Last week I started my annual NFL playoff series looking at the trends of recent years by digging into the wild-card round. I revealed a number of systems and methodologies that had been very successful in recent years, including a couple of particular angles regarding outright winners and first-time quarterbacks that continued to thrive.
Like the league itself, this week I will be moving on to the divisional round. The six winners of last weekend join No. 1 seeds Green Bay and Tennessee in looking to take a big step toward the Super Bowl. Will being off last week help their prospects? I’ll look at that and a lot more.
Last year, for the fourth straight season, at least three of the four home teams advanced out of the divisional round. If you recall last week’s wild-card article, the focus was on road-team success, which came to a screeching halt with hosts going 5-1.
Does that mean we’ll see a shift in the divisional round? It would be a dramatic change if so. In fact, in looking back at the last 10 playoff seasons, in two years (2016 and 2019) the hosts swept this round, in another (2017) they split. In the seven other years, home teams went 3-1, meaning a cumulative record of 31-9 in that span, or 78 percent. Thus, if the typical pattern holds, expect just one of the four hosts to be eliminated this weekend. On paper, that team would figure to be the Chiefs, with the Bills playing as the smallest underdog of the four road teams.
Here are some general recent trends from the divisional round.
The outright winner owns a 29-10-1 ATS mark in the last 40 divisional playoff games. If you recall, in last week’s wild-card article, outright winners were on a much stronger 48-7-1 ATS run and proceeded to go 6-0 last weekend.
Since the road teams last held an edge (3-1) in 2009, home teams are on a convincing run of 36-12 SU and 25-22-1 ATS in the divisional round. Hosts are 14-9-1 ATS in the last six years, re-emphasizing the importance of not only home-field advantage but the extra week of rest and health that comes for teams securing a bye in the wild-card round. Of course, for a second straight season, only the two No. 1 seeds enjoyed the luxury of having last weekend to rest.
Point spreads have proven to be a strong giveaway as to which team should win in divisional playoff games, as home favorites of 5.5 points or less (or underdog) are just 14-10 SU and 10-14 ATS since ’06, while those laying 6 points or more are 28-11 SU and 18-20-1 ATS in that same span. That’s a difference of almost 13 percent outright.
Double-digit home favorites in the divisional round are on a 6-1 SU and ATS surge. Tennessee’s upset of Baltimore in 2019 is the only conflicting result in that group.
Road underdogs in the +3.5 to +9.5 range have proven to be worthy bets in the divisional round, going 22-14-1 ATS in the last 37 tries (11-26 SU). However, these teams are on a seven-game outright losing streak.
There has been a significant performance difference in home/road dichotomy based on the day the divisional playoff game has been played on.On Saturdays, home teams have gone 21-3 SU and 18-6 ATS in the last 12 seasons. Over the total is also 16-8 in those games. On Sundays, road teams have performed much better, going 15-17 SU and 22-9-1 ATS since ’06. They were 2-0 ATS in 2021.