Playoffs NFL

NFL playoffs

If you want to bet on the NFL, it might help if you split the season into three distinct sections; the pre-season, the regular season and the post-season or playoffs. You might add a fourth 'mini' section - the Super Bowl itself - as this is sometimes played differently to any other game.

'Why' you might ask. Well the quick answer is, 'motivations'.

I always believe that the motivations for teams are different during each stage of the football season. Although this article is primarily concerned with the NFL playoffs (post-season) I'll quickly run through these motivations for the pre-season and regular season as well.

Pre-Season: At this stage the teams are 'warming up' for the regular season. Some players may be coming back from injury, most teams will be blooding new players, coaches will be trying different plays and formations, new coaches may be more motivated to win and impress than old coaches.. So the teams and players are generally 'easing in', although some teams may want to put on a show against teams that humiliated them the previous season, so watch out for 'revenge' scenarios. All these factors should have a bearing on when and on which team you place your NFL bets.

Regular Season: During the regular season, NFL really gets going. Ultimately every franchise has one thing on their minds. Super Bowl. The first objective, however, is to win games and make the playoffs. At this stage of the season the teams are all 'trying' and you will be looking at statistics, subjective and objective factors, travel and road games, injuries and so on. But there will come a time in the season when some teams have more to play for than others. Some teams will have made the playoffs, other teams will still have a chance of making the playoffs, but the majority of teams will know that their chance has gone. These latter motivations are crucial but you still need to do your homework - just because a team has 'nothing to play for' does not mean they won't destroy another more motivated side, if they still have some kind of point to prove.

Post Season: So you have arrived at the playoffs but what do you look for now?

Forget Regular Season Games.
The first thing to do is forget about the regular season. Think of the post-season as a mini-season within itself. Don't concern yourself too much with the pre-season Super Bowl favourites (if indeed they are still in the tournament!) or big reputations. Bet what you 'see'.

Momentum is Key.
Which teams are playing well going into the playoffs? Also look at which teams have been losing and why they have been losing - quite often teams that have made the playoffs will put out weakened sides in the last few regular season games to preserve their key players for the important games ahead.

Beware of Statistics.
Be careful of reading too much into statistics. Recent Super Bowl winners (New Orleans Saints 2010) beat a stat on the way to their first Lombardi trophy, in that no team had ever got to the Super Bowl after losing the last three games of the regular season. Not only did they get to the Super Bowl, they won it.

Some pundits read a lot into this statistic when it really meant very little. To begin with it takes a lot to win the Super Bowl anyway - 12 teams make it to the playoffs. Also, many of the teams historically who lost the last three games of the season, may have in any case been weaker teams or outsiders. Finally, consider that there may have been years when none of the teams entering the playoffs lost their last three games - so how big a sample are we talking about ?

The New Orleans Saints blew the stat apart. They were a good team (one of the favourites) and might well have been preserving some key members of their side - I don't recall - but the lesson with statistics is to make sure that they are meaningful and make sure that you have a good sized sample.

Home Field Advantage.
Home advantage is a huge boost to the home team, especially if you have a 'sunshine' team like the 49'ers, Tampa, or Miami having to make the trek to a snow covered field.

Rookie Quarterbacks.
Watch out for inexperienced players in playoffs, especially quarterbacks, the pressure can get to anyone but it is more likely to affect rookies (no I don't have any stats! Just instinct).

Be Wary of Betting Favourites.
The playoffs are such passionate affairs that often the form-book goes out of the window. I am very rarely, if ever, on the favourite going into the Superbowl. Look to the underdog, in the first instance, for value.

It isn't always about the 'best' players in the nfl playoffs. It is often about who can 'settle' the team, be it the quarterback, another influential player or the coach.

There is a lot more you could add to the list for betting the NFL playoffs but this at least should give you a solid foundation from which to start.

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