If you’re a frequent Bet Labs reader you know that we take a contrarian approach to sports betting. Public perception artificially inflates lines and sharp bettors can capitalize on these market overreactions by zigging when the public zags.

One of our favorite strategies is betting against the public. Of course, the postseason is a different animal than the regular season. Is fading the public a viable strategy after Week 17?

Since 2003, teams receiving less than 50% of spread bets have gone 75-75-4 (50.0%) ATS in the postseason. If the team attracting little attention from recreational bettors is also an underdog, the win rates improves to 51.8% (44-41-3 ATS), but the larger the dog the bigger the bite.

Underdogs of more than five points receiving less than 50% of spread tickets have gone 738-703-32 (51.2%) ATS in the regular season. In the playoffs the winning percentage increases to 60.0%, 27-18-1 ATS. For Bet Labs users, adding one more additional filter gives us an NFL Playoff system that has hit at 65.7% ATS and returned a profit of $933 for a $100 bettor.

Panthers-Saints 

There are three games that match this Pro System in Wild Card Weekend. The most intriguing of the bunch is Panthers-Saints. New Orleans will try for a third-straight victory over Carolina after sweeping the regular season series. Since 1990, there have been 16 teams that swept a division rival in the regular season and met that opponent for a third time in the playoffs. The team that swept the regular season went 11-5 straight-up but 8-7 ATS.

History, and the betting markets (Saints -310 on the moneyline), are on New Orleans’ side to advance. Though, as a big favorite garnering public action, there is value on Carolina. Currently 47% of spread bets are taking Cam Newton & Co. as 7-point underdogs. In our Pro System, teams that are touchdown or greater underdogs have gone 18-7-1 (72.0%) ATS since 2003.

If you play the Panthers you won’t have to just rely on this betting trend. Carolina has the defense to make some noise in the playoffs. According to Football Outsiders, Carolina finished the season 9th in weighted DVOA and No. 1 in adjusted sack rate (50 sacks, 3rd best in the NFL). Plus, while Cam has been inconsistent he has shown flashes of the player that won the MVP two years ago (28 total touchdowns and over 4,000 yards of offense). The public is betting on a sweep by the Saints, contrarian gamblers can find an edge taking an unpopular dog.


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Photo Courtesy of Dale Zahine- USA Today Sports