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How High Expectations Kill Value

NFL Betting: How High Expectations Kill Betting Value

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

When betting on NFL football, we have to relate things specifically to the element of wagering. High expectations aren’t so bad in the general scheme of things. Something good had to happen for expectations to be high in the first place, so that’s promising. We just need to look at how high expectations can be poison to a team from an against-the-spread standpoint.

The best time to bet on a team a lot is before the expectations are high. That’s when you’re able to see the writing on the wall before everyone else does. By the time the expectations are high, that team is public property--everyone knows about it. That team may very well be good and have a promising future. At the betting window, however, the value might not be what we’re looking for.

These are just some things to look for when formulating your bets. Unfortunately, with NFL wagering, there are no guidelines or maps to the future. Teams with high expectations are going to win games and cover spreads. This is certainly not meant as an invitation to blindly fade teams with big hopes all season long. These are just signs to look for that might indicate you are not betting with the best value.

Teams coming off big seasons are obviously going to have big expectations. For good reason. They were good and should be good again in the upcoming season. It’s just that a lot of times, a team surprises by doing good and by the time the next season rolls around, everyone has come to grips with how good a team it is. That means more people bet that team and when that happens, the point-spreads will not be as juicy as they were before they established themselves as a good team. The idea is to identify up-and-coming teams before they actually arrive to that position.

Teams that get really far in the playoffs or even appear in the Super Bowl often have inflated hopes for the next season. Since 1990, only 2 teams have repeated as Super bowl champions. And most of those teams experienced at least some version of a “Super Bowl Hangover.” Sure, some teams maintain their winning ways, but they do so with bigger spreads and don’t always cover as many bets as the previous season.


During the offseason, the merit of certain players really becomes amplified. If a running back had a huge season, they talk about it all spring and summer. If a quarterback broke through with a big year, he is expected to do the same thing next year. If a rookie had a really good season, his continued development is expected on a certain level.

What sometimes happens is that the betting public falls under a spell based on one player, while sometimes ignoring the big picture--namely how this is a team sport. Sometimes, a quarterback falls apart if his line isn’t as good. Or the defense slips and keeps putting the QB in bad situations. Or the running back who tore it up last year doesn’t have all the stars line up for him as well as they did the previous year.

An over-abundance of optimism can result from offseason acquisitions. A team can be considered improved based on trades, free agent signings, or by draft selections. A lot of times, the anticipated result comes to fruition, with incoming players giving a team a big boost. Other times, a lot of success is projected on a team based on new players before really seeing how it all comes together. As we have seen time and again, a lot of players who thrived in a certain setting can’t always transfer that to a new team and a new system. Watch out for teams that are supposed to be a lot better without seeing how the changes have resonated.

Again, high expectations are a good sign for a team. It means they are doing something right. As a fan, you like to see the things that create high expectations. A bettor, however, is governed by a different set of considerations. When we’re looking for good betting value, things like high expectations and hype are the enemies. When everyone is subscribing to something, you’re just not going to get very good value by hopping on the bandwagon. There will be good spots to take that team, but as a whole, their overall wagering value is likely to be diminished.

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