Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Divisional Playoff Trends

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While Division Playoff Round games were once fertile territory for home teams and favorites (almost always one and the same), their dominance has disappeared in recent years. Indeed, since the 2004 postseason, road underdogs stand 32-23-2 against the number in these playoff games.

Remember some dynamics worth mentioning that are unique to this round. Since 1990, when the playoffs expanded from 10 teams to 12, all Division Round hosts are off a “bye” and a week of rest.

And almost all of the “powerhouse” NFL teams in recent memory are from that first-round “bye” group, including 63 of the last 78 Super Bowl participants since '78 (when the first-round "bye" was introduced; the 1982 "strike" season, with no byes, not included).

At least one top conference seed has met defeat in Division Rounds in seven of the past eleven seasons, though five of the six top seeds won all of the way thru their respective conference playoffs the past three years.

Also identifiable in the past with this round are one-sided results, which have recurred with regularity over the decades. In fact, since 1975, more than half of these games have been decided by double-digit margins.

Favored teams laying a TD or more (usually representing the cream of the NFL crop) have covered at a fair 55% clip (46-38-3) in the Division Round since ‘75.

A recent Division Round trend note has been on the “totals” side, in particular “overs,” now 22-10 since the 2010 playoffs after a 3-1 marks in both the 2016 and 2017 postseasons.

Following are the point-spread results in various spread categories of NFL Division Round playoff games since 1975.

Our “charting” begins with the ’75 season because, prior to then, playoff home teams were predetermined in a divisional rotation, as opposed to the better won-loss record.

A “margin of victory” chart for the games since 1975 is included as well.

Point-Spread Results (1975-2018)
Category Result
Favorites vs. line 85-81-5 (1 pick)
Favorites straight up 119-52
Favored by 0-3 points 11-17-1
Favored by 3½-6½ points 28-26-1
Favored by 7-9½ points 28-27-2
Favored by 10-13½ points 14-8
Favored by 14 points or more 4-3-1
Home teams straight up 122-50
Home teams vs. spread 87-80-5
Home favorites vs. spread 81-77-5
Home underdogs vs. spread 5-3
Home picks vs. spread 1-0
Over/under (since 1986) 71-57

Margin Result
1-3 points 39
4-6 points 17
7-10 points 31
11-13 points 14
14 points or more 71

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