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Betting Strategy: NFL Playoffs and The Super Bowl

At the end of the year, NFL fans find themselves with mixed emotions. The regular season is quickly coming to an end, and the post season is just about to start. Although some fans are extremely excited to see what happens in the playoffs, other fans find themselves very disappointed.

There are 32 teams in the NFL, and only 12 of them take part in the post season action. This means there are 20 sets of fans that don’t get to look forward to seeing their favorite team on the field for playoffs. Many of these fans will have had plenty of time to get used to that idea, as several teams lose their opportunity for playoffs early on in the season. Other teams may have just missed playoffs by a game or two, so they are just now realizing that they didn’t make the cut this year.

Whatever the fate of your team, this isn’t the time to be celebrating or wallowing in self-pity: not if you take your football betting seriously. There are more important things to think about at this point. With the post season quickly approaching, there are some great betting opportunities on the horizon. You have to be ready to take full advantage of these!

This article will help you to do exactly that, as it’s all about betting on the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We start by looking at the key differences between post season betting and regular season betting. There are more of these than you might think, and it’s important to be aware of all of them.

Next we offer some advice on preparing for the post season. This is followed by a list of some of the common betting mistakes people make during the post season. Finally, we provide some useful strategy tips for betting on playoff games and on the Super Bowl.

Post Season Betting vs Regular Season Betting

There’s an article in our football betting guide about how betting strategy changes during the NFL season. It explains how you should break the regular season down into separate stages, and do certain things differently at each stage. For example, during the mid-season you need to carefully analyze the early season form and try to determine how much it tells you about where each team is at. During the late season, you have to pay particularly close attention to the motivation of teams and the pressure they might be under.

Adjusting your approach as a season progresses can help you maximize the betting opportunities available. This is because there are subtle differences at each stage, so having one approach throughout the entire season is unlikely to be effective.

A similar principle applies for the post season.

There are very clear distinctions between the regular season and the post season from a betting perspective, and it’s vital that you’re aware of these. You can’t approach the playoffs and the Super Bowl in the same way you approach other games. There are just a few extra components that need to be taken into account when making your betting decisions.

Here’s a list of the most important differences between regular season and post season, followed by a brief description of each one.

  • Number of games.
  • Volume of betting.
  • Overall standard of teams.
  • Effects of motivation.
  • Effects of injuries.

Number of games

There are 256 games during the regular season. During the post season, there are only 11. We have the ten playoff games, followed by the Super Bowl. Obviously the post season is a lot shorter than the regular season, but there are still far fewer games each week.

This lighter schedule offers us a big advantage, and also some smaller disadvantages. The advantage is that we can dedicate more time to studying each game. This enables us to look at things in far greater detail than we do during the regular season, which should improve our chances of making accurate predictions and/or finding value.

However, the bookmakers have the same advantage. They also can dedicate more time to each game, which means the odds and lines are even tighter than usual. This is a disadvantage, as it makes it harder for us to find any value in the betting markets. And it’s compounded by the fact that fewer games also means fewer opportunities to bet.

Another potential disadvantage is that the extra time we have to analyze each game can actually work against us. It can cause some of us to over-analyze things and second-guess our initial judgments. Making a wise betting decision can become more difficult than necessary.

Volume of betting

Millions of Americans bet on football each year, but they’re not the only ones! People from all over the world bet on the NFL, and as a result the bookmakers and betting sites see A LOT of action during the regular season.

They see even more action during the post season, even though there are few markets to bet on. What causes this increase? Well, there are a few different things. For starters, recreational bettors tend to bet more heavily during the post season. There are also some people who ONLY bet on football once the playoffs come around. And lastly, there are lots of people who rarely bet, but who put down a few bucks on the Super Bowl each year anyways.

How does this affect things?

The higher volume of betting is another reason why the odds and lines are tighter during the post season. When lines are even marginally off, they will be corrected almost immediately. The amount of money coming in will see to that.

Now, although these tighter odds and lines make it harder for us, the increased volume of betting can also work in our favor. Think about it this way; because so much of the bets are from recreational bettors, it’s invariably weighted heavily towards the favorites. This isn’t always the case, but more times than not those who bet for fun bet on the favorites.

When the bookmakers are taking significant amounts of money on a favorite, and very little on the underdog, they are forced to try to balance the action as much as possible. They don’t want to be too exposed to one side of the market, so they’ll try to encourage more money on the underdog. This usually means giving them more points on the spread and increasing their odds on the moneyline more than they technically deserve.

