It pays to be front-runners in NFL games

Sep 3, 2002 11:30 AM

As the popularity of football betting continues to grow, new wagering options have been made available. One area that seems to be developing a following is what we will refer to as "halftime betting."

Many sportsbooks are now posting 1st half and 2nd half lines that you can play in advance. The really adventurous are even taking bets during halftime of a game. For the latter wagers, linemakers send over a hastily created second half line and the casinos book a flurry of bets in the few minutes before the game resumes.

The "won/lost" in our table reflects whether a team outscored its opponent in a particular half (with overtime counting as part of the second half). Baltimore, for example, was stronger in the second half of games, outscoring opponents in 12 of 16 cases.

The two Super Bowl teams rated 1-2 in first half net points, which suggests that being a front-runner is the way to go in the NFL. In 2000, the Ravens were the best first half team (at +7) and won it all. In 1999, St. Louis was the best opening half team (+9) and went on to win the Super Bowl.

The most interesting betting opportunities would appear to be in that mad rush during halftime.

Best Front-Runners: Chicago (+8 net points average in 2nd half), Washington (+8), Green Bay (+6), San Diego (+5), St. Louis (+4).

Worst Front-Runners: Cincinnati (-11 net average in 2nd half), Detroit (—9), Dallas (—9), Carolina (—9), Buffalo (-8).

There were five teams in 2001 that never lost when ahead at the half: Chicago, San Diego, Indianapolis, Green Bay and Washington.

Five teams won less than half the time when leading at the half: Carolina (16 percent), Detroit (25), Cincinnati (33), Dallas (40) and Buffalo (40).

The best come from behind teams were San Francisco (+9 net points average in 2nd half), Pittsburgh (+6), Green Bay (+6), Philadelphia (+5), Chicago (+3).

The worst were Seattle (-6), Indianapolis (-6), Carolina (-5), Atlanta (-5), Minnesota (-4) and Buffalo (-4).

From the perspective of games won when behind at halftime, the best teams were San Francisco (4 out of 5 for 80 percent), Pittsburgh (66 percent), Chicago (66), Green Bay (50), and St. Louis (50) but only twice were they behind).

There were eight teams that never won after trailing at the half. The worst offenders were Minnesota (0 for 10), Carolina, Indianapolis and San Diego (all 0 for 9), and Kansas City (0 for 8). For the 2001 season, 22 percent of teams that were behind at halftime ended up winning.

Favorites able to get the jump on an opponent went on to win 84 percent of the time, with an average second half net of +1.6 points.

There were 82 games where the favorite was behind at the half, of which 27 (32 percent) saw the team come back to win. On average, the favorite outscored the upstart underdog by 2½ points in the second half.

Home team ahead at halftime: the home sides went on to victory 80 percent of the time when they held a lead at the midway point. On average, they outscored their opponents by a point in the second half.

Home team behind at halftime: home teams only came back to win 25 percent of the time, but outscored their opponents by 0.7 points in the second half.

Bettors can never assume that an NFL team will replicate what it did the prior season, but keeping an eye on these kind of stats through the year should be a big benefit if thinking of wagering on "half a game."

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