Motivation can be transformed into winning wagers

September 10, 2002 5:27 AM
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   No one doubts that a team's motivation can make a big difference in how they play. Our goal is to provide some objective standards that can be applied to NFL contests to produce a better understanding of the likely forces at work on a team's psyche.

   Here are four categories we set up for teams in a given matchup.

   Poor—winning percentage of under 40

   Mediocre—winning percentage of 40-49

   Good—winning percentage of 50-59

   Excellent—winning percentage of 60-over

   Running these guidelines through all the match-ups from week 5 on from the period of 1991-2000 produced the following results (See graph below):

   A key dilemma with any kind of NFL research involves a small sample size and changing betting habits from year to year. Still, the above "first pass look" is interesting in that the two strongest match-ups for a gambler are Mediocre vs. Good (58%) and Poor vs. Good (57%).

   Good teams are slightly over-rated when playing a lesser bunch. The next worthwhile step would appear to be to separate the match-ups based on which team was at home and which was away.

   Poor home team versus Excellent away team: the poor home squad, most likely an underdog, covers 58%. The away team covered 63% in matchups of mediocre teams.

   Good Home team versus Poor/Mediocre away team: Lowly away sides get the job done 60% of the time in games between Good Home and Poor/Mediocre Away teams.

   A couple of more things we want to check in this arena include the "extreme teams" and the pre-week 5 games.

   A winless team from Week 5 on is a dangerous team against the spread. Our testing shows a record of 65-40 (62%) overall. In those rare games between two winless sides, the home field advantage has been strong.

   Undefeated teams are less clear-cut, going 20-15 at home (57%) but only 19-27 (41%) on the road. In the absence of other information you’d favor the team at home, but lean against them on the road.

   Looking at early Week 2-4 pairings, and for this we will adjust our basic classing system to the following: Bet against poor teams at home 67-97 (41%) when possible.

   The next step in motivation research is to test the results against fresh data, for which we will use the 2001 season:

   Back Mediocre vs. Good teams—58% (2001: 8-3)

   Back Poor home vs. Excellent away—58% (2001: 9-9)

   Back Mediocre away vs. Mediocre home—63% (2001: 3-0)

   Back Poor/Mediocre away vs. Good home-60% (2001: 15-4)

   Back Winless from Week 5 on—62% (2001: 5-2)

   Play against Poor home in weeks 2-4—59% (2001: 9-6)

   That’s a six-pack of angles gleaned from a 10-year data sample, with five of six showing a profit in the most recent season. Keep an eye out for these situations in 2002!

 

Note: TwoMinuteWarning.com features innovative statistical coverage of the NFL to help you win—whether that means beating the spread, taking charge in an office pool, or dominating your fantasy football league.

 

Team

Opponent

Won

vs. Spread

Lost

Vs. Spread

Win %

POOR

Mediocre

54

59

48%

POOR

Good

103

79

57%

POOR

Excellent

208

185

53%

MEDIOCRE

Poor

59

54

52%

MEDIOCRE

Good

45

32

58%

MEDIOCRE

Excellent

86

88

49%

GOOD

Poor

79

103