When the majority of the public is obviously against a big favorite, we suggest considering backing the underdog. Why? Well, the amount of money coming in for the favorite is likely to have created some value on the other side. And, as we’ve already mentioned, value is hard to find during the post season. We have to take full advantage of it whenever we can.

Overall standard of teams

The NFL is structured to ensure some degree of parity. The idea is that all teams should have an equal chance of success. This is why the worst performing teams each year get the earliest picks in the draft. It’s also the reasoning behind the salary cap, free agency and revenue sharing.

We realize that there’s obviously more equality in the NFL than in many other leagues, but there’s still a significant gap between the strongest and the weakest teams each and every season. Which teams are weak and which teams are strong can change from year to year, but we see lots of games during the regular season that are complete mismatches. Every week there’s at least one game where a really good team is playing against a really bad team. And, although upsets can happen, these mismatches turn out just as expected more often than not.

There are NO complete mismatches during the post season.

Teams very rarely, if ever, luck their way into the playoffs. They earn their spot across 16 games, and they fully deserve it. That’s not to say that the 12 teams that make it are the best 12 in the whole league, but it’s fair to say that really bad teams don’t make it to the post season. The overall standard of all the teams involved at this stage is usually very high.

We couldn’t go as far as to say that we never see post season games where one team is clearly better than their opponents. We do, but not very often. And they’re never the kind of complete mismatches we see during the regular season. Even the “weakest” team in the playoffs has to be given a real chance of winning.

Remember: a lot of bettors assume that the stronger team is always going to win during the post season, but that’s not what actually happens. The games are even more unpredictable than usual, which is why we must always at least consider the underdogs. Automatically defaulting to the favorite is NOT a winning strategy.

Effects of motivation

Motivation is a key factor to consider during the regular NFL season. Not all teams have the same level of motivation as their opponents, which can certainly impact the results. It’s not always easy to accurately assess the motivation of teams, but it’s still something that’s worth spending some time on. We can regularly find good value in the betting markets simply by spotting games where one team is likely to be less motivated than their opponents.

However, motivation isn’t really a factor in post season games.

Motivation levels will typically be at their highest at this point, for obvious reasons. Making the playoffs is exactly what the players and teams aim for from start of the season, so they’re not going to drop their intensity levels once they actually get there.

With this in mind, we recommend not wasting any time on assessing motivation at all. Unless there’s a clear and specific reason to think otherwise, it’s reasonable to assume that each team is going to be as motivated as it possibly can be.

Effects of injuries

Even the most unsophisticated of football bettors tend to recognize the relevance of injuries when trying to predict the outcome of games during the regular season. It’s pretty obvious that a team’s performance is likely to suffer if it’s missing any of its key players to injury, or if it has a particularly high number of injuries throughout the roster.

The smart bettors know to look deeper than just who’s missing though. They pay close attention to all injury related reports, and try to gauge the impact of any minor injuries that won’t necessarily prevent a player from playing. If a team is fielding a couple of banged up players, then that can sometimes be just as damaging as if they weren’t available for selection.

During the post season, it’s still important to look at which players are missing due to injury. It becomes even MORE important to study injuries in greater depth for these two main reasons.

First, most of the players involved will have seen a lot of game time over the previous months. So there’s a good chance that many of them are going to have minor injuries and/or struggling for full fitness. Second, players aren’t going to want to miss out on these big games, which means they’re likely to try to play through any injuries that that might usually keep them out of a game during the regular season.

Some players will play through their minor injuries without any major repercussions. Other players WILL be greatly affected, and perhaps not play to the very best of their ability. You need to try to judge which players are likely to be fine, and which players are likely to struggle. Then you need to think about how that will affect the outcome of the relevant games.

Be careful when studying injury reports during the post season. Teams aren’t always as honest as they might be about their players’ injuries at this time. Full disclosure isn’t always in their best interests, as they want to keep their opponents guessing about who might be playing and who might be missing. As a result, you can’t necessarily trust what’s being reported. Take this into consideration before making your assessments.

There are obviously even more differences between the regular and post season, but none that would significantly affect how you’d bet. The ones we already mentioned are the only ones you have to be aware of in order to make educated betting decisions.

Preparing for the Post Season

We consider our article dedicated to preparing for a new season to be one of the most valuable articles in the NFL section of our football betting guide. By reading this article, you’ll be fully prepared for the next regular season before it even starts. We offer a wide selection of useful advice on how to effectively utilize your time during the close season.

It’s equally as important to be prepared for the post season though. There’s only a short period between the regular season starting and the first round of playoff games, but you need to use that time wisely. With the right preparation, you can increase your chances of finding good betting opportunities for both the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

Here’s a step by step guide to what you need to do.

