Falling for the homecoming hype: How to bet (and not bet) “revenge games”

Sometimes, a little self-ridicule is in order, so here goes nothing…

A lot was made of certain players returning to play against their former teams last weekend, thanks to the never-ending, hype machine that is the NFL.  Most of us, present company included, couldn’t get enough of the chatter.  Amidst all that noise, the question remained how to properly bet these “revenge games” and whether we relied on the right (or wrong) information to do so.

The man the Cleveland Browns once chose with their number one pick, Baker Mayfield, has been replaced.  The quarterback Cleveland considered a better option has been suspended by the league.  All the while Baker found himself a new home in Charlotte. 

The man who led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win and was once synonymous with all things Seattle, Russell Wilson, has also moved on, starting anew with the Denver Broncos.  To a lesser extent, a still noteworthy revenge game involved another former Super Bowl winning quarterback, Joe Flacco, going against his Baltimore Ravens.  Unfortunately for him, and most likely all his loved ones, Flacco is now a New York Jet.

As soon as this season’s schedule was released, all anyone could talk about was how meaningful, and emotional, it would be for both Mayfield and Wilson to play against their former teams.  Mayfield played four seasons in Cleveland.  After seeing so many signal-callers fail before him, the Browns hoped Baker would be the one to bring them back to prosperity.  Didn’t happen.

Russell Wilson played ten seasons with the Seahawks and won over 100 games, none more important than Super Bowl XLVIII.  His walking into Seattle, for the first time as a visitor, would certainly drum up some butterflies.

I’ll be the first to admit that I fell victim to the homecoming hype.  Mayfield’s Panthers were slight favorites against the Browns, a team which now started Jacoby Brissett in his place.  The Broncos were seven-point road favorites to a Seahawks team that started Geno Smith and was by all intents and purposes looking to rebuild and move on from Wilson.

With all the talk surrounding the other two, many of us forgot that Brissett and Smith are both perfectly capable quarterbacks.  Amongst the millions of us that play fantasy football, ten out of ten of us would have started Wilson and Mayfield over Brissett and Smith.  We bet that way too, and heavily.  Both lines moved in favor of lesser-known quarterbacks, indicating I wasn’t the only one in America who fell for the hype.  Shows how much we know.

I even wrote about it in my pick ‘ems last week, how Mayfield would unite his new troops and beat the visiting Browns.  Knowing what that game meant, there was no way his new locker room mates wouldn’t go to war for him.  Similarly, Wilson’s new team would do everything in their power to win for their new quarterback.  Blah blah blah.

What I failed to consider, and shame on me for doing so, was how those who Mayfield and Wilson left behind might have felt about going against them for the first timeI became so enamored with the concept of quarterback that I lost sight of the fact that it takes a hell of a lot more than one man to win a football game.  And while both these games were close (the Ravens blew out the Jets), both Mayfield and Wilson played substandard games.

You see, the reason I’m writing this post is because I intend to put it into a time capsule and have it pop out the next time that I fawn over an NFL player going up against his former team in some media-overblown “revenge game.”

As much as the guys in the Browns and Seahawks locker rooms probably appreciate everything their former quarterbacks did for them, as much as they had shared hugs and greetings both before the game and after, perhaps even sharing a fancy steak dinner, there is no way those guys playing against them didn’t want to tear their heads off once the first football was kicked into the air.

Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III, upper left, fumbles the ball as Broncos offensive tackle Cameron Fleming (73) loses his helmet during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

As much as Mayfield and Wilson know their former defense’s tendencies, rest assured the opposing defenses and coaching staff know theirs too.   It showed on the field.  Mayfield and Wilson combined for two touchdown passes and ended their “revenge games” with 37.2 and 52.7 games respectively.  So much for being fired up.

Maybe the emotions got the best of them.  They sure as hell got the best of me as I had both Carolina and Denver winning games they did not.

So let this be a lesson to you and the future me.  Falling for the hype does not make for wise wagering.  Of course, in this the smallest of sample sizes, quarterbacks went a whopping 0-3 against their former teams this weekend.  While the Panthers and Browns only lost by a combined three points in games that could have gone either way, the bottom line is they didn’t.

As gamblers, we like to think we have the best information available when walking into a wager.  Revenge is an emotion that is probably best to stay away from as a reason to gamble on football games, especially when so many more relevant factors come into play.

Or at least that’s the way it went this weekend.

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