No one is as awful as they look when they’re running bad and no one is as brilliant as they look when they’re running good. It works for actual team performance, and it works for sports betting.
(It just doesn’t work for Gang Green, who will never have nice things because God clearly hates the Jets.)
Week 2 is when the betting public tends to overreact to everything they saw in Week 1. The narratives are forming and the public is lining up to bet those narratives. But here’s a couple of words of caution so you don’t fall in the same trap.
Sample Size, Sample Size, Sample Size
Let’s take the case of the Giants. The Cowboys absolutely pantsed Big Blue on Sunday Night Football. (Maybe it’s not just the Jets who are cursed. Maybe it’s the whole Meadowlands.)
It’s natural to look at that beatdown and conclude New York is awful and the Cowboys are a juggernaut. We have a couple of data points (among them, “40” and “0”) that tell an unusual story.
The human brain instinctively looks for patterns based on that data. But what less instinctive is understanding sample size.
Right now we’ve got a sample size of one week. It’s not enough to build an accurate sense of what’s going on this year. The Monday Night Football overtime coin toss came up heads. You wouldn’t assume from that that every OT toss will land heads just from that. (Especially not when tails never fails.)
The Two Types of Overreaction
There are two directions that people tend to overreact in these situations. They both rely on the “availability heuristic.” Which is a type of cognitive bias that uses events that are more easily recalled to form judgements about the likelihood of future events.
In the positive direction it can look like confirmation bias or hindsight bias: something expected happened, therefore it will continue to happen. (“I expected the Cowboys to crush the Giants, therefore other teams will continue to crush the Giants.”)
On the opposite side, it’s when something unexpected happens, so you expect it to continue to happen again. (“I expected the Vikings to roll the Bucs and they lost, therefore the Vikings are terrible.”)
Trust An Efficient Market
The “efficient market hypothesis” is the theory that over time, all available information will be incorporated to shape the true price of an item. It’s true for sports betting, too. Especially in extremely liquid markets like the NFL.
Sports betting markets are shaped by respected action from sharp bettors. If a known sharp player makes a big bet on the Cardinals, sportsbooks would reasonably be expected to move the line Arizona’s way.
In our example with the Giants, we can see that a sharp sportsbook opened the Giants at -4, and today they’re at -5.5. Sharp action widened the spread.
If your theory after Sunday Night Football was that the Giants were awful, you have evidence here that the market doesn’t agree with you. If it did, that line should have tightened up to -3.5 or -3.
This is part and parcel of what’s called top-down betting, and it means you might need to rethink your theory. The market may have already priced in your idea. That means there’s no edge on it for you to bet.
It’s the same idea that says if you knew Patrick Mahomes wasn’t going to play on Sunday, you would have a huge edge on betting Jacksonville +3. But if everyone found out that Mahomes was unavailable, the number would quickly move and any edge on the Jags would dry up.
The key is knowing what the line should be. There are different ways to go about it but one of the most common is to use power ratings. Unabated has several projection sets and power ratings available, including the Massey-Peabody ratings developed in part by pro bettor and Unabated co-founder Rufus Peabody.
This way you can be prepared for when lines move and a juicy opportunity opens up. You won’t be caught up in narratives when everyone else is. It’s incidental, but sometimes the narrative lines up the market. Like for anyone who took the Cowboys early at -3, knowing full well the Jets are cursed.
For more football betting strategies, check out Unabated’s educational articles including 10 Ways to Win with Unabated, and 10 More Ways to Win with Unabated.