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Taking Advantage

of Late Season

Motivational Factors

in the NFL 

As the NFL regular season winds down, teams have different motivations based on their standings. If you disregard this situational factor, you risk betting on a “trap” game. Which teams are the most likely to underachieve? The obvious answer is the team that has already qualified for the playoffs and benefits little from a win.  

One clear example of this is the Chicago Bears. At 12-2, they’ve not only won their division, but have also secured home field advantage for the duration of the playoffs. A coach’s main goal is to enter the playoffs in the strongest condition possible. This often means that “banged up” players will rest and key starters may play only two quarters or less.  

However, remember that the line already reflects this factor – the Bears (12-2) are only 4˝ point favorites over the Lions (2-12) at Pinnacle Sportsbook. Estimating the line using traditional power rankings (like Sagarin ratings), you would expect the Bears to be favored by about 20 points. The difference – in this case, about 16 points – is how much worse Chicago will play by bringing its “B-game” to Ford Field.  

While the Bears situation is an obvious time to deflate a line, there are less obvious instances, especially in the last week of the season. While there’s a strong incentive to finish in the top two of a conference (to earn a first round bye in the playoffs), there is almost no difference between the #3 and #4 seeds, and between the #5 and #6 seeds. Each pair of seeds must play the same number of games to advance to the Super Bowl, and will almost certainly play the same amount of home games to get there. If a team’s winning or losing will not move them out of such a pairing, (e.g. the team will finish at #3 or #4 regardless of how it finishes), this is also a good time to deflate the line. 

The last week of the season often has unique opportunities. When analyzing the various playoff scenarios, look for situations where a team playing late has its game become meaningless IF a certain result occurs in the early games. This provides a rare opportunity to bet on “The Holy Grail” of sports betting – the correlated parlay.  

For example: Team A plays late, team B plays early. Team A advances as a wild card if B loses, or if A wins. If both occur, Team A still gets a wild card. In this example, team A’s late game becomes meaningless if B loses. When a game becomes meaningless, the game line for the team that advanced will often crash at Pinnacle Sportsbetting. Some sports books will take these games off the board during the first game because the spread on the late game can change dramatically based on what happens early. 

To best exploit this, make the correlated parlay: Team B to lose (moneyline), parlayed with Team A to lose (spread or ML). Be sure to do this before game day though, in case some of these correlated games are taken off the board.

 

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