NFL Pro Bowl: Betting the Spread
Jason’s record on his final weekly NFL picks for the 2012 postseason:
5-5 ATS (+0.31 units)
8-2 Totals (+5.91 units)
Profit: +6.21 units
Oh, you crazy, crazy Pro Bowl betting odds. First you made me think the AFC was favored by 1.5 points in Sunday’s exhibition game (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC). Then you told me the NFC was favored by 1.5 points. Now it’s Wednesday evening, and the AFC is back to –1.5 at some books. Reminds me of this woman I met once.
Three Magic Beans
No need to call the lawyer and sue for whiplash. The NFL betting lines may have moved three points, but this is about as insignificant as three points can get. There are almost no ties in football, which leaves us with a fair price of just 19 cents if you wanted to buy your way from NFC –1.5 to NFC +1.5. That’s cheaper than the 20.9 cents it should cost you to move from NFC +3 to NFC +3.5.
And that would be the fair price for a generic regular-season NFL game. The Pro Bowl has a strong likelihood of putting more points on the scoreboard than any of the games we’ve seen this year – yes, even that 59-24 win by the New England Patriots over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11. The total for Sunday’s Pro Bowl is 84.5 points. Unless the skies really open up over Aloha Stadium and the 2013 Pro Bowl turns into the 1950 Grey Cup, three points won’t be terribly hard to come by.
This relatively small burst of market volatility is easily explained by the low bettor turnout. As I write this, our expanded consensus reports haven’t collected enough data to produce anything. Light betting action leads to soft markets, where each bet has a much larger effect on the NFL lines than during a typically busy football game. And conventional wisdom suggests people will be more interested in betting on the Pro Bowl total than on the pointspread. I don’t have the numbers to back that up, mind you. It’s just something I read on the Internet.
So, should I stick with my original pick of AFC –1.5? Hold the phone for just a moment. I made that pick just after the Patriots finished losing the AFC title game to the Baltimore Ravens, which meant that Pro Bowl nominee Tom Brady was suddenly not going to the Super Bowl anymore. We’ve since learned that he’s not going to Honolulu, either. Brady has been replaced by Colts QB Andrew Luck. Small world.
We’ve also learned that the NFC has replaced Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan with Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Excuse me while I whip this out…
No. 1: Tom Brady
No. 2: Peyton Manning
No. 5: Drew Brees
No. 6: Russell Wilson
No. 7: Matt Ryan
No. 13: Eli Manning
No. 14: Matt Schaub
No. 19: Andrew Luck
You might recognize these rankings from my recent analysis of the Pro Bowl total. These are based on the DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) stats at Football Outsiders – full regular season, in passing situations. I’d take Wilson over Ryan in a heartbeat. Wilson’s performance has escalated sharply since the first half of the season, and he also adds plenty of value with his feet – only Luck and Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton had higher rushing DVOA stats than Wilson this year. Again, that’s based on the full regular season.
It’s still a bunch of All-Stars versus a bunch of All-Stars, so I wouldn’t expect either side to have much of a betting advantage. In which case, I’ll take Wilson and the NFC (and the points) over the Brady-less AFC.NFL Free Picks: +1.5 SBR