Postseason line brings out best in favorites

Dec 30, 2002 11:42 PM

   When the NFL moves from regular season games to playoff spectaculars, the wise sports gamblers will adjust their handicapping approach?

   Since 1991 (excluding the "neutral field" Super Bowl matchups).

away playoff teams underdogs are 45 percent against the line when underdogs and 50 percent as favorites.

   Favorites do seem more capable of covering a number when playing in the post-season. Big favorites have been exceptional bets for over a decade, while the small favorites are suspect.

   There are many possible explanations for these reversals from what we usually see with regular season events. In the playoffs obviously it's a "win or you're done" situation so motivation should not be an issue.

   Coaches won't hold back in unleashing their best plays and will not sit on leads to the extent that they do in the regular season. The 1992 Houston Oilers let a 38-3 second half advantage disappear to the Frank Reich led Buffalo Bills and wound up losing 41-38!

   The basic guidelines for playoff betting would be to give the favorites more consideration than you would in a regular season contest. We also advise not to readily take the big points on an underdog without significant supporting evidence.

   The next idea is to look at offensive and defensive rankings (yards per game). On the whole there's a slight tendency during the normal schedule of games for an emphasis on home teams being able to run the ball and away teams being able to pass the ball to achieve success.

   It's rare to find teams in the playoffs with bad rankings in any major area. Some of the "home teams need to run, away teams need to pass" bias appears to hold true. Home teams among the top 10 in rushing have fared well against the line (55 percent) while away teams that have struggled to pass for yardage have covered the spread only 38 percent of the time.

   On defense, teams with a passing defense ranked in the top 20 have been solid ATS (57 percent), while away teams ranked 11th or worse in rushing defense were only 35 percent vs. the line.

   There's no guarantee these trends will continue to remain true, but for the time being it's certainly a smart move, or even a sharp one, to respect the powerful among the NFL squads during the post-season.

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