And then there were 8… Welcome to the Divisional round of the 2020 – 21 NFL Postseason! All Wildcard games went chalk aside from those 6 vs. 3 match-ups on both the AFC and NFC sides of the bracket. Both the Steelers and Seahawks represented the 3 seeds from each conference only to lose outright to the wildcard recipients, Browns and Rams. Does this 6 vs. 3 match-up typically tend to threaten the playoff run for those 3 seeds more often than it should? Let’s take a look at some historical analytics and trends to see what we can come up with. I like to think of this 6 vs. 3 NFL Playoff match-up as the ole’ 12 vs. 5 seeded match-up in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Often times, teams would prefer to avoid being the 5 seed simply based on its win percentage (or lack thereof) against a much lower seeded opponent. Now a days, we are even beginning to see some of these 12 seeds favored over the 5 seeds. How in the hell does that make any sense, right?! I digress, although the 6 seed may never be favored over a 3 seed in the NFL postseason, (mainly due to home-field advantage I would presume) the winning percentage continues to grow as time goes on. Currently, the 6 seed has a winning percentage of 38.1% over the 3 seed in Wildcard Weekend. Not too shabby, right? If you compare it to the win percentage of the 5 seed during Wildcard Weekend (33.3%) than one would have to assume two things: A. How does this make any sense at all?? and B. The 6 vs. 3 NFL match-up might have more similar correlations to the 12 vs. 5 NCAAB match-ups than we think. Taking this another step forward, if these 6 seeds are fortunate enough to capture that 38.1%, how do they fair in the Divisional round when they have to once again go on the road and face the number one seeded team from the conference? Oh, and by the way has had an extra week to rest and prepare… good luck.
This weekend provides us with four divisional games; two on Saturday and two on Sunday. According to MyBookie, the Packers are 7 point favorites over the Rams, the Bills are 2.5 point favorites over the Ravens, the Chiefs are 10 point favorites over the Browns, and the Saints are 3 point favorites over the Bucs. This is the playoffs we are talking about so the lines are going to be sharp. However, this year in particular has been a tough one to crack. To put it into perspective, of the four games slated for this weekend, not even a half of a point from the point spread has been adjusted. These lines were available on Monday and have not budged even the slightest; pretty crazy, right? So what do we do? Are these games truly just a flip of a coin? Do we just go ahead and go with our guts? Or do we just stay away in general and just enjoy the games like a normal football viewer? Surely we can find some sort of edge that can make these extremely sharp lines a bit dull. Last weekend, both 4 seeds fell to the visiting 5 seeds and both 3 seeds fell to the 6 seeds. Historically, the lower seeded teams winning percentage have been trending upwards over the past thirty years, meaning that the high seeded teams would inevitably be trending downwards. In these thirty years, the 5 and 6 seeds have an 11.9% winning percentage during the divisional round. If we assume that the Rams, Bucs, Browns, and Ravens all posses an 11.9% chance of winning this weekend than we can get a better idea of the point spreads and money lines. However, one must take into account that this is the inaugural season for the revamped NFL
postseason format. Hence, the 5 seed has coincidentally had the same success rate as the 6 seed because they have had to been matched-up against the 2 seed whom of which also had a bye during Wildcard Weekend. After analyzing a more recent graph that takes into account the newly reformatted playoff model, the 2 seed unfortunately possesses the distinct disadvantage when it comes to the new playoff format. Obviously this has to do with the extra bye week that the 2 seed is accustomed to having that is no longer at their disposal. Without the bye week, the 2 seed in the NFL playoff’s Super Bowl winning chances decrease by 8.8%. That is a pretty drastic drop, especially considering that all of the remaining seeds chances to win the Super Bowl increase with the new format. Now, that is not to say that the 6 seeds now has a better chance to win the
Super Bowl over the 2 seeds. No, but rather that their previous chances have increased compared to the original playoff structure. Point being, if the 2 seeds are the only teams that are projected to have more difficulty to win, advance, and become champions than any other team’s than we should look to make our potential plays against those teams (Bills and Saints). I would advocate the money-line plays on these underdogs. Currently, you can get the Ravens at +125 and the Bucs at +135. In order to get a positive rate of return, we just need one of these teams to win this coming weekend. Adding both the 2 seeds 11.9% (which is greater due to the new playoff format) and taking into account the 2 seed regression of 8.8%, we can informally calculate that there is at least a 41.4% chance of one these 5 seeds winning this weekend with a 20.7% chance of both of them winning outright. I like taking both money lines in this spot with the lines being so sharp. For the record, your boy went 3 for 3 last weekend with two ATS winners and an UNDER that hit.
NFL Divisional Weekend Picks:
RAVENS (+125) @ BILLS – Pick = RAVENS
BUCS (+135) @ SAINTS – Pick = BUCS
RAMS @ PACKERS (O/U 46) – Pick = OVER