Teams off bad loss
have next game value

Nov 25, 2003 3:30 AM

Some of the most storied games in any sport are the ones where the big underdog manages to surpass expectations and take down a big favorite in a stunning upset.

For whatever reason, people seem to be drawn to these "David vs. Goliath" tales and, while you won’t find many public teams that stay popular for very long with a losing record, there’s a certain shared satisfaction to seeing a big shot team get their comeuppance.

For sports bettors however, and particularly NFL players, we are all too familiar with the unexpected outcomes that come along. The weighty question is how to regard teams coming off a game where things did not go as expected, both in a positive and negative sense.

First up we’ll start by looking at the Goliath’s ”” the teams that were defeated outright in the last game despite being significant favorites.

Teams that were favored by more than a touchdown and lost have come back the strongest, particularly when sent out on the road and getting points. The margin of the previous game defeat doesn’t show much bearing on the next game. Losing by a field goal or three touchdowns, it’s equally galling to the fan base but relatively inconsequential to the handicapper.

The defeat that took place did not show up as statistically meaningful, although it’s much more common for the home team to be favored. As a result, there are more cases of home teams being upset than away teams.

The results do change somewhat when we toss out the early weeks, when upsets are to be expected with so much turnover from year to year in pro football.

Revisiting the table results but only looking at games played on or after Week 6, teams that lost outright when favored by 7½ or more points are a solid 98-63 ATS (61%).

Turning the analysis around, how did the teams that pulled off the upset do the following game? The underdog heroes don’t generally repeat the effort the next game out and, indeed, are fairly vulnerable when playing away from home.

In particular, small dog upsets (teams getting 1 to 3 points) often lead to the victorious teams presenting a good "go against" situation if they come back away from home or gained the upset by a huge margin.

The other case to watch for is when a team pulls an upset as a 3½ to 7 point dog, and then is a home dog the next game. These teams have produced a spectacular 55-22 (71%) record from Week 6 on.

When a team that was just upset meets a team coming off a win as a dog, the home team is a very nice 33-19 (64%), regardless of how the "David/Goliath" past has played out.

In general, teams coming from a bad loss have quite often recovered, whereas teams coming from a shocking victory have been hard pressed to recapture the previous magic in the next game.

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