Most people prefer Christmas to all other holidays but for me the unequivocal best holiday is the month-long joyride, commonly known as the NFL playoff that happens right after the holiday season every January.
You might read that sentence and ask, how can the playoffs even be considered a holiday? The answer is simple: it’s a gambling man’s feast and celebration of the past year in football.
We’ve been watching all year to prepare ourselves for this moment and to determine if our opinions/analysis are worth anything at all.
If you enjoy sports betting, then January is the month for you. Despite a neck-and-neck rivalry with March Madness, the NFL playoffs is the best gambling event out there, and is a stretch that all men should enjoy and try to profit of off.
With that said, like with any form of gambling, there are good bets to be made and there are bad bets that will destroy lives, relationships and, most of all, wallets.
It’s hard to predict who will win or lose, but here are 12 rules that can serve as a general guideline to all gamblers, regardless of experience level:
Never Bet on Your Own Team
The Golden Rule of gambling. Don’t try to defy it because it will spite you with a wrath that you didn’t even know existed.
Avoid all bets – even props — involving your favorite team. Because of your love for the organization and its players, you won’t be able to make any sort of “smart” bet.
Bias can make even the wisest man blind; remember that before placing your wagers.
Bet Against Any Controversy
I’ve been looking forward to this possibility for months now and the NFL has granted my wish: the Baltimore Ravens have made the playoffs, somehow. What this means is its time to unload the back account on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ moneyline, sit back and reap in the profit.
Why is this wager such a worthwhile bet you may wonder? Because the odds are always in your favor when you’re betting against controversy, and the Ravens have been drowning in negative PR for the last four months following the Ray Rice debacle.
Now, I’m not saying the game is rigged or anything, but think about it like this: it benefits nobody — the league, the owner, the fans, etc — if the Ravens advance any further. They will lose eventually, if only because the rules of karma say so.
Plus, they have a god awful secondary, which doesn’t help going up against the like of Big Ben, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
If it doesn’t hit this weekend, then double down next weekend on whoever’s playing the Ravens. You’ll get you’re money back, I guarantee it.
Note: it might be worthwhile to “tease” the Steelers and Cowboys spreads this week. Dallas has a similar edge on Detroit heading into this weekend following the Ndamukong Suh stomp fest at Lambeau Field last week.
Don’t Pay Attention to the Past
The talking heads are paid to talk and highlight obvious shit — like the fact Matt Stafford is 0-16 on the road against winning teams and Andy Dalton is 0-3 in the postseason.
Guess how much that means? Nada.
Why? Because Any Given Sunday, that’s why.
In all seriousness though, Stafford and Dalton could easily erase their respective woes Sunday and you’ll be kicking yourself for betting on history.
Whatever happened may have happened — and usually it does indicate what will happen, but that logic fails to comprehend chance and chaos.
A lot of crazy shit can happen on a football field (see: last year’s Colts-Chiefs game) and that’s why it’s not wise to tether your money to what’s happened in past years.
If you’re going to parlay, keep it to three teams or less
Trust me, I went to Vegas last year for the divisional round and did a four-team money line parlay on all the home teams to win straight up — Seattle, New England, Carolina and Denver.
It was a great bet until a much better San Francisco team narrowly escaped the Panthers Sunday that morning.
Now, I mention this because I was advised to stay away from Carolina by a more seasoned bettor who I met when I first got into the city. I was told to avoid the Panthers not because it was Cam Newton’s first playoff game or because the 49ers were the better team; rather, as the man told me, “having four teams complicate things.”
I didn’t pay it much attention to him (obviously) and dismissed it as just more white noise. However, if I had had my ears open, I would have been able to scratch Carolina from the card and walked away with enough money to break even for the weekend, which of course I didn’t because it’s Vegas.
The lesson: keep it simple, not messy when entering a parlay.
Ignore the “hot team” syndrome
The experts always love to dick ride the hot team, especially after the Giants won in 2007.
This year’s “hot team” is obviously Pittsburgh. While they might make for a great bet this weekend and perhaps next (versus Denver, if they win), don’t push it and bet the Super Bowl odds.
Why? Because everybody else is grabbing the odds and falling in love with the Steelers.