Step 1 – Clear your mind

We’ve already explained the ways in which the post season is different from the regular season. We wanted to make it clear that your approach and mindset has to be a little different as a result. This transition can be difficult, as you’ll have spent the last few months thinking in a certain way. It’s vital that you ignore your old ways of thinking in order to make room for new ideas.

Now, this doesn’t mean forgetting everything that you’ve learned during the regular season. Obviously you’ll have picked up a lot of information on each and every team that made the playoffs. You should have at least some idea of how good they are overall, how they set up tactically and where their main strengths and weaknesses lie. This will be valuable when making your betting decisions during the post season.

The problem is that you’re also likely to have missed some key information.

It’s practically impossible to pick up on every little detail during a season, which means it’s almost inevitable that some of the opinions you formed aren’t accurate. That’s why it’s important to revisit these opinions and make sure there isn’t anything that you’ve overlooked.

The next few steps in your preparation will help you accomplish this. Clear your mind, and be ready to take in new information, and objectively review your existing biases and preconceptions.

Step 2 – Analyze the stats

One thing you know right off the bat is that each team in the post season has played well over the past sixteen games. If that weren’t true, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs. Now you have to start thinking about how these teams stack up against each other, and analyzing the stats from the regular season is a good place to start.

When you’re assessing the likely outcome of a playoff game or the Super Bowl, you’re invariably looking at two strong teams. Often times, it can be very difficult to accurately determine whether one team is actually “better” than the other. This is why matchups become even more important than usual. It’s vital to closely examine the one on one matchups of individual players, and the matchups of each team as a whole. By doing this, you’ll be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each team, which will in turn help you predict how a game is likely to play out.

If you carry out some detailed statistical analysis before the post season starts, then you’ll be well prepared when the time comes to study these matchups. You’ll know more about how well the individual players have performed throughout the season, and more about the strength and effectiveness of the different units for each team. You’ll have a much clearer idea of where each team excels and where they struggle.

When analyzing the stats, remember the importance of having a clear mind. Statistics are based on hard data, so they paint an objective picture of how each player and each team has performed. However, the way we interpret stats is ultimately subjective. Be careful that you don’t twist your interpretation to suit your existing opinions.

For example, let’s say there’s a team in the playoffs that we’ve only managed to watch a couple of times during the regular season. In the games we watched, they played a very effective running game. Most of their attempts, and most of their points, came from rushing plays. Naturally, we formed the opinion that this team is good at running the ball and that rushing plays are an important part of their strategy.

When analyzing the stats for the whole season, we saw that this team didn’t actually rank very high for rushing yards. If we were bias to our old opinion, we may just ignore this stat altogether. With an open mind, however, we’d realize that perhaps the games we watched didn’t give a true indication of this team’s ability to run the ball. So we’d then dig deeper into the detail, and look at stats such as rush attempts and rush yards per attempt. This would give us a better indication of just how effective the team was at running the ball.

Step 3 – Consider strength of schedule

Once your statistical analysis is complete, you should have reasonably accurate opinions of where each team is at going into the post season. Before you commit to those opinions, consider the strength of each team’s schedule during the regular season. How tough was their route to playoffs?

This is something that very few bettors think about, but it can actually tell you a lot. If a team has had an especially soft schedule, it’s possible that you’ve overrated them. They might appear very strong based on the analysis you’ve done so far, but if they’ve faced a lot of weak opponents then that could just be an illusion. Be willing to revise your views if necessary.

On the other hand, you might be underrating the true quality of any team that’s had an especially challenging schedule. If they’ve faced a lot of tough opponents, they might be even better than your earlier analysis suggests.

There are other factors that must be taken into consideration too. If a team was blessed with a mild schedule, they might not be fully prepared to face the tough opposition that lies ahead. A team cursed with a tough schedule, however, has had time to test their skills and prove themselves.

Don’t put too much emphasis on the impact that a team’s schedule can have, but don’t overlook it either. Always be open-minded and ready to adjust your opinions when the right circumstances present themselves.

Step 4 – Assess team depth

Team depth becomes especially important during the post season. There aren’t many games to play, but they’re likely to be played at a higher intensity than most regular season games. Key players are typically starting to feel the effects of the hours upon hours they have spent on the field already. They’ll be more susceptible to injuries than usual, with not much time to recover. This means their replacements are more likely to be called on.

That’s why we recommend spending some time assessing the depth of each team. This is relatively straightforward. You need to look at the overall quality of the backups, and think about how well they’re likely to perform. Answering the following questions will also help.

  • How much game experience have they had in their career so far?
  • How much playing time did they get during the regular season?
  • How did they perform when called upon?
  • How versatile are they are?

