Week 17 in the NFL can be a very tough week to bet. There are several different types of games that can be played, and each one is very different. The most exciting, and the easiest to decode from a motivation perspective, is when two teams are playing to determine their playoff fates. A win and your in game usually ensures both teams will go to any length to win. You can have a game in which one team is trying to win to make the playoffs while the other is eliminated from playoff contention or already in and resting starers. You can have a game in which one team is trying to improve their playoff positioning while the other has nothing to play for. The worst possible kind of game is when both NFL teams have nothing to play for – either both are resting starters to stay healthy for the playoffs, or both are just killing time waiting for the horrible season to end.
With so many different types of games it is easier for sports bettors to make mistakes betting on the last week of regular season action than it is at any other time of the season. Here are six of the biggest mistakes that people make. Avoiding these will be very good for your football betting bankroll:
Ignoring resting players – Casual sports bettors will look at the names on the front of the jerseys and what the teams have done up to this point in the season in handicapping these games, and will ignore the fact that many teams will field totally different squads than the ones that got them here. If a team has their playoff position secured than many will choose to not risk hurting key players in a meaningless game and will play a lot of second stringers and alternate starters. That isn’t always a bad thing, but it is something that certainly needs to be carefully considered by NFL bettors so you can be sure you are still making a bet that makes sense.
Assuming the worst when players are rested – Some people will go to the opposite extreme – automatically and enthusiastically betting against any team that is resting players. That’s not always a good idea. Sometimes a team has competent backups that are more than capable, and a system that allows backups to thrive. Other times NFL teams will choose to only play some backups while still playing other starters. If a very good team resting starters is playing a poor team dealing with injuries then the resting players may not matter because they will still be the better team. It is a lazy approach to make assumptions in your sports betting, and it can be especially dangerous in a situation like this.
Assuming a lack of motivation for eliminated teams – Casual football bettors will often assume that a team that is eliminated from playoff competition will want nothing more than for the season to end, and won’t put forth a strong effort in week 17 as a result. That’s not always the case. Players could be playing hard to improve their contract status. Teams could be playing hard to save the job of a coach, or they could be motivated to play for pride and finish out strong. If you assume that every eliminated team will be flat you’ll be wrong as often as you are right.
Assuming teams won’t play for departing coach – By the last week of the season there are usually several NFL coaches who are all but certain to be fired as soon as the season ends. Casual bettors will mistakenly assume that their teams are likely to play poorly because of the lame duck status of the coach. That’s not always the case. The players could be motivated by a number of factors – trying to save the job of the popular coach, playing hard to thank a popular coach, playing to impress the new coach and secure a job next year, or just playing for their own pride.
Assuming teams will be motivated to move up – Each year in week 17 there will be a few teams that have already made the playoffs but which have a chance to move up in the standings with a win. Perhaps they could earn a first round bye, or could host a first round playoff game, for example. Casual bettors will assume that teams will play their hardest in pursuit of these gains, but that isn’t always true. If there is a decent chance that they could win and still not gain – if other teams also need to lose in order for them to gain – then they may not feel that it is worth full effort because the risk of injury doesn’t outweigh the potential reward. Or maybe the team won’t be particularly motivated by the chance of improving their standing because they are comfortable with where they are – like if they will be playing on the road in a building they know well and have succeeded in, for example.
Betting too much on uncertainty – The defining characteristic of week 17 in the NFL is uncertainty. You can’t be sure in many cases of who will be playing for a team, or how hard they will be playing. It can be hard enough in the best of circumstances to pick winners in the NFL. When there is so much uncertainty, and so many more unknown factors to be calculated and balanced than usual, it can be harder to find value and to identify bets that offer enough of an edge to make sense. When things are too uncertain smart football bettors know that often times money is best served by staying in your pocket because the risks of betting just aren’t worth it. If there are too many questions in a game you are much better off waiting for a week until the playoffs start and motivation and starting rosters are much easier to determine accurately. Smart sports handicappers know this is the thing to do.