Top-10 trends of the first half of the 2012 NFL season
By Aaron Todd
There's never a sure bet when you're picking NFL games, but knowing what's happened might give a sports bettor an edge against the books.
Now that the NFL is through more than half of its 2012 season, here are the top-10 tips sports bettors wish they'd had at the beginning of the season. Just remember, past performance is not a guarantee of future success.
NOTE: All lines and odds taken from bet365.com Sportsbook & Racebook's Thursday morning lines, which are used for the Casino City Gang podcast.
10. Take Jacksonville on the road, but not at home
Let's face it, the only people who really want to watch the Jacksonville Jaguars play are the wives and mothers of the players. And even they may not want to watch them play. But one thing that bettors have been able to cash in on so far this season is that the Jaguars will cover when they're on the road, but they won't when they're at home. Jacksonville is 4-0 against the spread on the road – including a game in which the sportsbooks spotted them 15.5 points against the Green Bay Packers. And even though they've been an underdog in every home game this year, they still haven't managed to cover the spread at home.
9. Take the Colts on the moneyline
People weren't expecting much from the Colts this season, with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck leading the charge in place of the departed Peyton Manning. But the Colts have surprised a lot of people, including the sportsbooks, which listed Indianapolis as a favorite in just two games this year (against the aforementioned Jaguars and the lowly Cleveland Browns).
Had you bet the same amount of money on the Colts to win every game through Week 9 this season, you'd have an impressive 51.1 percent return on investment (ROI), thanks in large part to their surprising win over Green Bay as a 5/2 underdog.
8. Bet against the Saints on the money line
While people weren't expecting much from the Colts, they were expecting quite a bit from the Saints, who are a disappointing 2-5 heading into tonight's Monday Night Football game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Losses to Washington and Kansas City in particular would have paid off big, and a bet of the same size on the Saints to lose every week would have yielded an 81.8 percent ROI so far this season.
7. Don't bet the over/under
The sportsbooks have been right on the money on the over/under lines this year. If you bet the over on every game, you'd have a small winning record at 65-62-4, but the vig easily erases that small winning margin.
6. Unless it's the Patriots or the Chiefs
The only teams that have been consistently hitting the over are the Patriots and the Chiefs (both have gone over in six of eight games this season), but for very different reasons. Patriots’ games have hit the over in their last six outings, thanks in large part to an offensive explosion which has seen the team score an average of 35.2 points per game over that span. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have allowed their opponents’ offense to get within 10 points of the over/under line by themselves four times this season.
5. Take the Falcons on the road
The Atlanta Falcons have been impressive this year, and after last night's win over Dallas, remain the only undefeated team in the NFL. Atlanta has been in some close games this year, but has always managed to cover in five road games. In fact, if you watched last night's game to the end, you got to hear NBC commentator Al Michaels give sports bettors a shout-out, noting that the Falcons' field goal to go up by six in the final minute of the game made "a lot of people very happy and a lot of people very upset." Of course the field goal had very little to do with who was going to win the game and everything to do with who was going to beat the four-point spread.
4. Bet on the away team against the spread
Home field advantage isn't what it used to be – like back when the replacement officials were running the game for the first three weeks of the season. In the first three weeks, home teams were 25-22-1 against the spread. Since that time, road teams are a whopping 49-31-1 against the spread and boast an eye-popping 16.7 percent ROI. Even if you'd bet on the away team in every game this season (including the games with replacement officials), you'd still be sporting a respectable 6.9 percent ROI. While home teams still hold a 75-56 edge in wins and losses, the away team has been the better bet against the spread this year.
3. Underdogs are overperforming
The underdogs have been beating the spread by a surprising margin so far this season, holding a 72-55 edge over the favorites against the spread. The advantage is more than enough to overcome the vig, as an equal bet on every underdog so far this season would have yielded an impressive 9.0 percent ROI. The mark had been much better for the underdogs before yesterday's games, however, as the favorites were 9-4 against the spread this week.
2. Go with the big underdogs
It can be hard to predict what will happen when a team is favored by more than a touchdown. If they get the ball late and are up by one score, there is no urgency to score as they simply try to run out the clock. Turns out the big underdogs have done well this season, at least against the spread.
Through Week 8, underdogs in games where the spread was more than 7 points were 13-6. The big favorites went 3-0 against the spread this week, which dropped the record to just 13-9, but regardless, if you'd bet on the big underdogs in every game with a spread of more than 7 points, you'd still be boasting a 12.8 percent ROI.
1. Bet the money line on home dogs
My colleague Vin Narayanan is a big believer in picking the home team against the spread when they are the underdog. That strategy wouldn't have proven to be a profitable one thus far, however, as home dogs are barely over .500 against the spread (23-22) this season and the vig would make that betting strategy a loser. However, there have only been three games this season where the home dog covered the spread and didn't win the game. If you'd bet the money line on every home dog, you would have netted a nifty 10.4 percent ROI, thanks in large part to some big upset wins, most notably the Colts' win over the Packers at 5/2, the Vikings' win over the 49ers at 49/20, and the Tennessee Titans' win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at 23/10.