Keep in mind that teams may not have to rely on their depth at all. Regardless, it’s helpful to know how well each team is placed to cope if they do. Teams with strong depth have a distinct advantage over teams with weak backups.

Step 5 – Study the trends

The last three steps have focused on reviewing the available information for each team. What you learn from following these steps will be very valuable when it comes to making your betting decisions. That’s why it’s vital that you develop clear, and accurate, opinions regarding what each team is capable of.

Not only will those opinions help you handicap the upcoming games effectively, but they will also help form the necessary foundation for all your predictions. It’s important that you take advantage of any other information that could be helpful too, and that’s exactly why we suggest studying the post season trends.

As a general rule, we don’t put too much faith in trends and patterns when betting on football. They can serve a purpose for sure, but they can also be misleading. Don’t let them have too much influence on your betting decisions.

However, during the post season we try to use any and every tool available to us. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s very hard to find value in the odds and lines at this time. So even though trends and patterns are of limited use, the fact that they can help us out at all makes them worthy of consideration.

We don’t advise spending a lot of time on this part of your preparation, but there’s certainly no harm in going through past data and trying to identify any trends and patterns that could be useful. Just make sure that you don’t make any betting decisions based solely on what you find. Although trends can be good indicators of what’s likely to happen, you should never assume that they’re definitely going to continue. Our rule of thumb is to always consider them, but never rely on them.

Step 6 – Make some early predictions

By this stage you’ll be ready to make some early predictions. It’s not time to put any money down yet, but you do want to start thinking about what’s likely to happen. Although you must be willing to change your views once the post season is underway, these early predictions will give you something to work from.

Again, this isn’t something to spend a lot of time on. Just simply give a little thought to how far each team might go, which teams look in the best shape and how the first round of games might play out. Try to rely on your instinct at this stage, and worry about digging into the real detail later.

Step 7 – Allocate a post season bankroll

The end of the regular season is a great time to have a quick review of our betting results and see where we stand financially. Assuming we’ve been profitable, we decide how much of that profit we want to take out of our bankroll. The rest is preserved for our future betting activity.

We also decide how much of our remaining bankroll we’re prepared to risk on the post season. This decision is based primarily on our confidence levels at this stage. If we think we have a real chance of finding some good betting opportunities, then we’ll be happy to risk a reasonable percentage of our funds. When we lack confidence, we’ll look to risk a much smaller percentage. Either way, we NEVER allow ourselves to risk more than 50% of our overall bankroll on the post season.

This final step isn’t essential. As long as you continue to practice proper bankroll management, you don’t NEED to allocate a specific amount of money for the post season. We think it’s a good idea though, so we suggest following the same process that we do. And we definitely recommend that you don’t put your entire bankroll at risk. Remember that making money during the post season is even more challenging than usual.

Common Post Season Betting Mistakes

By following all the steps we’ve just outlined in the previous section, you should be ready to attack the betting markets, look for value and make your selections. Later in this article you’ll find some useful tips that will help with all of this. Before we get to that, though, we’re going to highlight some of the mistakes that bettors make during the post season.

Now, bettors make mistakes all the time: even experienced and successful ones. No-one can get it right all the time, no matter how good they are. The important thing is to try to avoid making them too often. This is especially important during the post season. Good betting opportunities are limited, so it’s vital that you make the most of those that are available. Just a few mistakes at this time can blow any chance you have of making a profit.

There’s not much we can do to ensure that you don’t make any mistakes at all, but we can certainly make you aware of the most common post season betting mistakes. By doing this, our goal is to help you avoid them.

Let’s start with a list of those mistakes.

  • Allowing emotion to cloud judgement.
  • Overvaluing top seeds.
  • Betting too early.
  • Believing the hype.
  • Betting the wrong props.

Now let’s discuss each one of these in detail, so that you can try to avoid making them yourself.

Allowing emotion to cloud judgement

The vast majority of people who bet on football are also fans of the sport. They invariably have a favorite team, or maybe even more than one, and they generally have teams that they really don’t like too. This is an intrinsic part of being a fan. We’re SUPPOSED to be biased. If we had no emotion invested in who wins and who loses, the sport wouldn’t be nearly as appealing.

However, as bettors we also invest money on the outcome of games. If want to see a return on our investment, we have to make betting decisions based on logic and sound reasoning. That means putting aside the emotion, and ensuring that it doesn’t cloud our judgement.

Unfortunately, a lot of bettors DO allow emotion to cloud their judgement. All too often they make their betting decisions based on what they want to happen, rather than applying any kind of analytical approach. This is actually one of the most common football betting mistakes throughout the entire season, but it becomes especially prevalent during the post season. Since the games matter more, they tend to be more emotional.

