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Sandwich Game Theory

Over the course of a long and punishing season, even the most talented teams in the league have off-games. In a perfect world, every game would have every player playing at 100 percent, but that just isn’t realistic.

Some games will see a team feeling fresh, confident, energetic and ready to play at a high level. In other games, the emotional and physical toll of a long season will show on the field or court, making a team look sluggish and unfocused.

Every week we see teams inexplicably play way above or below their potential, much to our joy when we are on the right side of those instances and much to our dismay when we are on the wrong side. In many cases, it is hard to predict when a team is going to play one of these out-of-character games, but one angle to consider is the Sandwich Game Theory.

What is a Sandwich Game?

A “sandwich game” is a seemingly inconspicuous game sandwiched between two very important or very difficult games. For example, the 2015 Baltimore Ravens had the following three games on their schedule in a row: at Denver, at Oakland, vs Cincinnati.

A game against the Super Bowl contender Broncos obviously would have sparked a ton of emotion, and the Bengals are a heated division rival, so that’s another big game for which the Ravens would need to raise their emotional ante.

And then there was Oakland, on the road. It would have been extremely difficult for Baltimore to bring its best effort in that game. Coming off an emotional win or loss to Denver and looking ahead to the following week’s game against Cincinnati, it would be easy to lose focus against a team like Oakland and fail to pay off on the point spread.

When you see a situation such as this one, when a team has a non-division opponent in between two big games, give them a strong look. You will likely catch the team in its sandwich game playing something less than its best.