Avoid the Vig
NFL Week 18 Power Ratings
By Steve Rieder
"The difference between sharps and squares is that sharps bet numbers and squares bet teams."
Most successful sports handicappers use a quantitative standard for assessing the game. In order to do that, it is imperative to use power ratings, also known as 'power rankings,' to identify the point differential between opposing teams. By comparing two teams’ power ratings and accounting for home-field advantage, the bettor can objectively determine what the point spread should be and take advantage of any difference in the actual line.
Week 17 Recap: 3-2
Season Long: 63-47
There is not another week in the NFL where power ratings are less significant than this one. So much of the last week of the regular season has to do with motivation. That is not to say that power ratings are not important though. For instance, KC is favored by 10.5 when our power ratings suggest they should be 8 point favorites. For KC to have an outside shot at getting the #1 seed, they do need to win. Denver has been eliminated from the playoffs, but that doesn't mean they are going to rest their starters. If anything, they probably want to use this opportunity for one more evaluation of their best players to determine what to do this offseason. The Broncos could be in a "dream crusher" situation having been eliminated from the playoffs this past week, but I'm not sure that concern is worth 2.5 points through the key number of 10. This line seems inflated.
Although we have one situation where power ratings seem relevant, the GB/DET game makes them obsolete. GB is most likely to rest their starters despite Aaron Rodgers' wish to play. Without Rodgers and with a Lions team forever feisty, you see this line significantly off our power ratings. Ultimately, Week 18 is all about information. How fast can we figure out who is playing their starters, for how long, and who is not? From there, we bet accordingly. If we receive word that Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers will start the game, but not finish, we pivot to a first-half wager. It is important to be informed on playoff scenarios, starters, and coaching decisions before placing any bet on this upcoming weekend slate.
One last bit of advice for live betting and as games are no longer in doubt, use the playoff scenarios to your advantage. If Team A needs Team B to lose to get home-field advantage, but Team B is up by 30 at halftime or wins in the early window, Team A would be less inclined to play to win. That could mean resting starters and, for us, potentially fading them for the remainder of their game. Live betting can be a dangerous proposition, and one I admittedly am not the best at. However, Week 18 provides the best opportunities to do so. We just need to be prepared and ready to strike when the situation calls for it. This week is
HFA Note: Home Field Advantage (HFA) is not the standard 3 points it was once assumed to be. After analyzing the data, I adjusted my HFA coming into the season. However, early returns suggest I didn’t lower them enough. You will notice an adjustment for most teams from last week to this week. Also of note, I have added a half-point HFA for the Thursday night game.