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Wild Card Weekend
After going 23 in the final week of the regular season, I finished the season with a record of 3343 with four ties, good for a winning percentage of 41.2% in the 80 games I picked in this column. Because one has to bet $110 to win $100, a 53% winning percentage in games is usually the benchmark for average performance. This was, without a doubt, the worst year I've had with my NFL picks. Bessire's model, which simulates each contest 50,000 times to come up with a pick against the spread, hit 59% of its picks against the spread this season and was a perfect 110 in the playoffs last year.
In order to keep his playoff undefeated streak alive, Bessire has a long road ahead of him with a brutal start. In the first round of the playoffs, his model's picks against the spread have a confidence level that hovers between 53% and 57% for each game, which is considered a "weak play." In other words, his model isn't finding very much value in this first slate of playoff games.
"It's actually rare for us to see a lot of value in lines around this time of year," says Bessire. "Even though we take advantage of the public moving the line in the direction that favors us, we've gotten through a full season now and the linesmakers know where to put it."
Think back to last year's playoffs, particularly the game where the New Orleans Saints traveled to play the Seattle Seahawks as a doubledigit favorite. The Saints not only failed to cover, they were booted from the playoffs in a terrible loss to Seattle. Also recall that the Green Bay Packers, the eventual Super Bowl Champions, were underdogs in the first round.
"Those lines from a year ago look much more exploitable than these," Bessire says. "It's a product of the matchups.
"It all depends on where you think the lines are going," Leonard says. "Highscoring public teams will get the money from the public, so the Saints line will probably go up. The public will probably also try to bet against Denver and go for the Giants. That said, it's a crapshoot at this point. You have a lot of information for the full year, so it's harder to find value."
With that, it's on to the picks for the Wild Card round of the playoffs. These are for entertainment purposes only. These trends prove to be critical for bettors who are on the hunt for inefficiencies and value.
Read on for the first game pick, where the underdog Denver Broncos play host to the injuryplagued Pittsburgh Steelers. And as always, I encourage you to leave comments below with your favorite picks against the spread this week.
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