The Wild Card round lived up to its billing and then some. In a perfect world, that’s an indicator of what’s to come for the rest of the NFL Playoffs. As we get set for the Divisional Round, it’s once again wise to take a look back and hunt for clues we can use for handicapping purposes. Here are 12 nuggets of intel to consider while breaking down this week’s games.
Home field advantage is kind of a big deal.
Over the last 12 years of the NFL Playoffs, being at home in the Divisional Round has been a big plus more often than not. For the 48 games over that span, home teams are 33-15 straight-up, a winning percentage of .687. Last year, home squads were a perfect 4-0 in this round.
Favorites get the job done 66% of the time…
It’s a similar story for favorites in this round over the last dozen postseasons. On a straight-up basis, favorites are 32-16. Favorites have swept the round in two of the last four years, including last season. We have to go back to 2008 to find a season in which favorites finished worse than 2-2. Underdogs were 1-3 that year, but favorites have won at least two games in the 11 other seasons.
…but underdogs cover 54% of the time.
When the point spread is factored in, however, underdogs fare much better. For the timeframe in question, favorites are 21-26-1 ATS. It was a good year for favorites last year, as they went 3-1 ATS in the divisional round, but underdogs have had five 3-1 weekends over the last 12 years.
The favorites were 1-3 straight-up and ATS last weekend.
This past Wild Card Weekend was a tough one for favorites. We had three outright upsets and just a single cover by a favored team. We’ll see what that means for the coming weekend, but it was a vastly different story in last year’s Divisional Round, as the favorites went 4-0 straight-up and 3-1 ATS. For the record, favorites fared poorly in the 2018 opening round as well.
The Vikings are seeking their second NFC Championship berth in three years.
Heading into the playoffs, the sixth-seeded Vikings were generally being dismissed and viewed as a speed bump for the Saints. That has proven not to be the case. Minnesota is off to San Francisco as a dangerous team that’s playing with house money. This team missed the tournament last season, but they made it to the final four after the 2017 season before being decimated by the Eagles.
The 49ers are preparing for their first playoff game since 2013.
The drought has been long and painful and San Francisco, but the good news is that the rebuilding effort has finally borne fruit. From 2011-2013, this club was a legitimate contender, making it to the conference title game each season, and reaching the Super Bowl once, where they would fall to the Ravens. As the top seed in the NFC, another deep run is expected. On an all-time basis, the 49ers are 16-8 in the Divisional Round and 31-21 in postseason games.
The Titans are making their second Divisional Round appearance in the last three years.
Tennessee was not at the top of the list of postseason contenders for very many pundits and prognosticators heading into the season, but here they are again after knocking off the Patriots. The Titans are a tough team that’s built for late-season football, but they have a tall task ahead with a trip to Baltimore up next. Two seasons ago, the club took down the Chiefs in the Wild Card round before falling to the Patriots the following week.
The Ravens are looking for their first AFC Championship since 2012.
That was the year the team made it to the Super Bowl and defeated the 49ers. Since then, they have only been to the postseason twice: losing to the Patriots in the Divisional Round in 2014, and falling in the Wild Card game to the Chargers a season ago. The club enters this year’s playoffs as the favorites to represent the AFC in this year’s edition of the Big Game.
The Texans are 0-3 all-time in the Divisional Round.
Houston has never made it past this round in franchise history. The team has had three cracks at it, most recently in 2016 when they lost to the Patriots. They also fell to the Patriots in this round in 2012, and they lost to the Ravens in it the year before. The loss to the Ravens was by seven points, but the Patriots won both contests by double digits.
The Chiefs are just 3-8 all-time in the Divisional Round.
For a team that has been quite good during the Andy Reid era, Kansas City just doesn’t have much postseason success to show for it. Last year’s trip to the AFC title game, where they lost to the Patriots, was the first time they made it that far since 1993. It’s not just the Reid factor either, as the Chiefs franchise is 10-19 all-time in the playoffs.
The Seahawks are seeking their first NFC Championship bid since 2014.
This is Seattle’s fourth trip to the postseason since they fell to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. The club has lost two divisional games and fallen once in the Wild Card round in its previous three appearances. The Seahawks are another team with a poor overall mark in this round, going 4-8 all-time. For postseason history as a whole, the team is 17-16.
Since their last Super Bowl win, the Packers are 5-6 in playoff games.
Green Bay won the Super Bowl after the 2010 season as a Wild Card. They’ve made six trips to the postseason since then, getting as far as the conference title game twice. The club has fallen in the Divisional Round three times over that span and was knocked out in the Wild Card game once. On an all-time basis, the franchise is 9-10 in this round and 34-22 in postseason games.