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Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under - O/U
Divisional Playoff Betting Angles
Last week's stuff found some nice winners with the data from here and here, as the 'under' in the Baltimore/Tennessee game had more than one reference point and was never really in question.
The Ravens bucked the trend of the shortest WC favorite losing outright, as the Saints did against the number as the biggest favorite.
Fading Buffalo was also an option as the team that had the best ATS record during the regular season, and the playoff team with the worst – the Cleveland Browns – put together the most shocking performance of the weekend to push that run to 7-1-1 ATS the past nine years now.
Handicapping Cleveland is interesting this week because how much of last week do you throw out of the memory bank with head coach Kevin Stefanski back? Considering how many turnovers Cleveland benefited from in that Pittsburgh win, it almost makes the question a little harder.
The Browns do occupy a rather neat 16-game sample size dating back to realignment that I'll get to a bit later, but first it's a nice angle that comes from a reader's theory (thanks Jay) I was asked to look into before the Wildcard games even kicked off.
After doing the digging, I just hoped it would come up this week or beyond, and it only took the Bills game to go final for it to be applicable.
Therefore my apologies go out to Bills Mafia once again (although we both were happy last week with a Colts cover and Bills SU win), but if Buffalo's playoff run ends this week, I hope for their sake the saying “misery loves company” has some truth to it.
And Buffalo’s old pal Tom Brady could join them on the same ship.
Since realignment, fading NFL playoff teams that won SU but fail to cover ATS (any round) is 25-8 SU and 15-17-1 ATS since realignment of 2002.
This is quite the angle to grasp but when you boil it down it does make a lot of sense to consider. And the SU and ATS disparity in numbers makes sense as well with it having enough times where it's a possible suspect Wildcard team going on the road against a team off a bye in the Divisional round.
But for it to hold true for all of the final three rounds is still pretty impressive, and quite the memory bank of plays to keep it in consideration every season, especially with it not being applicable once in last year's playoffs.
Teams to win SU but not cover the number could be victimized by lofty expectations on a number that's a TD or bigger like say the Bills and Buccaneers were last week. They could be a -4 favorite that squeaks out a late kick to break a tie/come back to win, or anything in between.
Either way there are some leaks in the games of those squads, and in scenarios where they are either on the road in the Divisional round, up against another very good team with a Super Bowl berth on the line, or in the Super Bowl itself, you advance in the NFL playoffs these days without an ATS win, your playoff run tends to not last much longer.
Who could you follow?
The duality of the SU and ATS numbers does create a few more puzzle pieces in the puzzle this week with the spreads in Buffalo and Tampa both being in the FG or less range.
Only one time in the last nine tries has a NFL team in this spot won the game outright though – 45-42 Jacksonville over Pittsburgh in 2017 – and 2018 saw the Rams make it all the way to the Super Bowl as the beneficiaries of the other end of this trend, beating Dallas after they failed to cover, and getting by New Orleans (won't say “beat” after the no PI) the following week after the Saints failed to cover.
The double-revenge spot for the Bucs is another layer to that cake in the other applicable game, especially with the latter loss being as ugly as it was (38-3 on SNF). Brady has been rather ruthless in his career when he's on a quest for another championship, and maybe that cutthroat nature returns in being the guy to retire Drew Brees.
After all, as great as these two future Hall of Fame QBs have been in their careers, this is also probably the closest thing we get to a WWE-style, “loser retires” matchup in the NFL, although who knows, Brady might go the George Blanda-route and transition to a kicker soon to play until he's 48 as well.
But one of these two may end up showing their age a little bit, in this matchup or beyond (for the winner), and even with this great historical angle suggesting it won't be the end for the Saints, a double revenge angle off the ugliest of losses for the Bucs isn't a spot that's fun to stand in front of either.
Understandable how it's hard to be confident in either side for this game.
Since realignment in 2002, backing NFL playoff teams to allow 30 or more points and win you are 6-10 SU and 7-9 ATS. Those games are also 8-7-1 O/U
Cleveland put on quite the performance in that 48-37 win over the Steelers, as it was like everything that went against the Browns the entire week without practicing and coaches missing flipped to good luck all at the same time.
The huge early lead allowed Cleveland to play a soft shell much earlier than they ever would have expected, but the 30+ points they gave up in a win isn't the best omen for thinking they can take down Goliath aka Kansas City.
Who could you fade?
Benefiting from five turnovers won't happen again for the Browns, but getting 10 points can look like a lot when you just saw the team nearly put up 50.
If there ever was a team that would be capable of winning a football game 60-50, it would be a Patrick Mahomes-led KC Chiefs team, and with only one team in each conference getting the bye this year, the positive effects of that time off could easily be amplified.
Yes, there have been plenty of bye teams laying an egg and going the one-and-done route each year, but those games also accounted for 100% of the action during the Divisional Weekend, as opposed to just 50% this season.
Cleveland is still a very bad defense against the pass – Ben Roethlisberger's numbers are considered slightly inflated because of game situation – and now they are going up against the QB who's the future of this game in that regard.
The basis behind this trend is generally that these teams have very leaky defenses (to give up that many), had a way above their head effort offensively to still win with 31 or more, and/or took full advantages of turnovers, special teams returns, shock plays etc, all of which can't particularly be counted on to happen again. It's tough to trust either of those likely offensive scenarios to duplicate themselves a week later, and now that leaky defense is going up against a far better offensive team.
But laying the -10 with Kansas City does come with concerns as well, as to how you grade a coach returning after a week off.
Players get healthy after a game and it's known what to expect from them, but with bias already naturally coming from what's been seen last, how does the coaching return/switch completely overshadow it. It should, but you can see why Cleveland + the points has been gaining some attraction in the market.
What peaked my interest about those numbers though was looking at the 'over' results being slightly ahead, and that being the side of the total that does have some attraction to it.
Cleveland may not benefit from all those turnovers again, but they don't even need half of what they put up a week ago to do more than enough to see an 'over' ticket cash here if the Chiefs are sharp and decide to keep their foot on the gas for the full 60 minutes with it being the playoffs now.
The run the Chiefs had going of winning SU games but failing to cover the spread was absurd this year (maybe that earlier angle applies to KC next week), and eventually that's got to flip one way or another.
At 6-10 SU for teams in the same spot as Cleveland this week, it suggests that flipping to a KC outright loss may not be the most likely (don't get me wrong, as does the -10 spread), and if KC does continue letting their foes hang around and finish inside the number, in that case, I'd rather be holding an 'over' ticket for the full game.
Cleveland's defense isn't likely to have tremendous success holding QB Mahomes and company down, and Browns QB Baker Mayfield is never shy about going down swinging if the game calls for it, as the Baltimore Ravens from a few Mondays ago can surely attest too.
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