NFL Betting: Coin Toss & Positives for Teams Deferring to 2nd Half

Kevin Stott

Sunday, August 9, 2015 11:53 AM UTC

Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015 11:53 AM UTC

Find out how the coin toss can affect a sports gambler these days. We use this little piece of information to make NFL picks and maybe add another quiver to our handicapping bag of tricks.

Introduction: To Kick Off or Not To Kick Off? That is the Question...
Usually, nobody talks about the Coin Toss in a football game unless they’re talking about the Super Bowl Props bet. But a emerging trend by NFL teams over the past several seasons sheds light on the reality that in the majority of all NFL games now, teams who win the Coin Toss have started to defer and opt to get the football (and possession) in the 2nd Half after traditionally electing to take the opening kickoff and the football to start the game. 

In the old days of the NFL, teams and Head Coaches used to live by the philosophy that if they won the Coin Toss before the game, getting the football to start the game was theoretically the best option, with that optimistic vision of getting possession and then driving down field for an opening TD or FG and grabbing the oh-so valuable momentum of the 60-minute game right from the start. But after several years of evolution, NFL teams and Head Coaches are now electing to defer to get the football to start the 2nd Half for a couple of intelligent reasons which we’ll discuss. In 2011, 41% of NFL teams elected to defer to get the football in the 2nd Half. Then, just the following season (2012), that number skyrocketed past the 50% (55%) mark and then had another healthy 10% gain the following season in 2013 all the way up to 65%. Last year, in the 2014 NFL Regular Season, that statistic almost  reached the 70% mark and NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira is suggesting that number could approach 90% some day. So, this has almost gone from professional football teams always electing to get the football to start off a game to the reality now where it will be surprising when teams elect to take the opening kickoff. And this trend probably is already sifting down through the different levels of football with College (90%), High School and maybe even Pop Warner and Flag Football teams also now employing this strategic tactic. It makes sense.

And how does the whole Kickoff process work? Three minutes before the scheduled kickoff of an NFL game, the Referee meets with the captains of both teams at midfield with the Visiting team getting to call the toss (Heads or Tails). The winner of that Coin Toss then gets to decide whether they want to receive the 1st Half kickoff or defer their choice until the 2nd Half. But obviously, the philosophy changes for Coin Tosses in OT with a priority on getting the ball and scoring—now preferably a TD and 7 points with the Rule change—still the obvious route teams will elect to go with no 2nd Half kickoffs in OT.


Some Positives For Football Teams Deferring to the 2nd Half
Why are teams now electing to defer to get the football in 2nd Half? It’s simple. Math. If a team defers until the 2nd Half in a game and has the football to end the 1st Half, it opens up the wonderful potential to have the football two consecutive possessions—something that can’t happen any other planned way. And not just two normal possessions brother, but two possessions where momentum and putting points on the scoreboard are almost at their deadliest: Right before Halftime when teams are going into locker rooms either pumped up or bummed out, and, to start the 3rd Quarter (2nd Half) when momentum can be established, and hopefully dicated, in the 2nd Half. It’s brilliant if it all works out right—the best scenario being a 7 (points, TD) for the team that deferred to end the 1st Half and a 7 (TD) to start the 2nd Half with that possession theoretically “earned” from that opening Coin Toss. And for sports bettors, remembering who will be getting the ball to start the 2nd Half is paramount, especially for Halftime and In-Game wagering bettors. Possessions matter in football, soccer and basketball. And the NFL Odds makers obviously build this (who will have possession to start the 2nd Half) into the betting number and they are better at it than ever before, but gamblers have also become more sophisticated at finding edges and knowing who is getting the football and working what you’ve seen in the 1st Half into that 2nd Half handicap along with knowing your team gets that first possession could create small edges. And it seems that Home teams would be more apt to score on opening drives of 2nd Halves (when deferring), but that would probably also be the case if Visiting teams won the Coin Toss and elected to get the ball in the 1st Half, thus giving the hosts the ball to start the 2nd Half. The logic behind deferring to the 2nd Half is sort of brilliant and it’s fascinating that this decision could go from the 41% in the NFL in 2011 to a near 90% point like Pereira thinks it will attain so quickly. But taking that gamble on possibly getting the football back-to-back at such crucial points—end of 1st Half, beginning of 2nd Half—of the game is now the thing. And it’s hard to argue with it’s wonderful Logic yet still amazing it hadn’t gotten to this point earlier. I imagine Vince Lombardi always wanted his Green Bay Packers to get the football when they won Coin Tosses in the Sixties.

Another really nice thing about deferring to receive the football in the 2nd Half is that in outdoor games where the weather could be, or already is an issue at the stadium, is that this decision allows Head Coaches to get the football and determine which direction they want to go (on Offense), a massive thing when high winds are affecting thrown and kicked footballs. Having the Wind at your team’s back in the 4th Quarter can be a huge thing, for both passing and kicking. Think about it. And no Head Coach wants to get the opening kickoff only to have the wind in his FG kickers face late in the 4th Quarter because he wanted the ball first. He would never hear the end of it, and by deferring to the 2nd Half, HC’s eliminate the possibility of that reality (wind blowing toward Kickers and Punters) even happening. Also, teams with overpowering Defenses like the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks (+450 to win Super Bowl, Bwin), Detroit Lions (40/1, William Hill), Detroit Lions (40/1, William Hill), Kansas City Chiefs (40/1, Ladbrokes), Buffalo Bills (40/1, Stan James) and the Baltimore Ravens (25/1, Sky Bet), deferring the opening kickoff (or decision) and establishing yourself on Defense (and immediately trying to get the football back) is a great reason for deferring. But five of the last 6 teams to win the Super Bowl Coin Toss have now deferred and the theory it will continue to rise to the 90% mark makes perfect sense. And as a bettor, knowing why it all is this way now and why coaches defer in the first place should help in your own personal, handicap and remembering who gets the football to start the 2nd Half could really help in both your 2nd Half and In-Game wagers. Possession, and the having the ball is usually the only way to score in sports, save for the occasional Own Goal in soccer, the very rare basket made by a player in the wrong goal in basketball and intentional safeties made by Offensive teams in football.

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