As the NFL season winds down every year there are always a few coaches that are all but certain to get fired once the football season ends. The media knows it, the fans know it, and the players definitely know it. These lame duck coaches have presided over a NFL season that was disappointing, and it has cost them their jobs. For handicappers these situations create a particular challenge. They can’t just assume that the team will quit on the coach because that isn’t always the case, but they can’t treat it like nothing has changed for the football team, either. If you can accurately read the situation then you may be able to find some nice value in the NFL betting lines. If you get it wrong, though, then it could be costly. Here are six factors to consider when determining how to deal with and bet on NFL teams with lame duck coaches.
How long has the coach been a lame duck? – The firing of a coach in the NFL rarely comes as a total surprise, so quite often it has been known for at least a week or two before the last game of the season is played that the coach is doomed. When that is the case you can learn a lot bout how a team might respond by how they have played previously when there has been uncertainty surrounding the future of the coach. If they have responded well and played with a solid effort then it could be reasonable to assume that they could do the same again. If they played poorly before, though, then they may even play worse now that the inevitable end is near.
How popular is the coach? – You can never know for sure how popular a football coach really is unless you are in the locker room. You can get a reasonable sense, though, by piecing together some clues. How are the players responding to the end of his time with the team in the media? Were free agents happy to come play for him? Did players talk highly of him? Did players that had played for him elsewhere come to play for him now? The more popular a coach is with the players, the more likely that the team will be motivated to play hard for him despite his departure out of respect for him. On the other hand, a struggling team combined with an unpopular, doomed coach is all but certain to finish with a whimper and sports bettors should adjust their NFL football picks accordingly.
Is the likely replacement known? – In some cases it is obvious who the next coach of a team is likely to be – or at least strong rumors are floating around. Players are motivated by themselves and their futures more than anything else, so if the next coach is known then the players could be motivated to perform well to impress him. The more uncertain the future coaching path is, the less of a motivation it could potentially be for players.
What is the contract status of key players? – If star players have expiring contracts then they could be motivated to play hard regardless of who the coach is because they want to maximize their next contract. On the other hand, if a key football player is early in a long, generous contract then he might not be particularly motivated to play hard when the ship is sinking since they know that they will be secure in their jobs no matter what happens. They’ll have no incentive to work hard and that can affect how you wager.
Has the core of the team gone through a change before? – If the football team has never gone through uncertainty surrounding their coach before then they could be overwhelmed by all that comes with it. Some NFL teams have the misfortune of going through coaches with regularity, though, so the core of the team will know what is involved and what pressures they are going to face. Teams usually deal with things better if they have been through them before, so it could be easier to trust the effort of a team with experience then one with none.
How is the public reacting? – The reaction of the betting public is always a very important in football handicapping, and that is the case here as well. If the public has a negative impression of a coach then they are likely to bet against the team with enthusiasm – perhaps too much enthusiasm. If the team and the coach have been particularly popular in the eyes of the public, though, then the public could easily underestimate the impact of the coaching situation, and there could be value for NFL handicappers in betting against the team.