Playoff football is here and, man, does it feel good. Playoff football and especially playoff betting is a different animal, much like how college finals week is far more different than the rest of the semester. With no classes, students have far more time to study for each final. Similarly, with far fewer games, bookmakers have considerably more time to focus on each game and set a tough spread to pick.
Teams are also more evenly matched and no team is sitting starters or looking ahead to next week. Combining the lack of motivational disparities with more even matchups and more focused bookmakers presents real challenges to the common bettor. It will be hard to find that attractive blonde bombshell of a spread that you know is a sure thing; you may need to spend more time, dig deeper and find that value pick with the great personality.
Since playoff betting is a different challenge, here are four tips for the everyday football bettor.
1. Stick with your game plan
Playoff football is exciting, but it’s important to not get too excited, which is a good general rule for all college students. If you bet three or four games in a 16-game week, you need to resist the urge to bet the same amount of games in a four-game week. Betting a game just to bet a game is not an ideal strategy. Continue to be selective.
2. Never love home-field or favorites at first sight
Falling blindly in love with the home playoff team or the favorite is a common fallacy among young bettors and can bring back ghosts of girlfriends past. Over the last four Wild-card weekends, the home team was only 9-7 against the spread (ATS), and favorites only covered 50 percent of the time. Playoff betting requires you to do your homework and examine each game independently.
3. Road favorites are favorites for a reason
Vegas knows the importance of home-field and the difficulty of winning road playoff games. So if a road team is favored, it is because they are a much better team. Don’t be afraid to pick the road team. Pittsburgh is favored because they are a much better team. New Orleans will be favored in San Francisco because they are a much better team. Take the better team and quarterback. They win in the playoffs more often than not.
4. Don’t be afraid of the tease
Since playoff spreads tend to be smaller than in the regular season, you may have trouble finding a game you feel comfortable betting. In this case, use a teaser where you risk more than usual, but you get to add points on the side you wish. For example, a Bengals (+16), Saints (+2.5), Giants (+10) or Steelers (+4) teaser may be intriguing for many bettors.
Texans (-3) vs. Bengals
The Bengals are a great story, but the Texans’ dominant defense will give rookie Dalton real trouble, and Jonathon Joseph held A.J Green to under 60 yards in their last meeting. Texans ride the run game to win and cover.
Lions (+10.5) @ Saints
The Saints are 8-0 ATS in the Superdome this year. That’s Dolph Lundgrenin Rocky IV-esque dominance. But they are giving a lot of points, and Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are kings of garbage time. I expect Saints to dominate, but Lions to score late and cover.
Giants (-3) vs. Falcons
Matt Ryan and the Falcons are very mediocre on the road. Victor “Take me on a” Cruz is making a habit of transforming seven-yard gains into game-changing touchdowns. Take the superior quarterback and pass rush.
Steelers (+9) vs. Broncos
Tim Tebow’s play of late is even testing God’s faith. With teams keeping him in the pocket and tightening their coverage, Tebow has looked as slow as ever, both in his throwing motion and running. Look for Pittsburgh to spread out the Broncos and get out to a big lead that even Tebow cannot overcome.