To Win, You Need To Bet the Better Team

Statistically, the bettor will bet favorites. That’s a big mistake, and here’s why.

To begin with, the average bettor tends to overstate the relative potency of the league’s better teams and players. What pro handicappers know is that there is actually enormous parity in the league, with not that much difference between the best player at a position and the worst.

When a group of marginally worse players is more motivated than a team of slightly better gamers that an outright upset is possible. Most certainly, it is potential for the“poor“ group to cover the point spread.

Secondly, the point spread tends to nullify any obvious scrimmage edge (power or skill advantage) a team has over its opponent. In the 1999 and 2000 seasons, for example, there were 167 games where the point spread was seven points or more (games in which one team’s advantage over another was perceived to be sizable). While the underdog won only 36 of those games (21.6 percent), the underdog covered the point spread in 83 of those matches (while tying it in six): a success rate of 51.6 percent.

Third, by gambling an underdog, you’ve got a significant part of sport strategy on your side. NFL teams do their best to win a game. Therefore, in the last few minutes of a match, a team that’s leading seldom takes much risk to score more points. Instead, it targets hanging on to its lead. The group that is dropping, on the other hand, usually tries to score until the bitter end. If a bettor has taken a favorite that is ahead but not covering with five minutes or less to go, that bettor is in trouble.

In 20 decades of handicapping the NFL, I’ve yet to come across a long-term winning bettor who does not bet mostly underdogs.

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