January 4, 2008

Wild Card Weekend: By the Numbers

As J-Red noted in his wild card picks, wild card teams have not fared well in the first round of the playoffs since the latest realignment (4 division winners, 2 wild cards). He only had the W/L data, so I pulled the records ATS using the indispensable Sunday Strategy Search Engine. I was surprised to see that, while home teams (division winners) are 12-8 in the first round, they are 7-13 ATS.

20 games isn't enough to draw a whole lot of conclusions, but we'll work with that to see what we can learn from history. Seeing that the home teams tend to win outright (.600), but not cover (.350), we see that wild card games tend to be closer than Vegas expects. I guess this shouldn't be surprising, as both teams are theoretically putting everything they have into the game.

This year we have the relatively uncommon situation of a home dog in the playoffs, with the Jaguars laying 2 at the Steelers. Unfortunately for the Steelers, home dogs in the first 3 rounds of the playoffs (the Super Bowl doesn't really count) are winless, both straight up and against the spread (0-3).

Removing the two home dog games from our dataset leaves 18 games where the home team went 7-11 ATS. I expected that the larger spreads would represent the bulk of the underdog covers, and that the home favorites would fare best in games with tight spreads. That turned out to not be the case at all. The home teams were 3-8 ATS (5-6 straight up) in games where they were favored by less than a touchdown and 4-3 ATS (and 7-0 straight up) in games where they were favored by a touchdown or more.

Think about what that means for a second: home teams in the playoffs favored by less than a touchdown have a losing record over the past 5 years. This means that if Vegas sets a low line for the division winner, the wild card team has a good chance of winning. Using Smart Capper's point spread to money line converter, if you put $100 on every wild card underdog team getting less than 7 points, you'd be up $518 over the past 5 years. That's not a bad payoff for betting on 11 games. For this year, that would mean betting on the Redskins and Giants to win outright. Bodog doesn't have money lines posted yet, but according to covers.com, you can expect to get about +165 on the Redskins and +125 on the Giants. History suggests you should win at least one of those bets, earning a healthy profit.

In summary, take the Jaguars and Chargers against the spread, and bet the Redskins and Giants on the money line. Shockingly enough, those are the same picks I made yesterday in the ECB pick-off before I did any of the historical research.

2 Responses:

J-Red said...

Bastard! I searched high and low for historical playoff point spreads before making my picks and totally forgot about that website.

They need to improve their Google search profile.

J-Red said...

Simmons matched my picks. Should I be happy or depressed?

Summer is here and there's never been a better time to try your hand at online sports betting. Place your bets on your favorite horse with horse racing or even try your luck with your favorite football team. Enjoying sport is just a click away!