Known Square Bets

Obviously the goal of this blog, insofar as it deals with sports betting, is to highlight sharp, or in industry speak “good” bets. There’s a flip side to this of course – the square bets. This is the side you generally don’t want to be. But here’s the nice thing about square bets. If you can identify a bad bet, then you’ve identified a good bet in the other direction. I don’t have a firm definition of a known square bet in mind, but I’d like to develop one, because I think there’s something to them.

In Week 3, it’s pretty clear in retrospect that SF @ MIN was a known square bet. Why? Well, because it was pretty clear that everyone had anointed the 49ers atop their Power Rankings, and it seemed almost impossible to believe they could lose to a lousy team like Minnesota. The problem is – nobody really thinks San Francisco is all that good offensively. People obviously love their defense, and rightly so. Alex Smith on the other hand is usually charitably described as a “game manager”, and that’s fine. You can win that way. You can even be the best team in football that way.

That said, if half your team is suspect, and you’re not apt to run up the score, 6.5 is a big number for a road team to be putting up. Half of San Francisco’s dominance is their ability to win while not scoring all much. Being favored by almost a touchdown on the road against a team that isn’t looking to go winless doesn’t look like a recipe for a cover for that team. The all hype team vs. the no hype team is a pretty good recipe for an underdog too. That was SF -6.5 @ MIN.

Going back a bit more, the Week 2 game that stands out that same way was WAS -3 @ STL. There we had Bob Griffin, coming off an amazing looking Week 1 team vs. the Saints, going up against a team strongly contending to be the worst team in football. RG3 was “the one”, and “doin it”, and this blog rightly identified the all hype Washington train as the square side. We took it anyways, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t obvious equity going the other way.

Eagles -3.5 @ Cardinals this week probably doesn’t qualify for this. The Eagles were coming off two close wins, and Arizona itself was 2-0 with a bit of hype for their defense coming off a win @ New England. I liked the Cardinals side there a bunch, but as much as anything, that was just counting on residual Dream Team 2.0 hype to inflate the line over nascent but real Arizona hype.

Going forward, I’m going to try and identify some factors common to known square bets, and to distinguish them from bad bets of another variety.

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