Wild Card Weekend Playoff Betting Trends, Angles

Earlier this week, I outlined some historical angles related to the Week 17 results from playoff teams over the years to find some interesting information, but everyone knows you can't completely base a betting selection on what has happened most recently.

So why don't we go over some season long angles and specific “Wild Card Weekend” point-spreads and totals that can be applied as well, because I found some interesting stuff in that research too.

Not going to be the typical Hot/Not format, as rather I'll just go on listing headings based on the idea of Best/Worst or Largest/Smallest, and once I get going here it will be easier to understand.

I'll begin with the specifics of the point spreads and totals we've already got posted for this week's games.

So let's get right to it:

Since the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs, the Wild Card round team that's the shortest favorite for the weekend is 3-6 SU and ATS; 1-6 SU and ATS since 2013-14.

This was an interesting one to come across, as more often than not these teams that get locked in as the smallest favorite for Wild Card Weekend (as of the closing line) were around a FG or less.

It's those types of “coin flip” games that you'd think would be much closer to the 50% mark for favorites, but that hasn't been the case. Only two of the nine teams here were favored by 4 points or more (Houston -4 in 2016, and LAR -6 in 2017) and they split the board both outright and against the number.

The last two seasons we've had Philadelphia (-1) and Houston (-1.5) in this spot in 2019 and 2018 respectively and the average margin of defeat for those two teams was 11 points. Not pretty at all.

Put it together for this week and it's not good news for the Baltimore Ravens, as currently they sit at -3.5 for the distinction of being the shortest favorite on the board. Given that there is some playoff revenge from last year, and regular season revenge from an OT loss this year for Baltimore, there are reasons to buck this historical angle and look to back the Ravens, but win or lose, it's got decent potential to be a highly sweated out game.

Since the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs, the Wild Card round team that's the biggest favorite for the weekend is 6-4 SU but just 3-7 ATS; 1-7 ATS since 2013-14.

There are a couple of things to note here, the first being the sample size hits 10 instead of 9 because back in 2017, Kansas City and Jacksonville each closed at -8.5 for the largest spread of Wild Card weekend. Neither of them covered the number, but the Jags did win outright in their 10-3 victory over the Bills.

The second thing to note is that all three ATS wins have come when it's been a double digit spread. In 2011 we had New Orleans close at -10.5 in an easy SU and ATS victory, and Green Bay followed suit the very next year closing at the same -10.5 number. It wasn't until 2016 that we had another double digit spread during Wild Card weekend, as Pittsburgh rolled to 30-12 win over Miami as -11.5 chalk. Every other time the largest spread of the weekend has closed lower than double digits, the underdog has covered.

So it's up to you on whether or not to trust that second caveat this week, as it's the New Orleans Saints who own the distinction of being the biggest favorite this week at -10, although it does seem to be moving into the single digit range at various places in the market.

It will be New Orleans or Tampa Bay that closes in this role as the biggest Wild Card favorite though, and if both end up in single digits, it may be time to close your eyes and hit submit on ATS wagers on Washington and Chicago, even with how unsettling that may feel.

Since the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs, the Wild Card game with the smallest total is 3-6 O/U

No wild backstory information on games staying 'under' historically here, and last year it was the Bills/Texans game that landed in this role with a closing number of 43. Even seeing that game go to OT wasn't enough to push the final score 'over' the number (22-19 final), so maybe there is something to this total history where it's best not to try and figure out how it keeps working.

This weekend it's the Rams/Seahawks game that fits this role with a total of 42.5 currently, and given the QB situation for the Rams, you know that the 'under' is likely to get support trickling in throughout the week, and then possibly hammered if Goff is confirmed out at some point. So if the 'under' in this game is already something that's on your radar, it might be best to go ahead and fire early on it.

Since the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs, the Wild Card game with the largest total is 2-7 O/U; 1-7 O/U since 2012

This was something I found really interesting related to this week's games, because it adds further support to the 'under' in the Baltimore/Tennessee game that the piece from earlier in the week already outlined.

At 54.5 currently, and approaching 55 and beyond in plenty of shops, the majority consensus for this game is likely only going to be on the 'over', so contrary to the last point, this may be the play this weekend to wait on until it's closer to kick off.

