After a wild-card weekend that saw underdogs going a perfect 4-0 against the spread and 2-2 straight up, the divisional round matchups of the NFL playoffs are now set. For all initial playoff odds and a full playoff breakdown, check out the initial article Here.
The key in any sports handicapping is learning from the past and applying it to the future, so let’s do just that.
The Key Trends:
A team within the top 3 of Net Yards Per Play (YPP) has been in The SuperBowl for 17 straight seasons.
New Orleans and Atlanta both won outright.
First time starting quarterbacks in the playoffs were 1-11 coming into this seasons playoffs
Jared Goff lost his first playoff start, Tyrod Taylor & Blake Bortles cancelled each other out as they both made their first playoff starts against each other. Marcus Mariota did cash in as a first-time playoff starter, however. First-time quarterbacks are now 3-14 (2-13 if you throw away Taylor/Bortles playing each other.)
Tennessee Titans Vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Tennessee was able to buck the first time starting quarterback trend which is even more impressive when you add in that they did it with Mike Mularkey at the helm outscoring Kansas City 19-0 in the second half. To be honest, I don’t know who this game speaks more about. If you look at it as an implosion of Kansas City after the injury to Travis Kelce (4/66/1 in the first half) I can’t fault you, or if you really believe Tennessee just simply outplayed Kansas City and turned it on in the second half that argument can be made. Either way, Tennessee likely spoiled a money line or spread play on Kansas City for you. Tennesse now heads to New England as 13.5 point underdogs.
Atlanta Falcons Vs. LA Rams
The most attractive angle every playoff season in the NFL to me is the fact that first time starting quarterbacks are 1-11 in the playoffs. There was no bigger detracter last season of Dak Prescott especially in the playoffs as I am a firm believer that the moment is too big for first-time quarterbacks and applying the same game theory to Jared Goff proved profitable once again. This is a trend to keep in mind for next season, as it was unable to be applied to Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor as they faced off against each other, although neither played well. The Net YPP trend also held up as Atlanta won outright as a +200 underdog. Atlanta now heads to Philadelphia as a 3.5 point favorite.
Buffalo Bills Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
In a game that featured the winning quarterback rushing for more yards (88) than he passed for (87) Blake Bortles stayed out of his own way just enough for Jacksonville to escape with a 10-3 victory. Jacksonville’s pass defense more than held as they held Tyrod Taylor to 134 yards through the air and more importantly held LeSean McCoy to 75 yards rushing. I’ve noted all season the formula when it comes to handicapping Jaguar games is very simple. If they get out to an early lead they are almost impossible to beat due to their pass defense.
On the flip side, if they are behind early they can’t come back because you know, Blake Bortles is their quarterback and all. This has been especially profitable in live wagering scenarios all season long, although you have to take a bit worse of a number. One prop bet note was Blake Bortles passing yards prop was lined at 225 and again, he finished with 87. Jacksonville now heads to Pittsburgh (where they already won this season 30-9 with Ben Roethlisberger throwing 5 interceptions) as a 7.5 point underdog.
Carolina Panthers Vs. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees got the job done at home in a game where he had to throw back the clock a bit as his run game failed him for really the first game this season. Alvin Kamara only had 23 yards rushing on 10 carries and Mark Ingram was no better adding just 22 yards on 9 carries. Drew Brees proved once again he still has it especially in a dome throwing for 376 yards and two touchdowns. Cam Newton more than answered adding 349 yards through the air with two touchdowns. Carolina did cover the 7 points bringing underdogs to a perfect 4-0 ATS record on the weekend, however. New Orleans now heads to Minnesota as a 4.5 point underdog.
One interesting note is that Vegas clearly doesn’t expect the winning team’s fortunes to continue as every winner beside Atlanta is now an underdog.