A must win game in the NFL is one of the most overused phrases
November 28, 2017 3:00 AM
by Andy Iskoe
VIP Pigskin Picks | As part of the race to the NFL playoffs we will hear repeatedly about “must win” games. It is important to note that not all “must win” games are created equal and they do not necessarily equate with “will win. Thus there are different types of so-called “must win” games.
As part of the race to the NFL playoffs we will hear repeatedly about “must win” games. It is important to note that not all “must win” games are created equal and they do not necessarily equate with “will win. Thus there are different types of so-called “must win” games.
In strict terms a “must win” game means that the failure to do so results in a team’s inability to achieve whatever the “must win” was referring to. In the case of a team needing to win to stay alive for a Wild Card berth not much emphasis should be given to that factor in handicapping that game.
A 7-7 team that needs a win to remain alive is a pretty average team and one that is in such a position because of earlier losses. Such a team may not be able to be trusted to win such a game and that certainly is the approach to be taken when assessing that team’s chances.
On the other hand a 10-3 team that needs a win to lock up a Division title or, having previously done so, assure itself of a Bye into the Divisional round of the Playoffs is much more trustworthy, having demonstrated the ability to have already won 10 games and establish itself as a legitimate contender come Playoffs time.
Often there are premiums built into the line for many perceived “must win” contests.
Keep in mind that under most circumstances a team’s primary goal heading into a season is to qualify for the Playoffs. Once you are in, even as a Wild Card, you have a chance to win the Super Bowl with those chances varying depending upon where that team is seeded.
Thus secondary goals are to win a Division title and then to secure a 1 or 2 seed to earn a Bye for the Wild Card round which carries with it a week of rest and a home game against a team that has already faced and succeeded in a “must win” situation by winning a Wild Card game and advancing to meet a rested team off a Bye.
This past week was not particularly good for the folks behind the counter, especially on Thanksgiving Day when all three favored teams won and covered – Minnesota, the LA Chargers and Washington. The damage was mitigated somewhat by the fact that after the Minnesota/Detroit game went OVER the Total and the next two games stayed UNDER. The damage was also limited because the middle team, Dallas, was a very popular albeit small home underdog to the Chargers.
But then came Sunday and Favorites went 9-3 ATS including a 3-1 mark posted by double digit chalk. New England, Philadelphia and Atlanta all won and covered while on Sunday night Pittsburgh won but failed to cover.
In fact, the Steelers failed to cover in a Teaser which helped out the books as did the straight up loss by Kansas City which, at -9, just missed being a double digit favorite. That loss by the Chiefs helped to bust multiple straight parlays, money line parlays and Teasers.
Only two underdogs won outright with Buffalo upsetting the Chiefs and Arizona upsetting Jacksonville.
Through Sunday Totals were nearly evenly split for the week with 7 games going OVER and 8 staying UNDER. For the season there have been just 4 more OVERS (89) than UNDERS (85) with 1 game pushing the closing Total using the lines from the Westgate.
For the season there have been 175 games played through Sunday with 7 games resulting in pointspread pushes and one other game closed as a pick ‘em. Of the other 167 games the poinstspread did not matter in 143 of them with the favorite winning and covering in 90 games and the underdog winning outright 53 times.
The line has mattered in only 24 games such that the favorite has won and covered in 53.9 percent of the non-push, non-pick ‘em games; the underdog has won 31.7 percent of those games and the points have mattered (i.e. the favored team won straight up but lost to the pointspread) in 14.4 percent of the games which is roughly 1 game in 7 or about twice per week.
For this past week, prior to the Monday night game, only Sunday night’s game resulted in the line not mattering when Pittsburgh, a 14 point favorite, defeated Green Bay 31-28 cashing money line tickets for Steeler backers but paying off pointspread plays to Packer backers.
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Carolina +4 at New Orleans (48): A solid case can be made for the Panthers and if the Saints still had a one game lead over Carolina that case would be even stronger. But with the Saints now tied with Carolina this game has the same meaning for both and the preference is to back the team with arguably both the better QB and coaching combination. NEW ORLEANS