NFL Championship Games Betting: Avoiding Public Bias
by Trevor Whenham - 1/13/2015
When you are handicapping any game you need to be aware of the potential public biases and the impact that that can have on how the lines are set and how they are move. The more betting attention a game gets, though - especially if that betting attention features a high proportion of uninformed and unsophisticated bettors - the more aware you need to be of the likely biases and what they mean for bettors. In the AFC and NFC Championship Games, then, public biases are going to play a massive role - second only to the Super Bowl in football betting.
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It's important to remember that you can't simply just figure out what biases the public has and then bet against them. The public will be right from time to time. You want them to be right from time to time so they keep throwing their dumb money around. What you need to do, though, is look at what biases exist, how they align with your preferences, and whether the biases likely create more or less value for you. For example, last weekend the public had a very strong bias towards Peyton Manning. He had not been good and clearly wasn't healthy, and is often not a clutch playoff performer even at his best, but the public couldn't help themselves. If you liked the Broncos in that game then that bias robbed you of value in the game. If you liked the Colts, though, then the Manning bias created more value for you.
Here's a look at four public biases that are going to be at play this week:
Experience of Tom Brady over Andrew Luck: When it comes to the AFC Championship, Brady has the clear edge in the eyes of the public. He is, after all, Tom Brady. He has had a strong year, and unlike Peyton Manning is still playing near enough to the peak of his game to make things interesting. There is no reason not to expect him to have a good game. The mistake, though, would be to give him a huge advantage over Luck. if you watched the Colts beat Denver, you saw how much Luck has matured and advanced and how good he is. He's only in his third year, so he is going to get better, but he has already reached a high level. This is his sixth career playoff game, and he already has three wins, so he's not going to be uncomfortable or overwhelmed - this is not Andy Dalton we are talking about. I'm not suggesting for a second that Luck is better than Brady - or vice versa, for that matter. It's clear, though, that the public is likely to give one guy more credit than he deserves.
12th man at home: Few biases are stronger in these playoffs than the aura of the home-field advantage in Seattle. The 12th man gets a whole lot of attention, and a lot of it is deserved. The reality is, though, that while Seattle is very solid at home, they are not unbeatable. They lost at home to Dallas this year, needed overtime against Denver, and made beating Oakland much, much tougher than it should have been. Last week at home Carolina was more competitive than they had any right to be, too. Two teams had a better home record than the Seahawks this year, and three more had the same record. Seattle unquestionably is better off at home than on the road - especially against a Green Bay team that had four road losses - but it would be very easy to attach too much importance to the location of this game.
Aaron Rodgers over Russell Wilson: Rodgers is, when healthy, the best quarterback in the league right now, and the public knows it. There are several issues here, though, that will make it likely that the public will give Rodgers more credit in this matchup than he deserves. For starters, Rodgers is not completely healthy, and that had an impact on his performance last time out. He also plays for a team that has not been as strong on the road as at home - not even close. Wilson also doesn't tend to get as much attention from the public as he likely deserves - even though he just keeps winning. Don't get me wrong - if I had to pick one of these guys it would be Rodgers, and that is probably even true with Rodgers on a bum leg. The gap between the two isn't particularly significant, though.
Bill Belichick: If you ask 100 football fans who the best coach in the sport is, more than 70 of them will answer Bill Belichick. They are not likely wrong, but it is still easy to give him too much credit - especially when he is matched up against a guy like Chuck Pagano who he towers over in terms of accomplishment, familiarity and respect in the eyes of the public. Remember, though, that Belichick hasn't won a Super Bowl in 10 years, and he has lost the AFC Championship Game three times during that span. He is a very good game manager, but he is not perfect - he had some very rough spots against the Ravens last week and had some particularly rough times late in the game. Having Belichick is an obvious advantage, but not as much of one as the average public bettor would imagine.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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