NFL Playoffs: Strategy and Betting Trends
The second round of the playoffs is the most interesting, as four teams have had weeks off while their opponents finished playing. The extra time to rest and prepare can be a significant advantage for a team, both directly and against the number.
The local field is also key. The Colts just abused the Chiefs, putting them 9-0 at home this season. However, the Colts are 4-4 SU, 3-5 ATS on the road and now have to head to Baltimore. This also brings up the subject of betting trends, so I advise you to proceed with caution.
The Colts, for example, had been 28-12 on the road in the regular season since Tony Dungy took the kidneys in 2002. However, they have now lost 4 straight road games heading into this weekend. And here’s the thing about the Colts’ road problems: These losses didn’t come against good teams. Of the four opponents, only one had a record above .500, yet the Colts lost the games by a total of 40 points!
More important than the trends, as far as I’m concerned, are the confrontations. Despite the big win over Kansas City, the Colts’ woeful defense still can’t be ignored. The Dallas Cowboys made 36 rushing plays in their victory. Then the Tennessee Titans more than doubled the Colts’ rushing production in Week 13, which was nothing compared to the following week. The Jaguars ran 10 times as many yards as the Colts (375 to 34) and used 42 carries to do so. That’s the same number of attempts Houston made when the Texans stunned the Colts two weeks later.
On Saturday, the Chiefs’ Larry Johnson had just 13 carries and was limited to 32 yards. Impressive, but that was a match and at home. The Colts will need to do it again against the Ravens, and then again against the Patriots or Chargers should they advance. All of those teams have strong offensive lines and running backs.
This is why patience is essential when analyzing games, because bettors can adjust their lines based on what just happened. Think about the Colts the last few years in the postseason. In 2003 they crushed Kansas City on the road scoring 38 points, then the following week they scored 14 in a loss at New England.
In 2004 they crushed the Broncos at home 49-24, then the following week they scored 3 points at New England. All the money was poured into the Colts that game, pushing the Pats out of a three-point favorite to pick them. Final score: Pats 20, Colts 3. Watch out for an outstanding performance in the playoffs. The team they play for Saturday, the Ravens, is 7-1 SU / 6-2 ATS at home this season and 19-5 SU, 16-8 ATS in their last 24 home games.
The Patriots are 7-1 SU / ATS on the road and Bill Belichick is 12-2 SU, 8-5-1 ATS in the playoffs. However, the Chargers are 8-0 SU / 5-3 ATS at home. Last week, reports indicated that the Patriots were going to expand the field and not huddle against the Jets in an attempt to avoid what the Jets had done to confuse the Pats’ blocking schemes in the previous meeting.
New England was not crowded from the start and the game easily topped the total. This week I heard Pats coach Belichick mention that the teams that have been successful against the Chargers this season are the ones that establish ball control to keep San Diego’s offense off the field. That could be his strategy on Sunday, at least in the first half.