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Here’s what the numbers say about Giants’ playoff odds

Can the Giants run the table to finish the 2018 NFL season with a .500 record? Using projected money lines from each game can help determine how likely (or unlikely) that is to happen.

One of the many perks of being an informed sports bettor is that you can answer the kinds of questions non-bettors (particularly pundits) love to ask.

The Giants spent most of this week as about a two-point favorite for Sunday’s game against the Titans (CBS, 1 p.m.). The equivalent money line for that price is normally about -135 for the favorite, +115 for the underdog. Let’s call the “no-vig” (no vigorish) money line -125 to estimate the percentage. A -125 favorite should win the game 55.5 percent of the time (the break-even for a $100 bet at -125 odds would be .555, which is 125 divided by 225).

So, the Giants are about 56 percent to win the first game in their three-game challenge. Next week at Indianapolis should be much tougher. The Giants will be an underdog on the road against a contender that needs to win. Current market ratings suggest Indianapolis will be about a five- to six-point home favorite in that one. The no-vig line from the Giants’ perspective should be in the range of +200. Indy should win 66.7 percent of the time, the Giants 33.3 percent.

Through two games, we have 55.5 percent and 33.3 percent. Multiply those, and the G-men have an 18.4 percent chance to sweep their next two games.

That brings us to the season finale at home against Dallas. This one’s tricky. Were it a typical regular-season game, Dallas would probably be about a one-point favorite right now, maybe pick ’em. But, there’s a chance the finale will be meaningless to Dallas, having already locked in its playoff seed. In that case, the Giants would be favored if they’re clearly trying to win while the Cowboys are resting key starters. On the other hand, if Dallas needs to win, it might be a field goal favorite or more.

To keep the math simple, let’s call it pick ’em for now. That’s obviously 50/50. Multiplying 55.5 percent, 33.3 percent, and 50 percent gives us about a 9 percent chance that the sweep will happen, 91 percent it won’t. We can call it 9/1 against, with some margin for error due to question marks about the Cowboys.

One of the toughest things for new gamblers to accept is that coin-flip games are 50/50! It’s easy to imagine your favorite team, or your betting choice, doing what it takes to win a close game in crunch time. But, nobody can win coin flips on command. Some preseason pundits were talking about the Giants winning 10-11 games this season. That would have been possible only if they won all the coin flips.

This also applies to your thoughts about any NFL playoff team’s odds to roll through the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. You can’t just say, “They’ll win this game, then they’ll win that game.” It’s all probabilities and percentages before the games are played. Remember that, too, with your college football bowl selections. No matter how confident you are, you’re not going to win them all. Market pricing does a good job of putting point spreads in the 50/50 range for bettors.

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