public loves favorites. They can’t let the underdogs cover too much, though, or smart money would bet that side aggressively. Their ideal outcome, then would be 8-8 ATS over the last four years. Guess what the favorites’ record is the last four years? Yep - 8-8 ATS.
Incidentally, eight of the 16 games have gone ‘over’ the total as well. That all means one thing above all -- just handicap the game instead of trying to out-think and outsmart the lines.
Momentum is overrated - A lot of people like to look at how teams finish the season to judge how they will start the playoffs. There is obviously some merit to that approach, but from a betting perspective it hasn’t been particularly fruitful recently.
In the last four years eight of the 16 teams that covered their Wild Card game didn’t cover their last game before the playoffs. Ten of the Wild Card covering squads came into the playoffs having been unprofitable over at least their last three games, and in a few cases as many as nine games.
You obviously don’t want to entirely ignore how a team was playing before the playoffs, but getting hung up on how they had been treating bettors would be a big mistake. In fact, from an ATS perspective the best thing you could do is ignore what happened during the season.
Allen Eastman is known as one of the premier NFL handicappers in the nation and his clients have earned $4,000 in the last seven weeks. He has a hot card of NFL picks for the Wild Card round, and that includes a 6-Unit Game of the Month for the Baltimore/Kansas City game on Sunday.
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