NFL betting trends entering Week 18


We have managed to make it to the final week of the NFL regular season. The final week is always a tricky one, as not every team feels the need to go all out to win the game. Some teams have clinched and cannot improve or downgrade their playoff status, so we may not get 60 minutes of action from the top players. Other teams are out of the hunt and may decide to use this week to evaluate young players or guys they need to make a decision on before free agency.

Not only do we have to do our normal level of analysis on each game, but we have to add in the factors mentioned to make sure we are not throwing away good money on bad situations. COVID-19 and injuries will likely play a role in this analysis as well, which just adds another layer to the mix. The good news is that some teams are motivated and fighting for either a better spot or a seat at the table for the playoffs and those are the games where we should really be concentrating our efforts this week.

With that said, let’s take a look at the trends heading into the last week of the season. 



Against-the-Spread Results

After factoring in the results of the COVID-19 games that got moved to a Tuesday, the Favorites took a 9-6-1 record into Week 17. We had eight favorites win and cover in Week 17, with the Buffalo/Atlanta game finishing as a push at the -14 closing line. That means favorites went 8-7-1 in Week 17 to make it 10-6-1 on the season for those who blind-bet 1 unit on each favorite. The actual profit for doing so was small, 0.28 units if you took every number here at standard -110 juice. Still, a profit is a profit. Betting favorites and laying the points was the better option through Week 17, but the profit for doing so was insignificant. At the end of the day, better favorites and laying the points hit more often, but the margin was so small and the outlay of betting one unit per week so big that it is hardly worth it to chase this kind of play. 

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Underdog Report

Despite going 8-7-1 ATS in Week 17, the underdogs did not have a good showing in terms of outright moneyline wins. We had just four dogs win their games outright: the Raiders, Bengals, Cardinals and Steelers. None were massively high priced, and we had 12 others lose outright, which means this was not a profitable week to blind bet a unit on every dog. The loss is tough to calculate as it depends on which book you made the plays on and what odds you were able to get down on, but it would have been in the range of about a six-unit loss on the week. For the season, this strategy was up just shy of 10 units. Currently, a blind bet of one unit on every underdog would be up around 4-5 units for the year. Nothing to get rich off of, but definitely still profitable to bet the underdogs outright. 

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NFL Totals

The cold weather definitely put a damper on some of the scoring upside late in the season, which is typical in the NFL. Also typical is another big week for those who bet the under. On the season, unders had been coming in around 54%, with about 45% of games playing to the over. At standard -110 juice, we would need to win about 52.5% of games to show a profit and that has been the way it was going for unders. Unders added 11 victories to just five games going over in Week 17. That pushed the seasonal averages up again, closer to 55% for unders and 44% for the overs. Not only was this another profitable week for unders, but we have reached the point where even if all 16 Week 18 games went to the over, this would have still been a profitable way to play games this season. The public loves to bet favorites and overs, which is why books tend to shade to that side on their numbers. Betting unders and underdogs is the sharp way to sports bet on the NFL and the numbers show that again this year. While it was a good season and profitable for under bettors, the profit margin was not great enough to justify doing it every week blindly. The big takeaway here should be that when in doubt, bet the under. If you like an over, double check and make sure you really like it as the numbers show that it is tougher to cash overs than most people think. 

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