NFL Betting: What Bettors Learned About Divisional Playoffs Weekend

Ted Sevransky

Monday, January 18, 2016 8:01 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 8:01 PM UTC

A lot happened this last week in the NFL but just because its behind us doesn't mean we leave the lessons learned behind. Let's examine some takeaways heading into the weekend.

Every Half Point Aatters, Good News For Teaser Bettors
There’s an old sportsbetting adage that still holds true in 2016. Sharps bet numbers; squares bet teams. That’s a big reason why this past weekend was a very good one for the wiseguys, while public bettors didn’t fare quite as well.

All four favorites won their Divisional Round playoff games, sending all four winners from Wild Card weekend into the offseason. But in two of the four games, line shoppers and bettors who paid attention to pointspreads (numbers) were rewarded.  

The Broncos opened as low as -3 against Pittsburgh on Sunday, and they were priced as low as -6.5 on the NFL odds board once Antonio Brown was ruled out. That -6.5 got bet up to -7, then -7.5. On gameday, it came back down to -7 at most books. 

The Steelers late field goal should have given the vast majority of their supporters an ATS win or at least a push. Meanwhile, Broncos backers who got to the betting window early won their wager, and most of those who got to the window late should have gotten a push. This was one game where betting skills were far more important than handicapping skills when it came to determining the eventual result.

The pointspread was also very much in play in the latter stages of the Cards – Packers wild OT thriller on Saturday Night.  Green Bay bounced between +7 and +7.5 throughout the week. Prior to Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary TD pass on the final play of regulation, that game was primed for a push at the closing number of +7.  

Savvy bettors who snapped up the +7.5’s with Green Bay were in position to be rewarded and lazy bettors who laid -7.5 with Arizona were in position to be punished. That became a moot point when the game went into overtime, where the final margin can be no greater than six points. Still, there was much less of a sweat for line shoppers than it was for the weaker bettors for this game too.

Teaser bettors truly had a field day. Playoff lines tend to be very tight, with a full season’s worth of results creating fairly accurate power rating numbers for both teams. And that was most assuredly the case this weekend.  All four games were decided by exactly one touchdown. All four favorites won those games. The end result was a betting bonanza for teaser bettors, who rely on the markets being tight for their success.

It didn’t matter which sides you teased. Both sides in all four games cashed on a six point teaser line. In the postseason 14 of the 16 teams have now covered the spread with an extra six points attached to their final score, the lone exceptions Houston and Washington, arguably the two weakest teams to make the playoffs. When pointspreads are accurate predictors of final scores, teaser bettors make money, plain and simple.


Offenses Thrill Fans But Defenses Win Championships
Carolina raced out to a 31-0 halftime lead over Seattle. They won the game only because their defense was able to make two key stops. One came on fourth down before halftime keeping the Seahawks off the scoreboard. The other came after Seattle had scored back-2-back TD’s to open the second half, and it allowed the Panthers to burn enough clock to close out the game.

The Patriots defense held KC out of the end zone until the latter stages of the third quarter, holding the Chiefs to just 4.6 yards per play, nearly a full yard below their season average. Denver’s #1 ranked defense forced the only takeaway of the game, and it was an absolute difference maker, turning a Steelers scoring chance into Peyton Manning’s game winning drive in the fourth quarter. And Arizona’s defense held the Packers to a single touchdown and under 300 yards of total offense prior to Green Bay’s miracle drive in the final two minutes.  

Offenses might be the sexier of the two units, but if you’ve done nothing but bet the superior defensive team in every matchup here in the postseason (based on the superior defensive metric ‘yards per play allowed’), you’ve done well for yourself for your NFL picks. The four teams still standing all rank among the defensive elites; all with stop units that rank in the top quartile of the NFL.

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