With their 41-28 beat down of the Texans yesterday, Tom Brady became the winningest quarterback in postseason history and the New England Patriots set up yet another showdown with the Baltimore Ravens. These two teams have a storied history and their matchups over the past few years have made for must-see television.
In January of 2010, the two teams met in the divisional round of the playoffs with Baltimore listed as a 4-point road dog. The Ravens got on top early and cruised to a 33-14 victory. The next season, Baltimore was a 3-point dog in New England, but this time the Ravens were unable to emerge victorious — losing by a score of 23-20.
However, perhaps the most entertaining game was last season when these two teams met in the AFC Championship. After a gritty, back-and-forth battle, the Ravens found themselves down just three points in the final moments. A dropped pass by Baltimore’s Lee Evans cost the Ravens a win, and Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal in the waning seconds that would have sent the game into overtime, helping New England escape with yet another victory.
These teams met most recently in week 3 of the current season, this time with the game being played at M&T Stadium. The Ravens, who closed as 2.5-point favorites, out-gained the Pats by over 100 yards and kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired to walk away with a 31-30 triumph.
Considering Baltimore’s past success against New England, many fans must have been surprised to see the Patriots open as a 7.5-point favorite at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbook. In fact, in early betting Ray Lewis and company have received 64% of spread bets according to our NFL Playoffs betting trends. This makes them an extremely trendy, public underdog.
This lopsided public betting also reminds me of an old saying: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Using our BetLabs software, we determined that similar trendy dogs have been woeful for bettors and fruitful for sportsbooks.
Since 2004, favorites of 8 or more points receiving 50% or less of spread bets have gone 39-28 (58.2%) ATS with +9.71 units earned and a +14.5% return on investment (ROI).
If early line movement is any indication, the wise guys must agree with fading these trendy public dogs. The Patriots have already moved from -7.5 to -9.5 at Pinnacle despite receiving just one-third of spread wagers. This is an example of reverse line movement, which signifies that sharp money has come down on the home favorite.
We saw similar line movement in the NCAA Football National Championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame, where the Fighting Irish received two-thirds of public bets, yet moved from 7.5 to 10 point underdogs at most books. Because Notre Dame was ranked number one in the country (and also has an extremely broad and loyal fan base) the public was more than happy to take the points. Ultimately though, that sharp money was dead-on as the Crimson Tide easily cruised to a 42-14 win.
What are your thoughts on Sunday’s AFC Championship game? We invite you to leave your analysis in the comments section below.