Betting the Championship Games: Follow History or Stats?

Are you more of a history buff or analytics person? Whether it be a debate over what players should win an MVP award, or gain acceptance to the Hall of Fame, or how to bet on sporting events, you must be straight forward, honest, and consistent with your method in order to succeed. You won’t be right every time, but having a system you believe in makes it easy to digest information and form a strategic decision on what makes for a good bet and what should be passed up.

This week’s NFL Championship Games provide an interesting debate on how we look at football.

In the NFC, the Packers are a touchdown underdog in Seattle and the over/under is 46.5. It is a fact that the NFC Title Game has been decided by seven points or fewer in seven straight seasons. In three of the last four, the total has been 40 or less.

Looking at the Green Bay and Seattle rivalry, there is no one trend to depend on. Seattle won at home in September, 36-16. In 2012, Green Bay fell in Seattle, 14-12 (but, in reality, were robbed by the replacement officials). The Packers romped at Lambeau Field, 48-10, in 2009, and Green Bay swept the Seahawks, 27-17 and 42-20, in 2008.

The Packers are a solid offensive team, both running and passing, with an elite (though hobbled) quarterback. On defense, Green Bay is good against the pass and mediocre stopping the run. The Seahawks, on the other hand, are the best team in the league at running the ball and defending the pass, and they’re top-three at stopping the run. Seattle frequently struggles in the passing game, though.

If you take all of that information, whether you prefer historic data or this year’s stats, you likely do not arrive at a strong opinion. Seattle appears better, and the spread indicates that. Forecasting the total is difficult with information that contradicts itself. That isn’t the case in the AFC.

New England is a 6.5-point home favorite over Indianapolis with an over/under of 53.5 in the AFC Championship Game. Only two of the last seven AFC title games have been decided by nine points or fewer. None of the past seven games have had a total above 47.

In contrast to title game trends, the Colts and Patriots have consistently played high scoring games. New England won at Indianapolis, 42-20, in November. During last year’s playoffs, the Colts fell at Gillette Stadium, 43-22. Each of the teams’ last six matchups have had at least 55 points with the average total of 65.5. The Pats have won five straight against Indy with an average margin of 17.8 points.

The Colts are completely one-dimensional. They have a great passing game and a group of running backs that contribute in the air more than they do on the ground. Their passing defense is slightly above average while their run defense is passable (but a touch below the league norm). The Patriots pass effectively and run the ball just enough to keep defenses honest. They do a solid job defending the run and are average against the pass.

You don’t have to chose between history and stats when Indy travels to New England. History says it will be a lower scoring lopsided game. Recent numbers between the teams, and the way the franchises are built, indicate a decisive New England victory in a much higher scoring affair. There is agreement on the winner and the margin. Ride the Patriots to the bank.

(Photo credit: Jack Newton (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdn/10556799426/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)

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