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The Power of Momentum

NFL Football Handicapping Tips: The Power of Momentum and Changing Personnel

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,


Without a doubt, momentum is a major concern in NFL football and it plays a key role. Sometimes, when a team goes sour, it stays that way for a while. And when a team catches fire, it could take weeks for them to cool off. Inertia takes over for both good and bad teams. But only sometimes. Other times, momentum will steer you in the wrong direction.

Momentum always changes. By the time you are hip to the momentum, it’s usually close to turning around in the other direction. The idea of momentum conflicts with the concept of being “due.” Things that are good eventually go bad and when teams go bad, it’s only a springboard for getting better.

These are professionals. Many of these men are being paid millions of dollars. If they start phoning it in just because things aren’t going their way, they will not last in the NFL. The same applies to coaches. To make it to the NFL, you can’t be a guy who dogs it just because you’re on a losing streak. In college, bad momentum can kill a team. Not that bad momentum is a good thing in the NFL, but even the most hopeless teams are still trying.

Good momentum can be a tricky component to deal with. First of all, positive momentum attracts more action. There will be a lot of bettors going with a team headed in the right direction. The bookies know this and will try to induce more betting on the opposite team. With each ensuing win, the odds will become less and less favorable for the streaking team. So by the time a team’s good momentum even registers with most bettors, the bookie has already shaded the odds in the other direction.

Analyzing Player Moves

Whether a team loses or gains apparently-key players, a lot of conclusions are made before the team even takes the field. If a team loses a bunch of key guys, there is rightfully cause for alarm. Just as there should be added promise when a team makes a slew of key acquisitions. But sometimes, it’s better to see how things play out.


A lot of times, player acquisitions don’t work out. Draft picks bust. A free agent signing or player that was traded for might not be able to duplicate their prior success in a new system, under a new coach, or in a new environment.

Take a veteran free-agent signing, for example. We know the shelf-life for NFL players is painfully short. Some superstars might play for a long time at a high level, but by the time they have enough of a body of work to justify a big contract--they are usually already heading downhill. When a team signs a golden-boy free agent, everyone automatically anticipates a much better season for that team. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

A top-5 draft pick is nice, but look at the top 5 picks from 2005-2009--a five year span where players have had enough time to develop. The results are mixed, but getting a game changer is not easy. Out of the 25 players chosen during that period, almost a third of them were busts. There are several marginal good players. You have a handful of top lineman. Then players like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan, Darren McFadden, and Cedric Benson.

That’s a good lot of players. But in a five year span, there are only a small smattering of guys capable of turning a franchise around. A lot of times, it’s just a super-expensive lottery that may or may not hit. It makes one wonder if the success of a team is less about individual players and more of an institutionalized phenomenon. A lot of teams have been getting high draft choices for years and never get anywhere.

Chances are that they have struggled to implement a winning system. Maybe losing is something that is just in that team’s DNA. With a lot of teams, however,it seems like players just always get put into situations where they can succeed. It’s a never-ending carrousel of success that makes you wonder if individual analysis of a players is an over-emphasized part of football handicapping.

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