If you’re a genuine fan of football, then removing your emotions completely will be impossible. Regardless, you have to try not to let it affect your betting. This is easier said than done of course, but it really is important. If you find it too difficult, the best approach may be to simply avoid betting on games where you have any emotional involvement.

Overvaluing top seeds

The top seeds from each conference are regularly overvalued going into the playoffs. Many people assume that they must be the best teams as they’ve got the best records. They also assume that they’ll benefit from an extra week off. The top seeds don’t play the first round of playoff games, which most people consider to be an advantage.

This overvaluing of the top seeds leads to people automatically betting on them to win their first playoffs games. This is a big mistake that can prove very costly. To illustrate why, let’s take a look at how the top seeded teams from each conference have done in each post season since the turn of the century.

Season Top Seeded AFC Team Top Seeded NFC Team
2015 Denver Broncos – Won Super Bowl Carolina Panthers – Lost Super Bowl
2014 New England Patriots – Won Super Bowl Seattle Seahawks – Lost Super Bowl
2013 Denver Broncos – Lost Super Bowl Seattle Seahawks – Won Super Bowl
2012 Denver Broncos – Lost Divisional Playoff Atlanta Falcons – Lost Championship Game
2011 New England Patriots – Lost Super Bowl Green Bay Packers – Lost Divisional Playoff
2010 New England Patriots – Lost Divisional Playoff Atlanta Falcons – Lost Divisional Playoff
2009 Indianapolis Colts – Lost Super Bowl New Orleans Saints – Won Super Bowl
2008 Tennessee Titans – Lost Divisional Playoff New York Giants – Lost Divisional Playoff
2007 New England Patriots – Lost Super Bowl Dallas Cowboys – Lost Divisional Playoff
2006 San Diego Chargers – Lost Divisional Playoff Chicago Bears – Lost Super Bowl
2005 Indianapolis Colts – Lost Divisional Playoff Seattle Seahawks – Lost Super Bowl
2004 Pittsburgh Steelers – Lost Championship Game Philadelphia Eagles – Lost Super Bowl
2003 New England Patriots – Won Super Bowl Philadelphia Eagles – Lost Championship Game
2002 Oakland Raiders – Lost Super Bowl Philadelphia Eagles – Lost Championship Game
2001 Pittsburgh Steelers – Lost Championship Game St Louis Rams – Lost Super Bowl
2000 Tennessee Titans – Lost Divisional Playoff New York Giants – Lost Super Bowl

This is a reasonable sample of size of results, and it proves how dangerous it is to assume that the top seeds are going to perform well. Here’s a quick summary of the information in the above table.

  • Won Super Bowl: 5
  • Lost Super Bowl: 12
  • Lost Championship Game: 5
  • Lost Divisional Playoff: 10

The most obvious thing to note here is they’ve lost their first game ten times. That’s roughly equivalent to one-third of the time. So, quite clearly, blindly betting on them to win their first game isn’t the right thing to do.

Now, the top seeds are almost always very good teams. We shouldn’t lose sight of that fact. They’re not ALWAYS the best teams in the playoffs though. And, even when they are, they’re not necessarily significantly better than the rest. The gap in quality between the top seeds and the other teams is often very small. So you can’t make assumptions about how likely they are to win. You have to handicap their games like any other, and take all the relevant factors into account.

Our recommendation would be to NOT include the extra week’s rest as one of those factors. Or, at least, don’t assume it to be an advantage for the top seeds. We don’t believe it makes a big difference either way, and we certainly don’t believe it’s a guaranteed benefit. It’s just as likely to hurt teams, especially if they’d build up some strong momentum towards the end of the regular season.

Betting too early

It can actually be very beneficial to bet early during the regular season, especially when betting on favorites. This is because the bookmakers typically take more and more money on the favorite as the week progresses, and the odds and lines reflect this. The spread will get larger, and the odds on the favorite will get shorter.

During the post season, however, betting too early is usually a huge mistake. Regardless of whether you like the favorite or the underdog, it’s generally better to wait until close to game time. The odds and lines are going to be tight at any point, so you’re unlikely to find much extra value in betting early. But by waiting, you give yourself more time to consider all the relevant factors. This way you can avoid the risk of placing a bet before news comes out that changes your whole perspective.

Believing the hype

The media coverage of the NFL is always extensive. It goes up a notch once the post season starts, due to the increase in public interest. The coverage keeps on building right throughout the playoffs, until it peaks at the Super Bowl. And as the coverage builds, so does the hype. Generally, there’s at least one team that the media REALLY focuses on. Before the first playoff game is even played, some “experts” in the media would have you convinced that the Super Bowl winner is already set in stone.