Follow logic, not odds, when betting a Super Bowl winner
Line movement should always be studied on any bet — long or short term; however, I’m a big proponent of not over thinking it when it comes to shit like who’s going to win the Super Bowl or who’s going to win the NCAA tourney.
For every Giants or UConn title run, there are a dozen champions like the Seahawks or Kentucky who are just simply better.
If you feel the Pats are legitimately the best team in football, then place a bet on their odds even if they’re not great.
Wouldn’t you rather win some money than none? Chasing the title long shot only hits once every couple of years. And although the NFL is coming off a year where two regular season conference champions met in the Super Bowl, I don’t think this the year to bet on ridiculous odds.
Don’t get over excited one way or the other about a key injury
It’s funny how Suh’s appeal has already swung the Lions line a point and a half. Expect the same to happen if Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell is given the green light before the weekend starts.
As I mentioned above, pay attention to line movement in games when a star player is OK’d to play or scratched at the last second.
More importantly though, don’t let that be the defining reason why you’re betting that team.
For example, with Suh, you should have known whether or not you liked the Lions before he won his appeal. It’s great that he’s playing now, but he’s one of 53 men on the roster. He will impact the game, but you should have confidence in his team’s ability to win — or cover — without him.
Bet against shaky quarterbacks
Don’t lay money on Ryan Lindley or Andy Dalton this weekend. Be careful with Joe Flacco and Matt Stafford.
Yes, most gamblers are thinking the same thing but it’s sound logic because the odds are really not in your favor with any of those four names, especially with all four playing on the road.
Take at least one road team per weekend
Remember that Carolina bet I mentioned? Betting all home teams can be dangerous because it’s the playoffs and home field doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think it does.
You’re always much better off submitting individual bets than parlaying this time of the year so make sure to place at least one wager on the spread or money line of a team that’s playing on the road.
Personally, I think Cincinnati is the safest road team this week for a variety of reasons: Colts have no confidence after the Dallas shellacking, Dalton’s postseason experience has to mean something at this point and the Bengals can run the ball and the Colts can’t.
That reminds me of an essential rule…
Fade public players
It doesn’t seem like it makes much sense to bet on Andy Dalton over Andrew Luck in terms of skill, but in terms of gambling the names are more important than the skill set.
The betting public will always side with Luck in this head to head matchup without giving it much thought, which gives you a perfect opportunity to fade the public play and side with the bookie.
Remember, the books have to make a profit at the end of the day: they exist strictly because of matchups like this.
The other one would be the Panthers-Cardinals with Newton playing Lindley (or a banged up Drew Stanton) but that one’s truly a stay away as you don’t really want to end up with cash on a third string QB who just threw his first career touchdown pass last week.
Bet on coaches
In that matchup in particular, I do think the Cardinals have an edge in coaching over Carolina. Is it enough to swing my money to their side? Most likely not — the QB thing is just too scary. But, normally, it would be a good option to bankroll the better coach, especially with money coming in against him.
A prime example of this happened earlier in the season when the Broncos and Patriots played. Sure, John Fox beat Bill Belichick in last year’s AFC title game, but other than that he’s winless against him. Yet bettors still backed Fox over Belichick and got slammed because of it.
Of all the rules here, this one is the most difficult to follow and pick up on it but use this postseason as a practice round of sorts and see if you can add it to your arsenal next season.
The other three matchups this weekend don’t have a similar coaching mismatch but I would love to bet on Mike Tomlin against Fox in the Divisional Round, if possible, as well as Pete Carroll over Ron Rivera.
Bet evenly across the board
Unless there’s a game you think is blatantly obvious compared to the rest – for me, it’s Bengals over Colts this week — don’t bet too heavy one way or the other. Keep your bets even and you’ll be a lot happier when you win or lose.
Yes, it sort of lowers the stakes a bit but not really. If you have $50 on each game this postseason and you go 8-3 then you’ve won some good money.
If you went the other way with this advice and bet $90 on one and $10 on another and the $10 bet hit and the $90 lost, you’d probably be really pissed at yourself.
Like any athlete, you want to keep your emotions in check and build confidence gradually. The best way to achieve this is to hit one $50 bet at a time and keep checking them off the list.
It’s every man’s dream to have a perfect 11-0 through the NFL playoffs.