Theoretically, when you use the point spread to make a wager on a football game, you have a 50-50 chance of picking the winner. In order to be of any value to the betting public, a handicapper must make the right picks greater than half of the time. In sports handicapping, whether it be football or some other sport, a good handicapper might pick six or seven games correctly out of 10. Even a great handicapper, betting with the point spread, can not expect to maintain a 70 percent success rate. One of the reasons it is so hard to find a football handicapper that can consistently produce a 70 percent win to loss ratio is that football games often do not go according to form.
If a team is losing by two touchdowns entering the fourth quarter and their opponent is driving toward another score, the outcome of the game looks certain. However, an interception by the defense that is returned for a touchdown, can completely change the momentum of the game and possibly lead to a victory for the team that was trailing so badly before the turnover.
It only takes one big play to change the momentum in a game. A fumble near the goal line can swing the momentum in favor of the team that recovered the football. A blocked punt can be enough to give a team a boost and suddenly get them back into a game that looked lost. All of the big plays from turnovers to kickoff returns are momentum changing moments in a football game.
When the big play takes place is almost more important than the fact that it took place at all. If an interception takes place in the last minute of a game when the score is 35-7, does it really matter? Other than padding one player’s individual statistics and being a negative mark on the quarterback’s record, that interception does not impact the outcome of a game.
On the other hand, if a team recovers a fumble late in the first half and then goes on to score a touchdown or kick a field goal, that can have a big impact on the way the scoring team comes out and plays in the second half. It is the unexpected good fortune that inspires a team to play harder because they believe that they have a better chance of coming out on the winning side.
Momentum can also shift on a defensive stop. If the defense shuts down the opposing team’s offensive attack, when the offense gets the ball back, they will use the stellar play of their defense as a motivating force to get out there and score some points.
Whether it is a great play, a turnover or a bad call by the referee, momentum changes often happen several times in any given football game. One play, one player, or even the decision of the coach to go for it on fourth down, can change the momentum and influence the outcome of the game.