This is bad enough when there’s just one team that’s being labelled as sure winners. What’s worse is when there are conflicting opinions in the media and more than one team is deemed a possible winner. What are you supposed to believe then?

The answer is simple. Don’t believe any of it.

Getting sucked in by media hype is a big mistake. A lot of the so-called experts offering their opinions just want to be heard. They want to make sure everyone knows what they’re predicting, so they can boast about their superior knowledge if they turn out to be right. If their predictions turn out to be wrong, they go out a quietly until next season, when the whole process repeats itself.

Watching and reading the media coverage of the post season can be both interesting and entertaining. Never pay too much attention to it when making your betting decisions. If you’ve done all the necessary research, then you can have faith in yourself to make the right calls. Don’t be swayed by what others would have you believe. Football is all about opinions, but from a betting perspective it’s your own opinions that are the most important.

Betting the wrong props

People who bet for fun generally gravitate towards football props. Did you know that the main reason why bookmakers and betting sites offer them is actually to attract recreational customers and keep them betting? Since these types of bettors bet more during the post season, we shouldn’t be surprised to find even more props than normal.

Most of these props are outright sucker bets.

There’s nothing wrong with betting props per se. With the right strategies, they can be profitable. That’s why we must be selective and only bet props when we can properly identify value. It’s almost impossible to find value with most of the props on offer during the post season. Many of them aren’t even related to football, especially the ones available for the Super Bowl. Here are some examples from Super Bowl 50:

  • Will Peyton Manning be seen crying at any point during the broadcast?
  • How many times will “dab” or “dabbing” be said during the broadcast?
  • Will there be an earthquake during the game?
  • What color liquid will be poured on the winning coach?
  • Will the team that wins the coin toss win the game?
  • How many TV viewers will the game have?

We know what you’re probably thinking right now! These couldn’t possibly be real? Could they? We’re here to reassure you that they are real and that plenty of people can be found betting on them.

Betting these kind of props isn’t really a mistake if you’re betting just for fun. It is if you’re even remotely serious about trying to make money from your betting though. They are gambling in the purest form, and there’s no real judgement involved. It just comes down to guesswork and luck. You might just have better luck putting your money down at a roulette table.

Before we move on, we should point out that some props ARE worth betting during the post season. Don’t avoid prop betting completely, but only choose props that require proper reasoning to make selections.

Tips for Betting the Playoff Games

We’ve already offered a wide range of useful information and advice about betting during the post season. Hopefully you’re still paying attention, as we’re not finished yet. Below is a list of our top five tips for betting on a playoff game, followed by a detailed explanation of each one.

  • Study the trajectory of teams.
  • Beware of one-dimensional teams.
  • Consider the moneyline.
  • Factor in experience.
  • Don’t feel obliged to bet.

Study the trajectory of teams

The 12 teams that make the post season don’t all come into it in the same kind of form. Some teams will have been playing at the same level throughout the entire regular season, consistently picking up the wins they needed. Others will have started off slowly, steadily improving as the season progresses. There may also be one or two teams that started out poorly, only to show a dramatic improvement at some point and go on a long winning streak. Sometimes, there’ll be a couple of teams that started really well but faded as the season went on.

Studying the trajectory of each team is vital when betting on the playoff games. You need to know if there are any teams that may have peaked earlier in the season, and be in the midst of a drop off just when the big games are about to be played. You’ll also need to know which teams have hit their peak at just the right time, and which teams haven’t hit their peak yet but might be about to. This is very useful information that must be considered when making your predictions.

Beware of one-dimensional teams

One-dimensional teams can be very effective during the regular season. It doesn’t necessarily matter that they only have one real strength. If they can consistently excel in that one area, then they can still earn plenty of wins.

In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to see one-dimensional teams win enough games to make the playoffs. Some one-dimensional teams actually win enough games to make the playoffs, and some have even won enough games to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy in victory!

However, we don’t generally like to back one-dimensional teams in the playoffs. We’re not suggesting that they should be written off, but you do need to be very wary of their potential limitations. In our experience, their weaknesses get exposed more often than not. They’re up against good opponents that will know how to dilute or even completely reverse their main strength.

By contrast, multi-dimensional teams are well equipped to succeed in the playoffs. They don’t need to excel in any one area if they can do everything pretty well. If their passing game and their running game are equally as effective, then they can adjust as necessary depending on what their opponents are best at stopping. If their offense and defense are equally as effective, then they should be able to handle both open and tight games. Basically, they’re flexible enough to perform whatever the circumstances. These teams have a clear advantage over teams that rely solely on one key strength.

