Angle bettors take note – I’ve got two strong ones in play for this article, involving all four playoff games on tap for the weekend.
The first angle is very specific. It’s also been 100% perfect in every playoff game where it’s come up, dating back to 2004. Teams riding an eight game or more straight up winning streak heading into their first playoff game are 0-13 ATS in 13 tries over the past decade plus.
It’s an angle that makes perfect sense – the ‘hot’ team gets all the love from the mainstream media and from the betting markets. Their opponent gets no such love and therefore becomes a good notch or two undervalued at a time of year where every half point really matters – you don’t find any ‘mistake’ NFL lines by the time the playoffs roll around in January.
I do NOT bet any trends or angles blindly, even 13-0 ones (or 99-0 ones, for that matter). But when an angle corresponds with my basic handicap of the game, I certainly use it as fodder to complete my argument and make my case even stronger.
The Chiefs have won ten straight games heading into Wild Card weekend. Two of those wins came against opposing playoff teams. They beat the Steelers with Michael Vick behind center. And they beat Denver in Peyton Manning’s last start – the game where he got pulled after throwing four interceptions.
Every other win during this entire streak has come against a true weakling. I think KC is more than a notch or two overvalued right now, putting me squarely in support of the Texans as home underdogs on Saturday. It’s certainly not as if Andy Reid has one of those stellar postseason histories that we’re reluctant to bet against with our NFL picks.
The second angle is specific to the Wild Card Round. It’s remarkably simple, and it passes the ‘does it make sense’ test. Since 2002, teams with a tougher Strength of Schedule in the regular season (according to Jeff Sagarin’s widely respected advanced metric stats) are 37-14-1 ATS in the Wild Card Round. It makes perfect sense that that teams that have been regularly tested against tougher competition are more prepared and more likely to win or cover than the teams that have been beating up on patsies all year, particularly when there’s no extra prep time for either squad involved.
It’s extremely strong for underdogs, with that subset going 15-11 SU, 19-6 ATS. There are some issues with play grading, like when the Colts opened -2.5 NFL odds against KC two years ago, closed +2 and won the game by 1 point. But a 13 year recent track record without a single losing season during that entire span is something worth paying attention to, in my opinion.
Here are Sagarin’s strength of schedule numbers for the Wild Card round for this year, ranked in order: Green Bay (#9). Pittsburgh (#10). Minnesota (#12). Seattle (#13). Kansas City (#14). Cincinnati (#15). Washington (#24). Houston (#26). Those numbers make the case for KC, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Green Bay this weekend. Again, that’s not a trend I’m betting blindly, and I’m willing to step in front of it when my handicap merits such a wager. But it’s certainly a trend worthy of consideration before you make any NFL bets this weekend.