NFL betting fans are ringing in the New Year with a clean slate. It’s the playoffs, which means sharp handicappers will be looking at the NFL playoff betting trends for some guidance.
Jason’s record on his final weekly NFL picks for the complete 2012 regular season:
10-6 ML (+5.82 units)
The NFL’s second season is nearly upon us. That means we’re going to have to change up our NFL handicapping – but just a little. It’s still football. Everything that happened in the regular season will have some bearing on what will happen in the postseason.
The difference is that we now have at our disposal a set of NFL playoff betting trends. As with any other betting trends, your mileage may vary depending on the “stickiness” of the trend in question. You probably wouldn’t want to fade the Seattle Seahawks or the Baltimore Ravens just because no starting quarterback wearing No. 3 (Russell Wilson) or No. 5 (Joe Flacco) has ever won the Super Bowl.
The “stickiest” and most famous playoff betting scenario comes in the Divisional round. This is where the top four seeds have a considerable advantage over their opponents because of the bye week. Getting a week off this late in the season after absorbing so much punishment is an absolute godsend. So is playing at home and avoiding yet another long plane ride.
Since the NFL expanded to the current 12-team playoff format in 1990, the home team is 34-12 SU and 25-21 ATS in the Divisional round. However, keep in mind that people who bet on the NFL are getting more and more aware of this trend, and the market has adjusted. The home team is 13-11 SU and 9-15 ATS over the past six seasons.
Going to Seed
Then there’s the old chestnut about picking the lower-seeded team. The seed you’ve earned in the playoffs isn’t necessarily an accurate description of how good your team actually is. For example, the 11-5 Seahawks are the No. 5 seed in the NFC this year, while the 10-6 Washington Redskins are No. 4 by virtue of winning what turned out to be a weak NFC East division.
From 2002 to 2007 inclusive, lower seeded teams were 42-25 against the NFL odds. Since then?
2008: 6-5 ATS
2009: 4-6 ATS
2010: 7-4 ATS
2011: 5-6 ATS
That’s a total of 22-21 ATS. Once again, the NFL betting market appears to have adjusted. I say “appears” because we’re talking about a sample of 43 games stretched over four seasons. By the way, both the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints were seeded No. 1 when they met at Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season.
Home Dogs for Fun and Profit
There are some very interesting NFL betting trends specifically for the Wild Card round. Home dogs, for example, are 13-4 ATS since 1978. The Denver Broncos added to the pile last year when Tim Tebow performed miracles in a 29-23 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers (–7.5).
We’ve got one Wild Card game this year with a home dog, and that’s between the Seahawks and the Redskins (+3). Naturally, the home dog trend is at cross-purposes with the lower-seeded team trend. You’re typically matching up a weak division winner with a strong Wild Card team. But we’ve already seen that lower seeds just aren’t cashing in the way they used to.
Besides, betting trends become more reliable in general when you combine a favorite/underdog situation with a home/away situation. Just watch out for those small sample sizes, and remember, past performance does not guarantee future results.