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NFL football betting: Handicapping the wild card round – SportsUntapped.com
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Added January 4th, 2010 by David Glisan

NFL football betting:  Handicapping the wild card round
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Well, the NFL playoffs are upon us.  The road to the Superbowl gets underway this weekend with four NFL wildcard games, and of course they’ll be the focal point for sports betting enthusiasts.  Those of us who have been involved in NFL football betting for awhile have come to realize that there’s a few handicapping concepts that are valuable to keep in mind when approaching the wild card round, as well as subsequent playoff rounds.  We’ll have detailed write ups and free picks on the individual games later in the week but for now here’s a few things to keep in mind when doing your own handicapping work.


When we look at the historical data for the NFL wild card round we usually begin in 1978, which was the first season with an actual ‘wild card round’ when the league added a second wild card team from each conference.  The format was tweaked again in 1990 with the addition of a third wild card team from each conference.  When the NFL realigned their divisional format in 2002, they also went back down to two wild card teams per conference but the basic format of the playoffs remained the same as there were now four divisional winners in each conference instead of three.

Typically, underdogs fare better in the wild card round while favorites fare better in the later rounds.  The two subsets of betting underdogs that have performed especially well are underdogs of less than 3 points (24-16-2 ATS) and home underdogs (11-3 ATS).  While there are no home underdogs in this year’s playoffs there are two underdogs of less than 3 points (Green Bay and the New York Jets).  The reason for these tendencies should be apparent if you’ve paid attention to our past handicapping discussion.  A road favorite in the wild card round is almost overvalued by definition–if they were *really* strong enough to justify the road favorite role they wouldn’t be playing in the opening round anyway as they would have earned a bye.  Small underdogs, obviously, are teams that are relatively evenly matched with the favorite.

While these are things to keep in mind, its never a good idea to rely exclusively on situational trends.  One important thing to look it when handicapping NFL wild card games is each team’s strength of schedule.  A wild card team from a tough conference can often be an intrinsically better team than a division winner from a less competitive conference.   Obviously injuries play a part as in any NFL game.  Another important factor to keep in mind is the form of the team heading into the playoffs.  Did they play well down the stretch or did they struggle?  We don’t worry too much about games where teams don’t play their starters like we saw on Sunday, but how did a team perform in the last month to six weeks of the season?  For example the Cincinnati Bengals enter the playoffs on a 3-4 SU/1-6 ATS run.  Their opponents in the wild card round, the New York Jets, ended the season winning five of their last six both SU and ATS.

Check back later in the week for our NFL football betting free picks on the wild card round and stay with us on the road to the Superbowl for more handicapping information.

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