Among the most widely used techniques for sports betting handicapping is the application of trends to forecast game outcomes. This approach is still widely utilized today because it has been tried and demonstrated to be successful in the past.

Now, different sports use these patterns in different ways, but overall, they work well. Some handicappers rely extensively on trend-based handicapping, using it as a primary determining factor in every selection they make, while others use it as a tool to assist them get to a final wagering decision.

Consider this to get a sense of how trend-based betting operates: the San Francisco 49ers were 48-17 against the spread from 1981 to 1997 following a game in which they either lost straight up or failed to cover the spread. If you were betting on the club at the time, this is a great indication because it shows you that they don’t often lose a lot of games in a row and that they recover rather well from losses. When the 49ers win or cover the spread 74% of the time—a very impressive percentage considering the number of head coaches, players, and personnel they have had over the course of 16 years—you would always bet on them if you were using trend-based handicapping.

Since many teams take after their head coach in terms of personality, these trends aren’t always exclusive to particular groups of players. Consider the case of former NFL head coach Jon Gruden. In his two seasons as head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden’s clubs finished with respective records of 16-8 ATS and 15-10-2 ATS following a loss. His teams were 16–20 ATS and 13–20 ATS, respectively, following a win. Throughout his career, Gruden was renowned for being a fiery coach. Based on patterns, it appears that this aspect of his personality helped him inspire his team after a setback, but it also hindered his performance following wins, as he had less things to be upset about.

Some betting patterns cannot be utilized to anticipate games with any degree of accuracy, but it is easier to predict team trends following wins or defeats. These kinds of patterns include past performance trends between two teams, historical performance trends in a certain month, and the number of home opening victories or losses a team has had in a row.

Regarding the past games between the two teams, one of the main reasons the trend isn’t very significant is because there have most likely been some head coaching changes or significant free agency additions or subtractions since the teams’ last meeting. These days, it is quite uncommon to find a group of players that play for the same team their entire career, or a head coach who has been with the same team for more than ten years. Because of this, comparing historical trends between two teams can be challenging. Rarely, such as with the NFL’s New England Patriots and the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, can those tendencies be helpful because they still hold true for two teams that have had the same head coach and key players for more than ten years.

The other trends, such as the one that indicates a team’s past performance in a given month or the number of consecutive home opening victories or losses, should not be given undue weight as they are not very useful in forecasting future events.

The bottom line is that team trends can be a very successful way to predict a game’s outcome. However, if you intend to use team trends to place bets, avoid using trends that have no real value and instead stick to the trends that have been shown to be more successful in predicting game outcomes, such as the trends of teams that have had their head coach or key players for a long time.