It’s hard for most football fans to get too excited about the Pro Bowl game, and harder still for a lot of bettors to really seriously pay attention. Many people would argue that the game doesn’t need to be played – that making the Pro Bowl should just be a ceremonial honor, and that we should all be spared from watching typically terrible football.I certainly can’t argue with that. I would likely never choose to watch the game, and I would rarely choose to bet on it, either. From time to time, though, there are exceptions – reasons to think seriously about putting a bet down on the worst football game of the year. Here are four of those potential reasons that football handicappers may find interesting:
Attrition on one side – Roster attrition is a fact of life in the Pro Bowl. It’s part of what makes the game so unwatchable. NFL players skip the game because they are playing in the Super Bowl, because they are injured, or just because they feel like getting a head start on their vacation. Typically the loss of players is spread reasonably evenly between the two sides. Sometimes, though, one team will lose far more players than the other. That could happen, for example, if the Super Bowl team from one conference was heavily represented in the Pro Bowl while the champion of the other conference had few Pro Bowlers. If one team has lost many more starters than their opponent then they are going to have to bring in many more alternates, and it is therefore possible that the caliber of their talent could be lower on average than the opponent. That could make for an attractive bet. On the other hand, it’s possible that the attrition has not actually hurt the talent level at all, but that the public will perceive that it has. That could lead to a situation where there is nice value in betting for the football team that has lost so many players.
Imbalance of motivation between teams – There are some Pro Bowl players that are likely to be more motivated heading into the game than others. Players who have never been there before are likely to be more excited and focused than players who regularly attend. Players who are coming right off a tough playoff loss would probably rather be anywhere but the game. Players playing for their coach or a coach they really respect could be more motivated than a player who is playing with someone new and unfamiliar. When you add it all up it is quite possible that one team will have what seems to be a strong edge in motivation factors. When that happens they could be worth a bet if the price seems to be fair.
Action is heavily skewed towards one team – There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in this football game – far more than in an other game. One team may have a talent edge on paper, but it is far from certain that that will translate to an actual edge on the field. Players are playing unfamiliar, simplified schemes with unfamiliar teammates against opponents that likely aren’t playing at full throttle. Because of all the uncertainty it is quite possible for either football team to win the game in any given year, and very difficult to get a really strong sense that one team has an overwhelming edge in the game. Sometimes, though, the betting action will be heavily tilted towards one team. Because of all the uncertainty involved it almost makes sense just on principle to bet on the less popular team in those circumstances. The line will likely be somewhat inflated thanks to the unbalanced action so you could be getting a reasonably attractive line for a game like this.
Prop bets that are attractive – There is only one area that I consistently take a close look at in the Pro Bowl – the prop bets. There obviously aren’t nearly as many prop bets offered as there are for the Super Bowl – not even close. There are still many to choose from, though. Sometimes the circumstances of the game can lead you to find a prop that is actually quite intriguing. One of the easiest places to find such a bet is in the player matchups. If two players are matched up and you feel like one will have a big edge in motivation, or in familiarity with teammates and coaches, then you could find a bet that actually makes a lot of sense. If nothing else, the prop bets are a little easier to handicap than the side or total in this case because there are far fewer unknowns and uncertainties to factor in. Smart football handicappers should make note of this.