NFL Odds: Betting on the Heavy Favorites for Divisional Round Playoffs
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 1/13/2011
The NFL postseason is only into its second round, but already we have seen three teams be pegged as nine-point or higher underdogs, according to the NFL lines. This week in the divisional round we have two heavy underdogs, including the Seattle Seahawks, who are catching 10 points for the second consecutive week.
This may seem like a lot of underdogs and a lot of points, but looking back at recent playoff history big underdogs are common. The past five NFL playoffs have featured 17 games with an underdog of seven points or more.
The only thing more surprising than the high point spreads in the playoffs is the outcomes of those games. When Seattle stunned New Orleans last week in the Wild Card round as 9.5-point underdogs, many people called it one of the biggest NFL playoff upsets of all time. Well, according to the point spread it was only the fifth biggest playoff upset since 2006. Three underdogs of 10 or 10.5 points have won outright since 2006, and, of course, there was Super Bowl XLII when the 12.5-point underdog New York Giants stunned the previously unbeaten New England Patriots.
Since 2006 underdogs of seven points or more are an amazing 8-10 SU. Consider that number for a second. In the NFL playoffs, with everything on the line, favorites of seven points or more only win 55-percent of the time since 2006.
That stunning trend does not mean go ahead and bet on all the heavy underdogs plus the points in the playoffs. Underdogs of seven points or more are just 9-9 ATS in that same time frame. So basically if one of those big underdogs covers, it usually wins outright. In the past 18 NFL playoff games featuring a point spread of seven points or more, the spread has really only mattered three times. Only three times since 2006 has an NFL favorite of seven points or more won the game but not covered the spread.
NFL playoff point spreads, especially in the divisional round and beyond, are heavily scrutinized, especially the big spreads. Some NFL handicappers will buy a half a point or a point or wait for a line to go from 10 to 10.5, but if recent history says anything, it’s that the spread is pretty obsolete when it gets over seven points. If you like a heavy favorite, take them, do not worry about the points. And even more importantly, do not bet on an underdog that you do not think can win. That rule applies anytime during an NFL season but especially in the postseason. If you do not think the Seahawks or Jets can actually win on Sunday it is not a smart play to take them because you think nine or 10 points is a lot.
The New York Giants Super Bowl shocker over the Patriots was the biggest playoff upset in the past five seasons, here are the next three biggest upsets:
*Arizona 33-13 at Carolina as 10-point underdogs in 2009
*San Diego 28-24 at Indianapolis as 10.5-point underdogs in 2008
*Pittsburgh 21-18 at Indianapolis as 10-point underdogs in 2006
All three games have one thing in common: they all happened during the divisional playoff round. Arizona and Pittsburgh both would win another game to reach the Super Bowl and the Steelers went on to win a Super Bowl three weeks after their upset.
If Seattle or the New York Jets were able to win on Sunday, it certainly will be classified as an upset. However, just don’t be surprised.
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