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 161-131-6 (55.1%) dating back to 1980.
Today, however, that would be a mistake as the success of home teams in the playoffs has dissolved faster than an Alka Seltzer in a cold glass of water.
A closer look finds home teams just 108-98-5 ATS (52.4%) since 1990 and, even worse, 55-57-1 ATS (48.1%) since 2000. Thus, like the economy, NFL playoff hosts have fallen on hard times.
The key is breaking the playoffs down into rounds. And in doing so it’s wise to remember the linemakers have made the visiting teams more attractive (read: value-laden) than ever before.
Let’s break down opening round games involving unrested, No. 3 or lower seeded teams, in opening round playoff games 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 20-10-1 ATS - including 0-2 ATS last year.
Better yet, dress them up as dogs and they improve to 14-5 ATS.
Wild card road teams have a difficult time after dueling a division opponent in their season ending finale, going 20-36-1 ATS – including 3-1 ATS last year.
Bring these highwaymen in off a double-digit division loss and they drop to 2-11 ATS.
NFL Wild Card teams off a season ending blowout win in which they beat the spread by 10 or points suffer from more than a sugar rush, going just 21-33-1 during this round – including 2-0 ATS last year.
These same unappealing teams are even less palatable when playing off a straight up underdog win, going 4-16-1 ATS.
Notice that all three of these Wild Card angles defied each theory in a major way last season. Will they revert back to form or continue their stubborn ways in 2011? Stay tuned.
There you have it. I’ll be back next week with a peek at the Divisional Round playoff matchups.
Good luck as always.