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Football picksOctober 16, 2009

Is Parity in the NFL Gone?

As you know if you’ve followed my NFL picks over the years, I am an underdog bettor in the NFL regular-season. I believe it’s where the value lies long-term in the NFL. If you want to read more on why I feel that way, check out my NFL betting philosophy.

But underdogs aren’t doing so hot so far this season. And big underdogs are really laying big eggs. While historically they have hit over 52%, underdogs this season are hitting just 46% through five weeks. Dogs of a touchdown or more are just 37% and underdogs of more than 9 points are just 5-17 (29%)! The ugliest of the dogs (those getting more than 10 points) are just 2-10 on the season. As an underdog bettor, I feel fortunate to have won four out of the first five weeks of the regular season.

So what to make of all this? This is certainly an anomaly, but will it continue? One place to look for clues is 2005. That was the year of the favorite in the NFL. Underdogs hit just 42% that season overall – the lowest rate in over 30 years. I was able to hit 58% overall (86-62), winning 16 of 24 weeks that season despite the favorites covering so much. I was able to sift through and find some good dogs, while also adjusting and releasing slightly more favorites than normal. So I have confidence moving forward in 2009 either way.

At this point, it’s unclear whether 2009 will continue to shape up as 2005 did. It very well may be another year-of-the-favorite. Or, it may revert to become more of a “normal” year with underdogs winning 50% or more. If the former happens, the general public will continue to rack up huge winnings and the sportsbooks will get crushed. If the latter happens, the public will give back their early winnings and more.

My advice? In the last 30 years, there has only been one year in which big favorites crushed it all season long. So history would say that we are in for a correction at some point this season so be wary about the urge to back the big favorites. You also need to remember that the sportsbooks win much more than they lose. They will continue to shade the lines in order to try to recoup the losses they have suffered on the big favorites. On the other hand, that one “favorites” season wasn’t too long ago, so there may be a more meaningful shift going on. Only time will tell…