For a bettor like myself, that likely contrarian approach, lined up with these multiple historical angles, as well as a defacto “division flip flop” theory in play after the regular season meeting between these two cashed an 'over' 50.5 ticket thanks to Tennessee's OT win, the 'under' in this game is going to be something already in my pocket come Sunday afternoon.

Since the 2012-13 NFL Playoffs, the Wild Card round team that had the highest points per game of any Wild Card team during the regular season is 5-4 SU, but just 2-6-1 ATS

The sample size remains the same at nine games even with one fewer year, because back in 2015, Seattle and Pittsburgh entered the playoffs tied at the top with 26.4 points per game scored coming into the postseason.

Both of them ended up winning their respective games outright to move on, but not without some drastic help in the form of huge gaffs from their opposition. Seattle and Pittsburgh also went 0-1-1 ATS in those victories.

In Seattle's case, that was the year they won 10-9 at Minnesota in the Wild Card round, as Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a go-ahead 27-yard FG with 22 seconds left in the game. That missed kick bled into the next year for Walsh, where huge struggles ultimately got him released by the Vikings in November of 2016, and he went and joined Seattle of all teams the following year.

I guess the Seahawks organization felt like they needed to directly compensate Walsh at some point for that 2015 playoff victory.

In Pittsburgh's case, they were trailing 16-15 late in Cincinnati as the Bengals were trying to win their first playoff game since 1990, and after a late fumble gave the Steelers one final chance, Marvin Lewis lost complete control of his team. 30 yards in penalties from a Vontaze Burfict head shot and an Adam Jones personal foul penalty put the Steelers in easy FG range for the win.

Had it not been for those gaffs, this SU record for the highest scoring Wild Card team would look much worse, and even still they aren't in a great position to be bet on.

This year, the best Wild Card team in terms of points per game this year just so happens to be the Buffalo Bills at 31.3 points per game. As a touchdown favorite, the Bills following suit in this role with an outright victory, but ATS loss does make plenty of sense.

Since the 2012-13 NFL Playoffs, the Wild Card round team that had the lowest points per game of any Wild Card team during the regular season is 3-5 SU and ATS

Flipping things over to the other side of the scoring spectrum, playoff teams that had issues scoring consistently each week tend to see that be their demise in the opening week of the playoffs.

The 3-5 SU and ATS records aren't perfectly correlated in the sense that every SU win was an ATS cover and vice versa, but that doesn't mean we can't dig a little deeper to take something from this.

Four of the five SU losses came from road teams, while all three SU wins came from sides that were at home. Indianapolis' 45-44 win in wild fashion over the Chiefs back in 2013 stands out as the highlight game fitting this role with the Colts being the lowest scoring Wild Card team that year.

And having an AFC South team either in this role or playing against the team who fits this billing is quite common as well.

Houston made back-to-back appearances in this spot in 2015 and 2016 – losing the former vs KC and winning the latter vs the-then Oakland Raiders – and last season it was the Texans hosting a Buffalo Bills team that scored just 19.6 points per game during the regular season and ultimately fell in that OT game.

That was the second time in three seasons that Buffalo found themselves in this role, as they lost SU but won ATS at Jacksonville back in 2017. Goes to show you just how far that Bills offense has come this season.

The AFC South does get a break from being involved in these games this season though, as it's the Washington Football Team that clocks in with the lowest points per game number this season at 20.9.

Losing outright but winning ATS for Washington makes plenty of sense as a wager this week as well.

Since the 2012-13 NFL playoffs, the Wild Card round team that had the best ATS record during the regular season is 1-7 SU and 1-6-1 ATS

They call the playoffs the “second season” for a reason, and a record like that during Wild Card weekend for those solid regular season ATS teams suggests that backing strong ATS teams from the season might not be the best option this week.

We've seen some very good teams go down in this role over this span, and I did omit one game between Seattle and Washington from 2012, when they were one of four NFL teams (three in Wild Card) to finish the year with an 11-5 ATS record. The other team that applied that year was the Indianapolis Colts who lost 24-9 in Baltimore.

The only ATS victory during that time came from that 2015 Minnesota Vikings team that couldn't advance thanks to Blair Walsh.

