Are the Playoffs Different than the Regular Season?

After posting my leans yesterday, a decent discussion started in the comments. The Saw thought it was interesting that all of my leans were favorites. I responded by saying this:

I feel very uncomfortable with it. Here is a thought experiment I might post about:

1. NFL playoff games generate more action than any other game all year, leading up to the Super Bowl

2. Books will be less willing to expose themselves with such large action, i.e. happier to take the rake versus setting trap lines.

If those are true, then I would conclude there is more value available on a split action dog, since the books know that favorites attract more action by nature.

That said, I have a hard time believing that Ten -3 and especially Car -9.5 were set to attract split action.

I'm happy to hear other opinions on it, though.

I think what I wrote here is generally true (see e.g. Super Bowl XLII line). However, Moneyline pointed out that the opposite can also be true:

I like your list. If forced to decide right now, Tenny would be my only play.

Try thinking of the Tennessee line this way:

Let's say that the books know, based on all the info that they undoubtedly possess, that Baltimore as underdog is going to be much more attractive to bettors than Tennessee as a favorite.

They don't want to be exposed in this big of a spot, so what do they do?

They shrink the price on Tennessee to increase the # of dollars that are wagered on the Titans.

I'm not saying that is definitely what is happening in this case, but it is certainly possible.

It is not unreasonable to think that the "true" line for this game is somewhere between Tenny -3.5 and Tenny -4.5

Eric had his own ideas:

ML, I remember reading something you wrote about the divisional rounds last year that really stuck with me. It boiled down to:

-People were used to betting on 'good' teams against 'bad' teams all year.

-Divisional playoffs normally pit two well regarded teams against each other.

-Public sides with taking the points because both teams are perceived as 'good' (equal).

Maybe there's little chance for the oddsmakers to avoid that bias.

*Also thinking out loud*

So, the hard part is figuring out which side the public will like more. That's always our problem, and the playoffs only compound the problem. I think each line needs to be scrutinized harder in the playoffs to find the angle. For example, listening to what people around the water cooler are saying, what Peter King writes, or what the Gay One and the Dumb One say on ESPN Radio.

A side conversation came up as well. The Saw said:

I certainly don't know the inside workings of books, but the more I thought about it, I think the books setting up trap lines makes more sense in these situations. Yeah they may lose more money over the course of one weekend or a playoff season, but over the course of many seasons wouldn't the books make more by taking a stand against public teams?

Jonny came up with one explanation:

the problem is that books can't set traps whenever they want. Sometimes there is no situation for them to exploit(or it is too small) and they receive a higher expected value keeping the split as small as possible.

I thought something different. Ordinarily, I would agree with The Saw. But in games with such heavy action, the risk involved with setting a trap line would outweigh the +EV. I think. That's at least my rationale for the thoughts above. I'm sure whichever side I choose will be wrong anyway, so all of this will be moot.

Coming later tonight: picks, obviously, and a look at the 2008 NFL regular season.