Football Betting: Bad Beats vs. Bad Bets

Knowing the difference between a bad bet and a bad beat is one valuable lesson learned weekly when betting football.

For those average football fans who watched the Denver Broncos-Indianapolis Colts game last Sunday, it was an entertaining NFL football contest that was close throughout until the very end. A nice way to spend the late afternoon, but just another game to be forgotten as the long NFL season wears on. For those bettors who wagered upon it, it was either UNFORGETTABLE torture or a very lucky happenstance they should never forget. Here's the replay:

The Broncos were a -6.5 favorite in Nevada and at most top online sportsbooks. They closed at -7 at a few major sportsbooks including Bovada and BetOnline. Colts bettors were counting their winnings while the Broncos were leading 26-20 with 2 minutes left to play. They were ecstatic because kicker Brandon McManus extended the lead to 6 instead of 10 with a field goal. Seasoned players knew only one thing could change the wagering outcome of the game. And it did.

With no timeouts and needing a touchdown to win, the Colts had the ball on their own 15-yard line. Indy projected Hall of Fame QB Andrew Luck went back to pass. OH NO or YAY!! was heard throughout the wagering world when "luck" changed for many. Luck was sacked by fellow HOF candidate Von Miller, fumbled the ball followed by a Denver runback TD for a clinching touchdown with 1:51 left. To make it severely worse for Colts bettors, the Broncos converted a two-point conversion. That destroyed most teaser bets as well in the process.

Yes, there was an opportunity for the Colts to score another touchdown to bring it within seven points but everyone knew the Gods had decided both the game and wagering outcome here. Broncos 34 Colts 20.

Just Another NFL Sunday

The big point or even half point here being this is not limited to last Sunday's NFL card. Heartache and heartbreak like this can be expected virtually every NFL week no matter who is playing. As compared to NCAA College Football, a study must be done to show how extremely high a percentage of games fall within one score of the point spread within the final seconds of the game. Not surprisingly, it would be remarkably high. Almost what "we pay for" or for what we fans and bettors secretly crave. The dirty little secret the NFL would like to brag about should they ever acknowledge the power (and excitement) gambling has on the game.

Maybe it's an Indianapolis Colts torture thing but NFL Week One offered the initial knife for Colts bettors. As a -3 favorite at home against the Detroit Lions at most major offshore books, Indianapolis was down 21-10 at halftime but stormed back to take a 35-34 lead with 0:37 left in the game. Not good enough to cover but enough to win all teaser bets.

Football betting bad beatSome consolation relief came when the Lions won on a Matt Prater field goal with :08 in regulation and only the kickoff remaining. Colts bettors would be praying for a miracle TD kickoff return. Instead they received one of those 28 lateral Three Stooges plays resulting in a by-rule two-point safety for Detroit. Final score: Lions 39 Colts 35. Not only did Indy bettors lose their traditional line bet but all 6 and 7-point teaser action as well. You would think a conspiracy was at work not knowing what was coming the following week. Not at all. Just extra revenue for all sportsbooks on popular teaser bets. And potential extra money on halftime bets as well.

More Luck in College Football

By comparison in NCAA College Football we are more worried about incentive. Will Michigan laying -37 keep starters in a game to cover in the fourth quarter? Is a 30-point win over a Division IAA opponent at home enough to keep their ranking with poll voters? No such issue in the NFL, where professionals play virtually every game to the last play, keeping their best players on the field. At least with the spread involved and including crazy number Totals as well. When big offense-little defense teams like Texas Tech or Oklahoma State play, often Over/Under numbers can run into the 70's or 80's. Your team up 49-24 with seconds left, all skill is out the window and only pure luck or chance is left to cover a wager either way. A slot machine offers more control.

Bad Beats vs. Bad Bets

One of the most successful habits to accrue betting football is honestly admitting to yourself whether you made a bad bet and learn from it or simply were victim of a "bad beat". Playing the Colts last Sunday against the Broncos was the ultimate example of a bad beat. When Andrew Luck fumbles for a runback touchdown inside 2 minutes to not only lose a chance to win a game, but also a wager, it's a slam-dunk bad beat.

If you played the Bears -3 last Monday Night while the Eagles with rookie QB Carson Wentz cruised 29-14 in Soldier Field, that was a "bad bet". Later in the season that line may look foolish. Like making a mistake, learn from it and you will help diminish the chance it will happen again. But be prepared. It is a lock you're going to experience a few bad beats. Wise to remember the games where you got lucky football fans.

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.

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