As with any recurring sporting event, the NFL playoffs have gone through various trend patterns over the years, with some seasons being dominated by underdog and upstart teams and others being relatively predictable with favorites taking care of business. Because of this ever-changing nature, it can be difficult for bettors to thrive when using past playoff results as a guide. In past eras, predicting the playoffs was usually as easy as looking at a team’s body of work.
When you consider road teams are on a 10-2 SU and 11-1 ATS run in the wild-card round over the last three seasons, perhaps handicapping this stuff is easy, right? If you prefer betting totals, you’re probably going to want to consider that Under is 10-2 in that same span and 24-7-1 in the last eight playoff seasons. Trust me though, if it were that easy, they wouldn’t play the games and sportsbooks wouldn’t be expanding their operations.
With that in mind here are some wild-card round trends that might end up being worth knowing:
Quarterbacks in their first playoff game are just 15-36 SU and 14-36-1 ATS (28 percent) since ’04 when matched up against an opposing QB NOT in his first playoff game. This experience factor comes into play most in games with point spreads in the +3 to -3 range, as these first-time QBs are just 4-21 SU and 3-21-1 ATS (12.5 percent) in those games.
First-time playoff coaches have been much more successful in recent years than quarterbacks and are currently on a 7-1 SU and ATS run over the last three seasons when not matched up against another rookie head coach.
The Browns qualify for both of these situations with Baker Mayfield at quarterback and Kevin Stefanski as coach, though Stefanski will miss the game due to COVID. John Wolford also would qualify as quarterback of the Rams should he be called upon Saturday.
The outright winner owns a point spread record of 44-5-1 ATS in the last 50 wild-card playoff games. If you can’t see the team you’re betting on winning the game, you’re better off not trying to sneak a cover in, even though three games are showing point spreads of seven points or more.
Underdogs are on a run of 10-3-1 ATS in the last 14 NFC wild-card games.
Wild-card road favorites have become increasingly common as there have been 13 in the last 12 seasons. Those teams are 8-5 SU and 6-6-1 ATS. For 2021, we have two of them — Buccaneers at Washington and Ravens at Titans.
Home favorites of a touchdown or more in the wild-card round are 11-2 SU and 10-3 ATS since 2005.
In the last 24 Saturday games, home teams are 17-11 SU and 16-11-1 ATS. In that same span, Sunday home teams are 13-15 SU and 10-17-1 ATS.
In the 12 wild-card matchups between divisional opponents since 2003, road teams own a 9-3 ATS edge (6-6 SU). Two of this weekend’s six games are divisional matchups — Rams-Seahawks on Saturday and Browns-Steelers on Sunday.
Of the 16 No. 6-vs.-No. 3 wild-card matchups over the last eight seasons, Under the total is 15-0-1! This year’s 6-3 matchups are Rams-Seahawks and Browns-Steelers. Road teams are on a 5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS surge in the series as well.