The NFL Divisional Round takes place this weekend, and there are all kinds of stats, facts, tidbits and trends for intrepid football bet tors to pour through before making their wagers this weekend. Well, I'm here to throw a few more at you! Here are five interesting angles to consider before putting your money down at the window this weekend:
1. Home Teams Dominate Divisional Weekend - Sort Of
All four road teams won the Wild-Card games last week, seemingly disparaging the myth of home-field advantage in the playoffs. However, the home-field edge really shows its teeth in the Divisional Round, with the hosts going 55-25 straight up over the last 20 years. Home teams in this round of the postseason have gone 12-4 the past four seasons, and a lot of these games over the past 10 years have been blowouts.
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Although the home teams have often advanced, beating the spread has been a different matter. Home teams are just 42-38 against the spread during that span, and they are on a 2-6 ATS skid in Divisional games over the past two seasons.
The oddsmakers - and the betting public - are clearly overvaluing home-field advantage in the postseason. And to a certain extent this makes sense. As the teams that are still alive and competing for a championship wouldn't be at this level if they weren't good enough to go on the road and win.
2. Top Seeds Are Terrible Wagers
Teams battle and claw for 17 weeks to lay claim to the No. 1 seed in their given conference, hoping to reap the rewards of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But over the last decade the top seeds in each conference have been massive underachievers at the window and only slightly better than 50-50 in terms of advancing to the conference championship game.
The No. 1 seeds have gone just 12-8 straight up and a pathetic 7-13 against the spread in this round over the last 10 years. That means that this year's top seeds - Carolina and Denver - should absolutely be on upset alert.
The top seeds have won four straight Divisional Round games the past two years. The longest streak for the top seeds is eight straight, from 2001-2005. But there have been a ton of massive flops the past two decades, with the top seeds usually serving as the biggest betting favorite of the weekend.
3. No One Plays Any Defense In The Divisional Rounds
The 'over' is an absurd 14-6 in the Divisional Round over the past 10 years, with most of the highest-scoring shootouts in the playoffs coming in this round. The numbers would be even higher, but last year's Green Bay-Dallas game went 'under' thanks only to a controversial call that reversed a touchdown in the final minutes. Had that not happened, all four games would've gone 'under'.
Further, three of the four Divisional games went 'under' in the 2014 postseason, meaning half of the 'under' games in this decade came in one weekend.
There has also been an interesting, although non-correlative, trend that's popped up for betting totals over the past 16 years. If Saturday's divisional game goes 'over' the total then you should bet the 'under' in the corresponding conference's game on Sunday. So, for instance, if the New England-Kansas City game (AFC) goes 'over' this Saturday then you will want to bet the 'under' in the other AFC Divisional Round game on Sunday (Pittsburgh-Denver).
Again, I can't explain it, but betting the 'under' after an 'over' opener has gone 10-6 in the NFC over the last 16 years and has been even better in the AFC, cashing in with a 14-5 record over the last 19 years.
4. Just Pick The Winner, Dummy…
One of the biggest mistakes that NFL gamblers make is that they overestimate the impact of the spread. The spread only comes into play in an NFL game - meaning that the team that loses the game covers the spread - roughly 20 percent of the time during the regular season.
Those numbers are only slightly higher in the postseason, though, particularly in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This runs counter to the generally held belief that playoff games are tighter games and thus the points have more value.
The straight up winners in this stage of the postseason have gone a remarkable 27-9 against the spread over the last nine seasons - a 75 percent clip - and over the last 20 years the team that advances has taken the cash in 61 of 80 games, a robust 76.3 percent cash rate.
That means that only one out of four Divisional games usually sees a team lose on the field but win at the window.
5. …And That Winner Is Probably Going To Be A Blowout
Just about everyone watching this weekend's NFL action is hoping for some drama and excitement. But if that's what you're after, you should be looking elsewhere, since the Divisional Round of the postseason has seen largest average margin of victory of any round of the playoffs since expansion.
Since the turn of the century, the 64 Divisional Round games played the last 16 years have been decided by an average of 11.4 points per game. That margin balloons up to 13.0 points per game in this decade, though, meaning that while rule changes to promote parity have shrunk scoring differentials during the regular season, that hasn't been the case in the playoffs.
Since 2000, there have been just two seasons (2004 and 2007) that saw all four Divisional games decided by less than 10 points. And overall just 26 of 64 games have been decided by less than double digits. That means 40.6 percent of all DR games have been determined by nine points or less. That seems like a lot. However, over the last 2,700 regular season games a robust 50.5 percent of all NFL games have been decided by nine points or less.
Also, over that same span (2,700 regular season games), the margin of victory was exactly three points in 15.7 percent of the time. That percentage actually goes up in the Divisional Round, as 12 of the last 64 games have been decided by exactly a field goal (18.8 percent). That said, a lone field goal has only determined the outcome in two games (of a possible 24) in this decade.
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Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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