Every year in the NFL there are a few football teams that are lucky enough to go through a stretch in which it seems like they have forgotten how to lose. These teams on long winning streaks can present a real challenge for handicappers. The public loves a winner, so they will jump on the bandwagon of these football teams and make it very hard for the professional sports bettor to find any value betting on them as a result. When you are considering these teams, then, you have to be really confident that they can keep winning before you consider backing them. Here are five key questions to ask in NFL handicapping when considering whether a team on a big winning streak can continue their winning ways:
Why have they been winning? – This is by far the most important factor to consider. It’s also the widest ranging one. It can be easy to get seduced by a football team that is piling up the wins, and a winning streak always makes a team look impressive It is crucial for any successful handicapper, though, that they understand why the streak is happening and whether it really is as impressive as it might look. The public will assume when a NFL team wins several games in a row that they are playing dominant football on both sides of the ball. That may or may not actually be the case. It could be that they have won because they have played a particularly soft portion of their schedule, or that the teams that they have faced have presented very favorable matchup situations that they have been able to exploit? In short, have they won because they have played exceptionally well, or have other circumstances contributed to their success? The more you can determine that there is a reason beyond just great play that has led to the streak, the better the chance that you can find great value down the line because the betting public just won’t be looking for reasons not to believe in the streak. As a sports bettor this can make you a winner.
Who do they play next? – I don’t particularly believe in momentum when it comes to the NFL – the games are too far apart and the sport is so complex. Because of that, when I am evaluating football teams in a win streak I am far more interested in most cases in who a team is playing next than I am in what they have done in the past. Do they have good matchups with their opponent? Does their style of play with and without the ball offer them an edge, or are they going to have to work hard to not be outplayed? How have they done against the opponent in the past? How does their talent compare? When you have a winning streak to deal with it can be far too easy to get carried away by that streak. Ultimately, the team is just doing what they have done the last several weeks – getting ready to play a football game that starts out 0-0.
Are they healthy? – It doesn’t matter how well they have been playing in the past if they don’t have their best players on the football field now. Sometimes a long winning streak can take a lot out of players, and that can lead to injuries. If the core of the team getting ready for the next game differs significantly from the core of the team we saw when the streak began then it just isn’t reasonable to assume that they will play the same now as they did back then. You need to look beyond just the big name stars here, too. As smart NFL handicappers know, sometimes the players that have the biggest impact on a NFL team when they are hurt are those who are so competent and effective that you barely notice them on the field when they are there.
What’s their motivation? – In some circumstances the winning streak isn’t going to be the most important thing for a team. Later in the season, for example, they might be more interested in resting their players to get ready for the playoffs than they will be in getting another win that isn’t entirely significant for them. They might not get up for a game against a divisional rival if they are already secure in their place in the standings. Before you assume that the winning streak will be a huge motivation make sure that there isn’t a bigger motivation looming.
What is the public doing? – Because the betting public is so heavily drawn to favorites – especially favorites that have impressive records and dominant streaks – you need to be particularly aware of their influence on lines and what that means to you. If a high profile football team has gone on a big winning streak then you can be certain that the public will enthusiastically support them. The oddsmakers know this, so they will likely set the lines higher than they might otherwise, and it is quite possible that the public will bet them even higher. Value on that favorite could be very tough to find, while it could be particularly attractive to bet on the underdog if you have reason to like them anyway. On the other hand, if a team is winning several games in a row but they are a low profile team that doesn’t have big star players then the public may not pay nearly as much attention to the team, and it might not be as hard to find value on them if you like them. Look for beneficial point spreads and moneylines when this is the case.