Consider the moneyline

Most bettors focus on the point spreads when backing teams in the playoffs. There’s nothing especially wrong with this approach, as the spreads frequently represent the best option. Remember what we stated earlier about value being hard to find though. By limiting yourself to just the spreads, you may miss value that can be found in other markets. For example, moneyline markets are typically filled with opportunities for finding value.

That’s why we ask you to at least consider them. It’s an especially good option if you like the underdog when the spread is small. Although taking them on the moneyline is a slightly risker approach, as you won’t get any points, it’s usually the right thing to do. If the underdog does well enough to cover a small spread, there’s an excellent chance that they’ll actually win outright. So it’s worth taking the small amount of extra risk in exchange for the better odds on offer.

The moneyline is also a good option if you like a favorite to win, but aren’t fully convinced that they’ll cover the spread. This kind of scenario can arise often during the post season, due to the increased betting volume we mentioned earlier. Since the favorites are getting so much support coming in, the spread gets pushed out a little higher than it necessarily should be. Taking the favorite on the moneyline will mean a lower potential payout, but it’s a much safer option if you think the spread is too high.

Factor in experience

There are a few additional factors that you need to take into account when betting on playoff games. We’ve mentioned some of these already, and this is a particularly important one. Teams that have any significant post season experience have a notable advantage over teams that don’t. The post season is a very different proposition than the regular season, and knowing what to expect and how to handle it can make a real difference.

Please note that you need to look beyond how many times each team has made the post season in recent years. It’s more useful to look at the individual players. A team might be in the playoffs for the first time in a decade, but they could still have several players with post season experience in their roster. It’s not just player experience that matters either, as a coach’s experience can have a significant impact on a game’s end result too.

Bill Belichik has more post season experience than any other current coach, having reached the playoffs an impressive 14 times.

The importance of the head coach shouldn’t be underestimated during the playoffs, as they will have a bigger impact than usual. Their ability to set their team up the right way and get the most out of their players is absolutely crucial at this time. Coaches with experience in the post season are usually better off.

Don’t feel obliged to bet

Betting opportunities are limited during the playoffs due to the small number of games being played. As a result, most bettors make sure they bet on each and every game. They want to make the most out of all the opportunities that come their way. We understand where they’re coming from, but we still can’t agree with their approach.

If you can’t find a good reason to bet on a playoff game, there’s no point in putting money down for the sake of it. There’s no rule that says you HAVE to bet on each game. You might feel frustrated to be missing out on an opportunity, but that’s better than wasting money on wagers that you’re not sure about.

Tips for Betting the Super Bowl

We have finally reached the last section of this detailed article. Fittingly, it’s about the final game of the post season: better known to football fans as the Super Bowl. It’s the climax of several months of football, and one of the biggest sporting events of the year worldwide.

Much of the advice that we’ve provided so far applies to betting on the Super Bowl as well as the playoff games. The following tips focus exclusively on what to do/ not to do when betting on the Super Bowl.

  • Don’t blow your bankroll
  • Focus on your own judgement
  • Don’t assume the favorite will win
  • Spread your risk
  • Be sure to value defense

Don’t blow your bankroll

After the Super Bowl, it will be several months until competitive NFL football is back. This is probably why a lot of bettors go absolutely crazy for this game, placing dozens of wagers and risking substantially more money than they usually would. Don’t make the same mistake. Just because this is the last time you’re going to be betting on football for a while doesn’t mean you can blow your whole bankroll on one game.

There’s nothing wrong with placing a few different wagers of course. Actually we RECOMMEND doing that in our tips below! We just don’t want to see you going too crazy with this. We especially don’t want to see you betting more money per bet than usual. Having strict bankroll management becomes even more crucial during the Super Bowl, which is why we feel the need to bring this to your attention.

Focus on your own judgement

In the build up to the Super Bowl it will be impossible to get away from the opinions of others. They’ll be all over the media for one thing. Plus, your colleagues, your friends and your family will probably have their opinions too, and no doubt you’ll hear all about them.

At this time of year, everyone wants to talk football. And most people are happy to let you know where their money is going. You must try to ignore to them as best you can. You don’t want their opinions to influence your betting decisions.

The Super Bowl is one game. You have two weeks to prepare for it. That’s plenty of time to assess everything you need to assess, and make informed judgements about what’s likely to happen. You need to focus on making these judgements, without worrying too much about what other people are saying or betting on. Once you start listening to the opinions of others, you’re just going to end up second-guessing your own views and overthinking things. This makes it hard to place bets with certainty.

