What Sports Bettors Need to Look for When Betting the NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoffs Logo and Tampa Bay Stadium

The NFL playoffs are one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. While some football fans live and die by the way their team performs, bettors sit back and just hope they can end the season on a good note.

If you’re like most, the NFL is always a challenge when it comes to winning bets consistently. Luckily, the playoffs provide an opportunity to focus in on just a handful of games. If you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded.

In this article, I’ll out four things you need to look for before you wager any money on an NFL playoff game.

Sports Betting History Matters

In my opinion, the idea of looking at the past performances as a way to predict upcoming performances is a bit overrated. It sounds good in theory, but does it really have any impact on what’s going to happen with the current versions of each team?

Instead of simply looking at the results of the previous years, add another layer to the equation. Look at specific players and coaches, and see if there is any concrete evidence that the past should be used during the evaluation process.

For example, if a coach has a history of dominating another coach during the regular season and the playoffs, it might suggest that it’s in your best betting interest to go with what you’ve observed in the past. The point here is, if you’re using the past as a guide, just make sure the information is clear cut and undeniable.

NFL Bills and Broncos Playoff Game

In addition to looking at the coaching history, it’s crucial to see how quarterbacks have performed in the playoffs. Often times a player who has put together a bunch of good regular seasons before making it to the playoffs can find the spotlight a bit overwhelming. I’m not necessarily saying that you should always go with the player who has proved himself in the playoffs, but previous trips to the postseason give them an advantage over a player who has never been there before.

The bottom line is that even if you aren’t using it as your sole indicator to determine which way to bet, reading up on what each team’s coach and quarterback has done in the playoffs in years past is always a good place to start.

Understand the Value of Underdogs

The playoffs in any professional sport can be susceptible to wild upsets (yes, even the NBA). For that reason, it’s important to recognize the potential that an underdog has to win a game outright.

This should be standard practice even during the regular season, but always consider what the moneyline is offering before making a bet. The idea of betting with value in mind is something that everyone needs to make a priority if it hasn’t been in the past.

I’ll state the obvious – it’s hard to win more than half your bets, especially when you’re talking about the NFL. Even if you do win half your plays, you’re still going to come out behind when factoring in the juice. The great thing about the moneyline is that you don’t need to win half, or even 40%, of your plays to profit.

On the other side of the moneyline, I feel it’s necessary to mention the trouble you can get into if you’re taking the favorites. If you’re taking a favorite at -200 or less, it’s going to be nearly impossible to rebound back into profitability if you lose just one game.

My advice? Take a chance on a moneyline underdog or two and see if you can’t catch lightning in a bottle. Additionally, stay away from moneyline favorites as the risk just isn’t worth the reward.

Don’t Forget Gambling on Totals

Playoff games often come down to a field goal, turnover, or some other unpredictable occurrence that turns your betting win into a bad beat. For this reason, I’ve found that betting on totals, often referred to as the over/under, is a great way to make the most out of playoff games.

Both offenses and defenses turn up the heat in the postseason. The scores don’t always look like they do during the regular season, as each team is putting the absolute best they have to offer on the field. As a fan and a bettor, you might not know which team will end up with the upper hand, but you should have a feel for how a game is going to play out.

NFL Browns Players Pre-Game

When looking at totals, it’s crucial to take a few things into account. First, each year some teams that host playoff games are going to be in cold weather cities. In mid-January, that can mean any combination of rain, snow, sleet, ice, and who knows what else. If you recognize bad weather is going to be a factor, use that information to your advantage by taking a hard look at the under.

Weather isn’t the only factor to use when betting totals. You must also look at the matchup and determine the strengths and weaknesses of each team. For example, the Titans, a team which had a nice run in the 2019-20 playoffs, got there on the back of their running game. As a general rule, when a heavy running team is involved, the under is a good bet.

On the other hand, a team who has the reputation for scoring quickly like the Chiefs, should be seen as an opportunity to bet the over. If they get down early, there’s a good chance that a comeback effort will drive up the scoring quickly.

The main takeaway here should be that it’s always important to ask yourself if you feel more confident in how a game will play out than who will end up winning. Betting the total gets overlooked all the time, and this presents an opportunity to capitalize.

Betting on the Comeback

When a team gets down in the playoffs, the absolute best their offense has to offer typically comes out. As they say, there’s no substitute for desperation.

So how can you capitalize on the effort to mount a comeback? Live sports betting, of course!

It’s not uncommon for underdogs to get out in front early in any game, but especially playoff games. When they do, the odds get much more favorable for those who still believe the better team will pull it out.

I believe that live betting is often overlooked because people already have their picks locked in prior to kickoff, but if you start watching the game with the intention of live betting, you might find that the reward is worth the wait.

NFL Colts and Bills Playoff Game

Here’s an example: If the Bills are playing against the Colts and are coming into the game as a big favorite – I’ll say -260 – you aren’t going to risk the huge loss by taking the moneyline before the game starts. However, if the Colts get out to a 7 or 10-point lead, those odds might shift dramatically.

To continue with the hypothetical scenario above, if the Bills get down early, that initial -260 might shift to something like -125, or even more than that. The name of the game when it comes to live betting is to find the exact time when the odds are the absolute best, and then put your bet in right then.

Keep in mind that in order to live bet effectively, you need to watch the entire game. If you don’t, you’ll risk making a mistake that you’ll look back at and realize it was entirely avoidable.

Whether you’re talking about stocks or live bet moneylines, pay attention, wait until the numbers are favorable, and buy in low.


Most Pro NFL bettors know that profiting off the sport is one of the hardest things to do in betting. The sheer amount of action alone makes it a high-stakes affair for the sportsbooks.

Before you start placing your bets, consider the tips I’ve laid out in this article. If you’re able to put in the work and combine it with a little luck, you could have a nice bankroll come Super Bowl Sunday.