By Marc Lawrence
Handicapping the NFL Playoffs can be a bit tricky.
The knee-jerk reaction is to back home teams. After all, they have been a solid-moneymaker, going 157-125-6 ATS (55.6%), dating back to 1980.
Today, however, that would be a mistake as the success of home teams in the playoffs has dissolved like an Alka Seltzer in a cold glass of water.
A closer look finds home teams just 109-94-5 ATS since 1990 and, even worse, 54-56-7 ATS since 2000. Hence, like the economy, they have fallen on hard times.
The key is breaking the playoffs down into rounds. And in doing so it's wise to remember the oddsmakers have made the visiting teams more attractive (read: value-laden) than ever before.
Let's break down opening round games involving No. 3 or lower seeded teams with these three time-tested theories. Note: all results are ATS (Against The Spread) and are since 1980, unless noted otherwise.
Teams in NFL Wild Card round contests playing off a straight up season ending loss as a favorite tend to bounce back up off the carpet, going 30-15-1.
Better yet, dress them up as dogs and they improve to 14-4.
Teams off back-to-back season ending losses apply their own tourniquet as they stop the bleeding, going 20-9.
Put them at home and they zoom to 13-4.
Teams off a season ending blowout win in which they beat the spread by more than 20 points suffer from more than a sugar rush, going just 10-17-2 during this round.
Feed them a field goal (+3) or more and they die a slow death, going 1-7.
There you have it. I'll be back next week with a peek at the Divisional Round playoff matchups.
Good luck as always.