I don’t claim to be an expert at betting football games.
After all, gambling is, by definition, a bit of a toss-up. If you manage to come out of a season with anywhere around 55% of your bets earning a profit, you can afford to pat yourself on the back. Getting to that point is the hard part, but my aim is to help you do that across a season with some under the radar wagers.
What gambling on football does allow us to do is have a little bit of fun with games we might not normally be interested in. While wagering on the spread and total points is the norm, your best bet might be to eschew these and go with more unconventional options.
The playoffs have finally arrived! Fewer games translate to more action from gamblers and more efficient lines, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find the weak spots in other bets and take advantage. My goal is to lead you on a long playoff run of your own and to finish in the green when it’s all said and done.
So without further ado, let’s take a look back at Week 17 before dipping into the wildcard round.
WEEK 17 RECAP
MISS: New York Giants (-3.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles @ 11/10
My only miss of the final week of the regular season, I should have known better than to trust this putrid Giants defense. Philadelphia, to their credit, got a boost after firing Chip Kelly and seemed to play with a lot of energy knowing that future jobs were on the line. I thought the home team would get a similar boost knowing that this would be Tom Coughlin’s last game. Not to be, and the G-Men go into 2016 with more questions than answers.
HIT: Buffalo Bills (+3) vs. New York Jets @ 20/23
Snow was supposed to be a factor in this game’s outcome. A low-scoring, messy affair decided by a handful of points ensued, but the elements had nothing to do with the Bills’ impressive victory at the Ralph. A clinic from Sammy Watkins and long, grind-it-out style drives orchestrated by Tyrod Taylor proved the difference, while the Jets offense simply could not consistently stay on the field. Rex Ryan got his sweet revenge by knocking the Jets out of the postseason. Sometimes narrative belongs in gambling.
HIT: Home team total points – Carolina over 29.5 points vs. Tampa Bay @ 5/6
It was a bit of a risk to go over 29.5 points, but this Carolina team has shown us time and again not to doubt them this season. Even without Jonathan Stewart and Ted Ginn Jr, Cam Newton and the offense did not miss a beat, overcoming a slow start to trounce their division rivals 38-10. The win secured the No 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and we may be going back to this bet depending on who the Panthers’ opponent is in two weeks.
HIT: New Orleans Saints to win at Atlanta @ 9/5
In yet another ‘meaningless’ game, the Saints summoned up quite an effort to edge out their rivals in what might be the last game in New Orleans for Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Atlanta, like the New York Giants, have more questions than answers this offseason. The odds were pretty generous on this bet, so I hope you were able to profit.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 35-32-1 (.514)
WILDCARD ROUND PUNTS
Houston (+3.5) vs. Kansas City @ 5/6
The Texans defense has been on quite a roll recently. Much in the same vein as I backed Buffalo as a home underdog last week, I will back Houston as a 3.5-point underdog. Haven’t we all seen this script before? A fancied team comes into Houston thinking they will wipe the floor with them, only to be ousted in spectacular fashion? The Chiefs are a very solid team - I am not arguing that – but the Texans have the pieces and the confidence to keep this game close. Neither team has an offense that will light up the scoreboard, so take the points in a tight affair.
Away team total points – Pittsburgh under 24 points at Cincinnati @ 10/11
You might think I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t like this spot for Pittsburgh at all. Andy Dalton will not play, but the last time these teams met saw A.J. McCarron take his first snaps as a Bengal – and he didn’t perform too badly. With a week to prepare the game plan for McCarron, I expect Hue Jackson to dial up some shot plays to take advantage of the Steelers’ vulnerable secondary. The Steelers will likely be without leading rusher DeAngelo Williams, a huge blow to their balance. Ben Roethlisberger can do it all himself, but mistakes have been creeping in recently. This should be the best game of the weekend, but whether Pittsburgh can rack up the points on this defense – after putting up 33 in their last meeting – is a big question mark for me.
Green Bay Packers to beat Washington @ 21/20
The Packers look like a mediocre team right now. Washington, admittedly, has all the momentum – but can’t you just see Aaron Rodgers and company pulling one more improbable win out of the fire? Many of these Washington players have never tasted playoff football before; the atmosphere is different. Green Bay’s roster is littered with experienced playoff veterans and Super Bowl champions. Edge: Packers. The real question is whether the Green Bay defense can slow down the red-hot Washington offense. If they can hold them to under 21 points, I really fancy Rodgers to pull out the win.
Home team total points – Minnesota under 17.5 points vs. Seattle @ 5/6
I’m still torn on the way this game will pan out. On one hand, you have a Vikings defense back to full strength, which it definitely was not the last time these teams met. And then you have the fact the Seahawks embarrassed the Vikings on their turf; this is a feat that you rarely see repeated in one season. However, my gut tells me that Seattle is still the better team here and has been playing some sound defense recently. The return of Marshawn Lynch should help the ‘Hawks shorten the game, so take the under 17.5 for Minnesota in what should be a 23-17 type of affair.
EARLY LOOK AHEAD – PLAYOFF PREVIEW
The field is set, so I am going to use my amateur powers of prediction to predict the lines for the divisional round, championship round and Super Bowl.
AFC – Houston over Kansas City, Cincinnati over Pittsburgh
NFC – Seattle over Minnesota, Green Bay over Washington
AFC – Houston at New England (-9.5); Cincinnati at Denver (-3.5)
NFC – Seattle at Carolina (-3.5); Green Bay at Arizona (-7)
AFC – New England at Denver (-3)
NFC – Arizona at Carolina (-3.5)
Super Bowl New England vs Carolina (pick)
I hope everyone enjoys the playoffs and that you make some cash to end your season on a high. You can follow me on Twitter @davlar87.