NFL betting trends entering Wild Card Weekend


The NFL regular season came to a close this past weekend. You have to be careful when including final week results in any NFL data set, as the assumption that every team was trying to win their respective games does not hold up. We had a lot of action in the last week of the season, including a few crazy scenarios that played out and almost played out. Many of the teams did try to win and were competitive, but the two or three games that weren’t could throw off the data set. Will it drastically alter things? No, but when we are talking about using the data to make actionable bets off results, we want to ensure that everything is relevant before we put hard-earned dollars behind it. With that being said, let’s take a look at how things ended up in the 2021-2022 regular season and get some ideas about what the total picture looks like. 


Against-the-spread results

Favorites had been the better side in 10 of the 17 weeks played before last Saturday. Underdogs had won six and tied once. This week, underdogs won more games than favorites were even able to cover. We also had a handful of favorites that won but failed to cover. In total, only six favorites were able to cash tickets against-the-spread in Week 18. That means underdogs won 10 of 16 games ATS. It was the seventh time this season underdogs outpaced favorites, bringing the regular season tally to 10-7-1 for favorites on a weekly basis. It was a gain of over 3 units on the week for someone who flat bet 1 unit on the spread for every underdog. For the season, we still show a slight profit for flat betting favorites, but spread out over 18 weeks, your profit is a fraction of a unit per week. Hardly worth the trouble or the risk of just blindly betting every favorite, even though it did come out more often and would have had you up a couple units on the year. 

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Underdog report

We had 16 games in Week 18, and underdogs had a strong showing after a disastrous Week 17. Seven underdogs won outright in Week 18, including the Lions, Jaguars, Raiders, Steelers, 49ers, Seahawks and Dolphins. Not only did we have seven winners, but some of these teams had really long odds. The Jaguars and Lions are two of those teams, but even the Dolphins, Seahawks and 49ers paid nicely on the moneyline. This week we had a hefty profit by blind betting 1 unit on every underdog. The big-ticket wins made this close to a 10-unit win for the week, which pushed the seasonal total up into the mid teens. Gamblers have an old saying that you can never go broke betting dogs, and it held true in 2021. Not only would you have avoided going broke, you could have made just shy of a unit profit per week by blindly betting 1 unit on the moneyline of every underdog this season. People love betting favorites, and the books know this, which is why you can always find value and a better path to profits by betting on the dogs. 


NFL scoring report

The cold weather near the end of the season, mixed with injuries, and COVID-19 protocols led to scoring and totals being down in the back half of the year. That still did not change the trend, though. The unders were once again the more profitable side in Week 18. For the season, the numbers were stark. Blindly betting unders accounted for wins in just shy of 55% of the games played. Blindly betting overs was around 44%. At standard -110 juice, you would need to win about 52.5% of games to end up profitable. That means blindly betting unders created a small profit on the season, while betting overs led to a sizable loss. Much like the underdogs, books know the public prefers to bet overs and favorites, so you tend to get better payouts and/or more favorable numbers if you buck that trend and look to the downside. The edge was pretty significant here, and you can see the difference in profitability as well.

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