As sports gambling becomes more mainstream, more and more people are looking for insight on what games to bet on and what lines to take. One approach is to look at the ‘popular’ lines, where people follow the crowd and bet on the games that everyone else is betting. This ‘Go with the Flow’ mentality can provide a sense of security because if a lot of other people are doing it, there must be something there.
But sometimes the public can have it wrong. Sometimes the flow of the water leads to a waterfall. Sometimes, it’s better to go against the flow – or maybe even avoid the flow completely. In this series, we’ll look at some of those situations, and give you our thoughts behind why it might be good to fade the public trend and look for other opportunities.
The final week of the season is all about the playoffs and next season. Teams that are in the playoffs with no way to improve their position rest their starters. Teams fighting for a better playoff spot will play hard. Teams fighting for a playoff spot will play as hard as possible because it’s win or go home. Teams without playoff hopes want to stay injury-free and look to build toward next season.
Vegas lines try to reflect this and that creates some opportunities for sharp players to make smart contrarian plays.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS AT LOS ANGELES RAMS
Public Trend – 62% of the public bets favor Los Angeles
The Rams need this win to secure a 1st round playoff bye. Meanwhile the 49ers are already looking toward next season. The Rams hit a speed bump, losing to Chicago and Philadelphia back to back, but they are back at full speed, rolling over the Cardinals on the road last week 31-9. They are 12-3 on the season and 6-1 at home. Their offense averages almost 32 points and 424 yards per game. The 49ers are struggling to find bright spots to this season after Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in week 3. They are 0-7 on the road this season (2-5 against the spread) and just 3-7 in their last 10 games. They averaged just 13 points in their last three road games, and were held to three field goals at home against the Bears last week. They are 1-4 ATS in their last five NFC West games and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games against the NFC.
Why you may want to fade the trend.
The Rams are banged up, and definitely need the first round bye. Todd Gurley hasn’t practiced in a couple weeks and will probably not play this weekend. The line has moved to 10 points now and while the Rams need to win, they shouldn’t go 100% to win against the 49ers. They may be 6-1 at home this season, but they are just 2-4-1 ATS at home (0-4-1 in their last five home games) and 3-6-1 ATS in their last 10 games. The 49ers are scrappy and the nine points they scored against the Bears doesn’t reflect just how close they came to winning last week. The beat the Broncos and the Seahawks the two weeks before that. The 49ers won’t roll over and play dead in this game and the Rams won’t go full tilt for 60 minutes if they can help it. This could very easily turn into a close win for the Rams, but the 49ers cover with the two score spread.
CHICAGO BEARS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Public Trend – 62% of the public bets favor Chicago.
Chicago has already beaten the Vikings once this year, and they have a potential to get a first round bye if the Rams lose and the Bears win. To top it off, Vegas is actually backing he Vikings, giving them almost a touchdown win when the line opened. The Bears are 8-2 straight up and against the spread over their last 10 games. They are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games against the NFC and 6-0 ATS against the NFC North. They have the best defense in the NFC, allowing just 18 points and only 308 yards per game. The Vikings are just 6-4 in their last 10 games and 5-4-1 ATS. However, they are just 2-8 ATS against teams with a winning record. They are 0-5 this season against teams that have already clinched a playoff spot. If the Bears lose this game, there’s a decent chance they’ll be matched against the Vikings for the third time this season in the first round of the playoffs. Even though the Bears will be at home, they would rather knock the Vikings out and face someone else.
Why you may want to fade the trend.
The Vikings have fallen hard since the start of the season. They were a virtual lock to win the division after signing Kirk Cousins, and expectations were high that they’d return to the NFC championship game again this year. But they’ve struggled all season and a home loss here will most likely knock them out of the playoffs. They will be fighting as hard as they can to avoid this. Their defense is pretty decent as well and they only allow 308 yards and 21 points per game. Their offense is averaging 23 points per game, but averaging almost 30 points per game in their last three home games. The Bears are averaging less than 18 points per game over their last three appearances and are a different team when they are on the road. While Chicago does have a shot at a first round bye, it can only happen if the Rams lose at home against the 49ers. They’ll be watching the scoreboard to see if the Rams are going to win, and will probably rest their starters in the second half or at least the 4th quarter if they can’t secure the bye. Now that the line is down to a more reasonable 4.5, the Vikings are just desperate enough to cover.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT TENNESSEE TITANS
Public Trend – 52% of the public bets favor Indianapolis
* Note – Some sites have the Colts getting 77% of the public action.
The final game of the season has everything you would want – win and you’re in, lose and go home. The Colts came into the season with one of the lowest rated defenses in the league, but they’ve played well and allow just over 21 points per game. Andrew Luck silenced all critics and has the Colts scoring almost 27 points per game on offense. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are 5-0 against the spread against teams with a winning record. They are on a three-game win streak, including big wins against playoff teams Houston and Dallas, and crushed the Titans 38-10 in Indianapolis back in week 11. The Titans are inconsistent on offense and banged up. They needed 16 points in the 4th quarter last week to beat Washington 25-16 and quarterback Marcus Mariota left the game with a stinger. He has partially practiced all week and will not be 100% by game time, but is expected to play. Their alternative is Blaine Gabbert who doesn't scare anyone. They are just 5-5 against the spread over their last 10 games
Why you may want to fade the trend.
The Titans are 6-1 at home this season and are on a four-game winning streak of their own. Their defense is the strength of the team, and they allow just 18 points and 326 yards per game. Their running game has been on fire as of late, and they have 578 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns over their last three games. The Colts may be 9-6 overall, but they are just 3-4 on the road this season and are only 5-4-1 ATS over their last 10 games. This game will be a slugfest and with the Titans now getting three points, this feels like a game that the Titans could win or maybe even cover.
* graphics and numbers are from covers.com.