Don’t assume the favorite will win

Historically, the favorite has won the Super Bowl more often than not. This isn’t very surprising, as the favorite is the favorite for good reason. However, you can’t assume that the favorite is going to win every year. That’s what uninformed bettors do. Or the vast majority do at least. The rest will probably bet on whichever team they’d prefer to win.

Not convinced that blindly betting the favorite isn’t the best approach? Take a look at the table we provided below.

Super Bowl Favorite Underdog Winner Covered
L Carolina Panthers Denver Broncos Underdog Underdog
XLIX Seattle Seahawks New England Patriots Underdog Underdog
XLVIII Denver Broncos Seattle Seahawks Underdog Underdog
XLVII San Francisco 49ers Baltimore Ravens Underdog Underdog
XLVI New England Patriots New York Giants Underdog Underdog
XLV Green Bay Packers Pittsburgh Steelers Favorite Favorite
XLVIV Indianapolis Colts New Orleans Saints Underdog Underdog
XLIII Pittsburgh Steelers Arizona Cardinals Favorite Underdog
XLII New England Patriots New York Giants Underdog Underdog
XLI Indianapolis Colts Chicago Bears Favorite Favorite
XL Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks Favorite Favorite
XXXIX New England Patriots Philadelphia Eagles Favorite Underdog
XXXVII Oakland Raiders Tampa Bay Buccaneers Underdog Underdog
XXXVI St. Louis Rams New England Patriots Underdog Underdog
XXXV Baltimore Ravens New York Giants Favorite Favorite

Can you spot the obvious here? To make it a little easier, here’s a quick summary of these results.

  • The favorite won 7 times
  • The underdog won 9 times

So the underdog has actually won the Super Bowl more times than the favorite in recent years. Not just covered, but actually won the game. They’ve covered without winning an additional three times. Meaning the favorite has covered in the Super Bowl just four times in the last 16 years. That’s 25% of the time. Despite this, there are many people who automatically assume that the favorite isn’t only going to win outright each year, but that they will also cover the spread. Please make sure that you’re not one of them the next time the Super Bowl comes around.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should automatically back the underdog. Although there’s a short recent trend of underdogs winning, you can’t make ANY assumptions about the Super Bowl. This game must be treated like any other in some respects. There are some differences, yes, but the same basic strategy applies. Assess all the information that’s available to you, judge both teams on their own merits, look for where the value lies and then put your money down accordingly.

Be sure to value defense

“Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” This quote is widely credited to Bear Bryant, a college football coach who spent 25 years in charge of the University of Alabama. There’s some doubt whether he actually said it or not, but either way it’s been repeated many times over the years. It’s a genuine football cliché. You may have heard the paraphrased version of this quote too: “Offense win games, but defense wins championships.”

Both versions of the quote contain some truth. For a long time, it was completely accepted that teams needed a very strong defense if they were going to make it all the way to the Super Bowl and win. In recent years, however, a lot of people have argued that this is no longer the case. There are usually various different reasons put forward, such as the importance of the quarterback in the modern game, or the rule changes that have made defending the pass more difficult.

It doesn’t really matter whether you believe that defense is more important than offense or vice versa. What’s important is that you realize that BOTH need to be considered when betting on the Super Bowl. This applies to every single football game in fact, but we feel like we have to mention it here. When it comes to the Super Bowl, the quality of each team’s defense is often overlooked.

Offense might be the more glamorous part of football. It might be what sells tickets. Some could even argue that it’s the most important area to be strong in, but none of this is relevant from a betting perspective. You still need to assess the defense of each team, and appreciate that a good defense is a valuable asset for a team.

Spread your risk

Our final tip is that you should always make more than one wager during the Super Bowl. This goes against our usual advice that you should be very selective and only bet when you’ve clearly identified. But this is the biggest game of the year, and it’s OK to make an exception. You don’t want your money tied up in one single outcome. That can make watching the game very anti-climactic if it becomes obvious early on that your wager is going to lose.

Don’t stress about this final tip though. We’re not saying that you should bet on all the crazy Super Bowl props that will be on offer, or that you should bet on a load of different markets for the sake of it. We’re just saying that it’s a good idea to spread your risk across more than one wager.

That brings this article to its conclusion. We hope you’ve found it useful. There’s just one more thing for us to mention. We’ve focused on the playoffs and the Super Bowl here, but there’s one other game that’s played during the post season. The Pro Bowl. This game is nowhere near as popular with bettors (or fans), but it does present some additional betting opportunities. These require an entirely different approach though, so you might want to read the following article if you’re interested in learning more.

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