Posted 12/30/2008 at 06:51 PM
Although there are some lousy match-ups in the final day of the NFL season and several teams often rest key players it is exciting to have all the games played on the same day for a whirlwind Sunday to decide the final playoff spots. Three division titles were up for grabs with wildcard spots mainly unsettled and there was plenty of drama.
The result is a very intriguing wild card weekend featuring four road favorites based on the early numbers. With several questionable division champions and incredible playoff success of wild card teams in recent years the numbers are justified. History says those teams typically do not fare well, as road favorites in the playoffs are rare and have gone just 6-16 ATS since 1980. A caveat however, since 2002 those teams are 3-1 ATS and 4-0 S/U.
This week’s games feature six teams that did not make the playoffs last season and seven of the twelve playoffs teams overall were not represented last year. The two teams playing this week that were in the playoffs last year will play each other again as San Diego and Indianapolis meet in a re-match of a great game last year and a great game in the regular season this year.
The story of the year in ATS numbers has been the incredible success of road teams this year, with road teams hitting nearly 55 percent on the year, though the numbers were much higher heading into the final three weeks. One of the more bizarre statistics is that teams playing in consecutive road games cashed at over a 65 percent clip. None of the four teams on the road this week was on the road last week however.
Those that do not like when teams rest players in week 17 should look no further than Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger’s concussion last week. Early reports indicate he is ready to go but that is hardly the situation desired when entering playoffs.
Week 17 also showed us that teams in must-win situations do not always deliver. Tampa Bay and Chicago both had great playoff opportunities and lost and Denver, Dallas, and the New York Jets turned in poor performances in what could have essentially been play-in games. Minnesota also barely won last week and New England was not exactly dominating. The Lions completed the incredible 0-16 season although as they have many times this year, kept the game interesting until falling apart late.
Keep in mind that last year Miami was 1-15, Atlanta was 4-12, and Baltimore was 5-11 so making a huge leap is now considered realistic. With all three of those teams starting over with new coaches and having great instant success, expect the firing squad to take several shots in the coming weeks. Rod Marinelli, Romeo Crennel, and Eric Mangini are already out the door and more could follow. Amazingly Atlanta and Baltimore have done it with rookie QBs, which might be a dangerous precedent heading into the draft. It was also great to see a revival from Chad Pennington, a player many thought was finished.