The NFL made it 2018 debut in the U.K last weekend with the Seattle Seahawks mauling the Oakland Raiders 27-3 at a sell-out Wembley Stadium in London. As the sport continues to grow to the point that the possibility of a permanent franchise being based in London is increasing, in at least one area of the sport British fans like myself struggle to understand: Betting.
For U.K sports fans brought up on association football, the NFL is a thousand times more unpredictable. Barring any major mistakes Manchester City are going to beat the likes of Huddersfield nine times out of ten. In the NFL however, poor teams like the Buffalo Bills have a much greater chance of beating dominant teams such as the New England Patriots.
I am hardly what is known as a fervent fan who studies advanced analytics, but I would call myself a knowledgeable fan. I catch up with a number of games on Sunday and listen to NFL podcasts during the week to keep abreast of what’s happening around the league. I also take part in a fantasy pick’em league with my fiance, her best friend and her husband.
My strategy for picking the week’s games is to best logically on who is most likely to win, unless the spread is unnecessarily large. A minus nine spread for the Packers – 49ers game last night is a prime example of this. Yet by using logic as a knowledgeable NFL fan I sit bottom of our league after six weeks, with 34 points and a winning percentage of 43.3%.
Every week it is a constant source of frustration for me, as my fiance laughs at my rage. She chooses a looser model of picking based on team logos or simply who she likes the most, and is currently kicking my ass. She is a full nine points in front and is almost certain to beat me over the course of the season.
Out of this frustration comes this blog post, as I wondered why it seems so hard to pick winners in the NFL. One of the reasons is that the spread in the majority of games is less than four points, and with so many games being this closely matched any small decision can have a big impact on the game.
Another factor is the fact the NFL has so much more variables than what association football does. In both american and European football it is 11 v 11, however the major difference is the strategic element of the game. The NFL is much more of a chess match, where coaches can have a much larger impact on the result.
The salary cap in the NFL also stops teams from stockpiling top-level like the top teams in the Premier League do, and along with the NFL Draft this allows poor teams a much better chance of improving either through signing top talent in free agency or by selecting new players with the first picks in the NFL Draft. This means that most NFL rosters have similar talent levels, therefore games become more of a who plays best on the day, much more than in the Premier League.
I think that from this week on-wards I’m going to change my picking strategy from logic to a more random strategy, as it seems to be working for my fiance. Even as the NFL is well into the 2018 season now and the teams have established themselves, this is still going to be the best model for picking against the spread.
Do you have similar issues with your picks? Let me know in the comments section below I would love to hear similar picking stories.
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By Jordan Wilkins