NFL Playoff Betting Advice: Avoid these Wagering Traps
by Trevor Whenham - 1/8/2014
As you get ready to handicap what stacks up as four very interesting and very competitive NFL Playoff games this weekend, here are five common betting traps to be sure to sidestep on your trip to profit:
McCoy vs. Manning
By now we are all sick of hearing how San Diego coach Mike McCoy was Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator last year in Denver. While it’s a good story, and you can be sure that both guys are motivated just a little bit more to get the best of the matchup, it’s easy for bettors to overcompensate for the significance of this situation.
While the two worked closely together and had a lot of respect, it simply doesn’t give either guy a dramatic edge in this game — especially not in the third meeting this year between the teams. Sure, McCoy has a good idea of the preferences and tendencies of Manning. After this many years in the league for Manning, two meetings between the teams this year, and unlimited film to study, though, any coaching staff in the league that has gotten a team to this point in the playoffs would be good enough to assemble a whole lot of knowledge about what to expect from Manning, too.
In other words, any edge McCoy may have had at one point is minimized now in relative terms by the realities of the NFL. Besides, Manning knows what McCoy knows about him, and he is more than smart enough to avoid being predictable. It would be a big mistake to overcompensate for this factor in your handicapping.
The Saints are good on the road now
Drew Brees will tell you that their win in Philadelphia proved that this is a team that can win on the road. It did no such thing. All it did was prove that they could win in Philadelphia on that day.
Over a longer, more meaningful sample size we have seen that this is a team that is not the same outside as inside — and wasn’t good at all the last time they were in Seattle. That doesn’t mean that we will see the same again here we saw last time these teams met, but it also doesn’t mean that we can cast away all concerns we had about the Saints away from home because of one tight win.
Seattle’s home-field advantage
On the flip side of the New Orleans game, though, we need to be careful not to mythologize the home-field advantage for the Seahawks too much. The 12th Man is indeed very loud and supportive, but it doesn’t make these Seahawks unbeatable. Three teams in the NFL had a better home record than the Seahawks, and two more tied the Hawks at 7-1, yet we talk about the impact of playing at home for Seattle in near-mythical tones. In their last five home games the Seahawks were beaten soundly by Arizona and needed overtime to get past lowly Tampa Bay, so they are far from unbeatable if conditions are right. Giving the home field too much credit here is just lazy handicapping — and that gets expensive over time.
Three of these matchups are rematches of interesting regular-season outcomes. The Seahawks crushed the Saints. The Chargers shocked the Broncos in Denver last time they met. Carolina beat San Francisco by the bay in November.
While any past meeting has nuggets of great info to be mined from it, it’s a mistake to assume that what happened before is any more likely to happen again than any other outcome. In every case a lot has changed since then — health, intensity, experience, lineups and so on. You can never be sure that the team you see one week will appear again the next week, so assuming a repeat performance separated by weeks and many factors is just silly.
Since 2005, the only Super Bowl winners to have a first-round bye are the Steelers in 2008 and the Saints in 2009. One more team than that has won the Super Bowl without playing any games at home.
It used to be that the bye was a massive advantage for teams in the playoffs — in part because of the rest and in part because the gap between the elites and the also-rans was massive. Now that gap is tiny, and the bye just isn’t consistently the factor it is.
Don’t let what used to happen influence your handicapping here.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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