Stay the Course: Overreacting Will Lose You Money

Blackjack is not the most fun game at a casino. In fact, if you know the right way to play, it is actually formulaic. There are never any actual choices to make, instead you just apply the rules, hope you get good cards, and recognize that by playing correctly you have the greatest chance of success. Football bettors often struggle with staying the course. What you think about a team before the season should not be dismissed after one or two games.

Blackjack is not the most fun game at a casino. In fact, if you know the right way to play, it is actually formulaic. There are never any actual choices to make, instead you just apply the rules, hope you get good cards, and recognize that by playing correctly you have the greatest chance of success. Football bettors often struggle with staying the course. What you think about a team before the season should not be dismissed after one or two games.

Sportsbooks flourish by playing to the emotions of gamblers. Because the Bears lost to Buffalo at home in week one suddenly they were a full touchdown underdog at San Francisco in week two. After beating the Niners, they opened as a pick’em on Monday Night against the Jets before professional gamblers jumped on New York.

In reality, Chicago is not as bad as they looked against the Bills, not as good as they played in the second half against San Francisco, and in no way a less than a three point dog against the Jets. However, all the public remembers is the Colin Kaepernick aided comeback on national television. Is it realistic to think the Bears are going to force four turnovers on Monday? Didn’t the Jets nearly beat Green Bay on the road and now are playing an inferior team from the same division at home? The Bears were 4-10-2 against the spread last year. The Jets finished 9-6-1.

Perceptions are especially critical to the betting line when teams are a little below the radar. Public teams with huge fan bases like Dallas, Pittsburgh, and New England are always going to command an extra half a point or so because sportsbooks know they’ll attract money. However, teams like Tennessee, Houston, Kansas City, San Diego, and St. Louis are very prone to being overlooked or overvalued based on a resent result or piece of news.

The Titans entered the season coming off of a 7-9 campaign, made a positive coaching change, and were a cash cow on the road going 5-2-1 against the spread in 2013. They were big underdogs against Kansas City in the opener and won outright. Those who watched Tennessee last year figured that they would play well against a Chiefs team that had a good record last season thanks to the easiest schedule in recent NFL history. However, after the Titans beat KC, they were suddenly “good.” Tennessee was a big favorite at home over the Cowboys in week two despite the NFC being better than the AFC, Dallas having a better record than Tennessee last year, and the Titans 1-4-3 mark at home against the spread in 2013. Because Dallas had lost to San Francisco in a game that was ugly early, they were “bad.” So bad that they won as a heavy dog the following week.

The Rams are another team the public can’t seem to gauge. There aren’t a slew of people in Charlotte, Indianapolis, Boston, Seattle or Minneapolis demanding that restaurants and bars turn on Rams games. That means people are making assumptions based on highlights and final scores. Sam Bradford got hurt. Sam Bradford isn’t that good. The Rams got steamrolled at home by the Vikings in week one. Neither of those factors mean Tampa Bay should have been a sizable favorite over St. Louis in week two. The Bucs won four games last year, and were 2-6 against the spread at home. The Rams play in the most difficult division in football and finished 7-9 in 2013. Isn’t it reasonable that a backup quarterback would be improved during his second game against a weaker opponent? So why was St. Louis such a big underdog?

Don’t have tunnel vision when you bet. Think about trends that last months not weeks or days. Don’t let perceptions of certain teams being good or bad overshadow actualities. Since the start of the 2011 season the less-than-sexy Cincinnati Bengals are 29-17-4 against the spread.