Three different times we've had the best ATS Wild Card team go up against the worst ATS Wild Card team (more on them in a minute) and the worst team has gone 3-0 SU and ATS in those games (Chicago losing 16-15 to Philly in 2018, Oakland losing to Houston in 2016, and Baltimore beating the Colts in that aforementioned 2012 game).

What makes this angle appealing is that there is plenty of opportunity to cash a ticket on a big underdog in these spots, fading these quality ATS teams that oddsmakers have no choice but to shade the line slightly there way if they so choose. Chicago closed at -6.5 against Philly in that 2018 game.

Kansas City was another top ATS team to drop as big chalk back in 2017, losing 22-21 to Tennessee, when KC closed at -8.5, and last year we had New Orleans – who finished the regular season with a league-best 11-5 ATS mark lose outright to Minnesota as -7.5 home chalk.

This year, we've got another reason to fade the Buffalo Bills this week, as Buffalo went 11-5 against the number this year, tying Miami for the best record in the league. Bills fans have got to hope it's simply just a coincidence that they've got the same ATS record and league ranking as New Orleans did a year ago, because watching this year's Bills team lose on Saturday will be a bitter pill to swallow for that fan base.

And I probably shouldn't mention the fact that New Orleans was also the Wild Card round team that had the highest points per game going into last year's playoffs too – a role I already outlined Buffalo being in this season a few paragraphs ago.

Buffalo fans better abandon any belief in the saying “history always repeats” this week in that case.

Since the 2012-13 NFL playoffs, the Wild Card round team that had the worst ATS record during the regular season is 5-3 SU and 6-1-1 ATS.

If fading the best ATS Wild Card team is a situation ripe with upset potential, backing the worst ATS Wild Card team has to be considered in the same realm of possibility.

Last year's loss by the Philadelphia Eagles in this round was the only ATS loss for Wild Card teams in this role, as it had been on a 6-0-1 ATS run prior obviously.

Littered in that fantastic run were outright wins by that same Eagles franchise in 2018 over the Bears (best ATS vs worst ATS) and Atlanta's 26-13 win over the Rams in 2017

These “bad” ATS teams aren't always the underdog though, so keep that in consideration as well, as Houston and KC each won SU and ATS in this role as -4 and -3 chalk in 2016 and 2015 respectively, while Baltimore was laying -7.5 in their 2012 victory over the Colts (another best ATS vs worst ATS).

So which organization lands in this role this week?

Why the Cleveland Browns of course, finishing the year 6-10 ATS and ending their 18-year playoff drought thanks to a nail-biting win over a Pittsburgh team that only had about half their starters suit up.

Cleveland's already seen an opening number of +3.5 move against them with it sitting at -6 currently, which was due to the Covid-19 issues that continue to haunt Cleveland.

Back to the situation, facing the same opponent in consecutive weeks scenario is an added dynamic to that game that I'm sure will be dissected from that approach by many. It is a scenario that has happened enough times in NFL history to be relevant, but it was something that was far more common at the turn of last decade.

It's also not unheard of to have the same team win both games, as Dallas did it to Philadelphia in Week 17 and Wild Card weekend in 2009, the same year that the New York Jets beat Cincinnati to get into the playoffs in Week 17, and then beat them again the following week when all the rested Bengals starters from Week 17 were back on the field for the playoff game.

That's what Cleveland is trying to accomplish on SNF this week, and at least in terms of them being the worst ATS team playing this weekend, it's actually a positive this time around.

Not sure how much higher this number moves Pittsburgh's way, and while it's easy to come to the thought that Pittsburgh having their starting QB back, as well as multiple defensive starters too, should equate to a Steelers win, that's not always the case.

Now that this spread has moved all the way through -6, due to Tuesday Covid-19 update out of Cleveland. Even a tight Steelers victory still gets Cleveland the cover this week. Definitely something to keep in mind.

Finally one more thing to note here that falls under the umbrella of “worst” ATS teams. In this same eight year span since the 2012-13 NFL playoffs began, if you were to blindly take the team that finished the regular season with the worst of the two ATS records in every specific matchup, you'd be 15-8-2 ATS (ignoring games where teams had identical ATS records) and those teams are 16-9 SU as well.

That suggests that plays on Indianapolis, Seattle, Tennessee, Chicago, and obviously Cleveland should be up for consideration as well this week.

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