Conference Championship Weekend is upon us, and we have a pair of fascinating tilts to look forward to. Oddsmakers have deemed the home team as a big favorite for both contests, but the visiting underdogs are far from pushovers. As we look ahead to the games, let’s take a moment to look back and see what we can glean from history. Here are 10 pieces of intel to consider.
Big Edge for Home Teams in Title Games
Home teams have been the safer bet in recent years. Stretching back to the 2007 season, or over the last dozen sets of Conference Championship clashes, home teams are 17-7. That’s a winning percentage of 70.8, which is pretty tough to look past. Home teams have swept the round in seven of the last 12 years, while road squads have done so twice over that span.
Favorites are Getting the Job Done 70% of the Time…
Since home teams are finding success in this round of late, it should come as no surprise that it’s the same story for favorites. On a straight-up basis, favorites have a 17-7 edge over underdogs. In six of the last 12 postseasons, the favorite has won both Conference Championship games, while the underdogs have only swept once.
…But Underdogs are Covering 50% of the Time
Home teams and favorites are finding the most success, but underdogs are coming to play for the most part. For the 24 title tilts since 2007, favorites and underdogs are tied up at 12-12 against the spread. Both favorites and underdogs have swept the round on an ATS basis four times over that span. Underdogs have covered the last four Conference title games.
Even Split for Favorites/Underdogs in This Year’s Playoffs
This year’s postseason has been incredibly interesting. For Wild Card Weekend, Underdogs were 3-1 straight-up and ATS, while road squads were also 3-1 ATS. In the Divisional Round, it was a different story. Favorites were 3-1 overall and ATS, and home teams also stood at 3-1. Add it all up, and the record stands at 4-4 for all three categories through two weeks of the postseason.
All Four Teams Have Exceeded Preseason Win Expectations
If we look back to the preseason futures market for all four teams still alive in the postseason, they have all eclipsed what was expected of them. The Chiefs were pegged at 10.5 wins at most books, but they managed to go 12-4. The Packers won 13 games over nine expected wins. The 49ers and Titans had benchmarks of eight wins, but they cleared the bar with nine and 13 wins respectively.
Road Teams Won Last Year’s Conference Championship Games
In last year’s title games, the Rams took down the Saints in New Orleans, while the Patriots handled the Chiefs in Kansas City. That was the first time that both road teams won the weekend in this round since 2012. In between those two tentpoles, the home side was 10-0 in title games. This time around, the Chiefs and 49ers are both currently 7.5-point home favorites.
Titans Franchise 1-4 in Conference Title Games
The history of the Titans includes the team’s time as the Houston Oilers. The round hasn’t been kind to the franchise. This will be their first appearance in the AFC title game since the 2002 postseason when they fell to the Raiders by a score of 41-24. The Titans lone victory in this round came in the 1999 playoffs over the Jaguars, but they would go on to lose to the Rams in the Super Bowl.
Chiefs Striving for First Super Bowl Berth Since 1970
While this is the second season in a row that the Chiefs have made it this far, the franchise is far from a regular in this round of the postseason. Prior to the recent run, the team’s last appearance in the AFC title game came in the 1993 postseason when they lost to the Bills. That was the first Conference title game appearance for the team since 1970, the year they won Super Bowl IV over the Vikings.
The Packers Have Lost Last Two NFC Title Game Appearances
Since taking down Super Bowl XLV over the Steelers as a Wild Card team, the Packers haven’t been able to get over the hump to make it back to the Big Game. They squared off with the Seahawks in the 2014 postseason at Seattle, falling by a score of 28-22 in overtime. Green Bay made it back to the title game in the 2016 playoffs, but they were smoked on the road by the Falcons to the tune of 44-21.
The 49ers are 6-9 All-Time in the Conference Championship Round
For a team with an exemplary mark of 5-1 in Super Bowls, this one is a little eyebrow-raising. The 49ers were 4-1 in NFC title games during its dynastic days in the 1980s. The following decade wasn’t as kind, as San Francisco was 1-4 in this round. This will be the club’s fourth NFC title game appearance since the turn of the century. They’re 1-2 thus far, losing the last time they made it this far to the Seahawks in the 2013 playoffs.