As usual, I am going to take a dive into that week’s slate of games and try to dig up some trends. Hopefully, they give us an edge when making game selections each week.
Of course, trends are trends…until they’re not. Sometimes betting on the other end of a trend ending can be advantageous. The goal here isn’t to plant a flag based on a trend, rather to simply shine a spotlight on these trends that exist and talk through some of them as food for thought.
Some quick housekeeping on the current playoff results. So far through two weeks, home field and being a favorite has held no true advantage for betting, with dogs and road teams going 4-4 straight up and against the spread so far. Game totals have skewed way below the projected totals so far, with game unders going 6-2, with the first games going under before both games this past Sunday finally went over.
As for some trends in the Conference Championship Round, since the NFL went to 32 teams in 2002, home teams have held a significant edge in the final results, carrying a 23-11 record straight up. That mark is 19-15 against the spread, although both road teams outright won a year ago in two overtime battles.
With both of those underdogs covering the spread, favorites and dogs are deadlocked at 17-17 against the line over that span. This Sunday, we have two large favorites to reach the Super Bowl, which doesn’t happen often for both conferences on the same weekend. This is just the third time over that span we’ve had two teams giving away a touchdown or more in the Championship Round.
Underdogs reaching the Championship Round and getting seven or more points have struggled to pull off upsets, going 2-7, but have been solid bets at making the game closer than expected, going 6-3 against the spread in those games. Since 2011, pooches getting seven or more points are 4-1 against the spread.
The Conference Championships have also trended towards producing more high-scoring games as well. Over that same span, game overs are 20-12-2. Game totals at 45 or higher — which both games are this weekend — have gone 10-6-1 to the over, but those totals fall to 4-4-1 when the total reaches 50 points or higher. The Titans and Chiefs total currently sits at 52 points, but the Chiefs were in this same position a year ago versus the Patriots with a 56-point total and combined for 68 points.
No. 1 seeds have fared well in the final round of conference play, going 18-6 straight up over that span and 14-10 against the spread. The 49ers are the only No. 1 seed standing and face the No. 2 seed Packers for the NFC Championship. Over that timeframe, we’ve had 15 matchups of the top-two seeds squaring off, with No. 1 seeds going 10-5 (8-7 ATS).
The AFC side has the No. 2 seed Chiefs hosting the No. 6 seed Titans. No. 2 seeds catching a break and avoiding the No. 1 seed haven’t performed as well as you’d think they would, going 3-5 both heads up and against the spread when they’ve gotten to face a No. 4 seed or lower in the Championship Round.
Regular Season Rematches
This Sunday also features two rematches from the regular season. In Week 10, the Titans hosted Kansas City and pulled out a 35-32 victory. In Week 12, the 49ers hosted the Packers and clobbered them 37-8.
Since that same expansion in 2002, playoff teams that won the regular season matchup have gone 41-30 straight up in the rematch and 35-35-1 against the spread. Regular season winners that are underdogs, like the Titans, have lost more than they’ve won, going 12-14, but have a 15-11 record against the spread. Of course, the Texans were in the very same spot a week ago that Tennessee is in now in that regard and gave up 51 points. In the Championship Round, favorites have a 10-6 record (9-7 ATS) in the rematches.
The Packers are in a bit of a different spot since they were destroyed in the first matchup between the 49ers. Teams that lost their regular season showdowns by 17 or more points to the playoff teams they are currently facing have gone just 3-16 heads up in the postseason and have lost 14 in a row. The last time a team pulled off the outright upset victory in that spot was the Ravens in 2012 when they beat the Broncos 38-35 (that game was bonkers if you want to go back and relive some of it) after losing 34-17 to them in the regular season.
It doesn’t apply here, but believe it or not, but four of those 19 teams were actually favored in the playoff rematches. All four ended up losing the rematch as well.
Given the one-sided regular season results in those games, the lines in these rematches have been fairly high. Dogs in those spots have on average been getting 5.1 points per game. That has allowed them to post a better record against the spread (9-10) with a 5-4 record against the line in which they were getting seven or more points.
The Packers themselves were in this same scenario in the 2015 postseason. After getting dusted visiting the Cardinals 38-8 in Week 16 that season, Green Bay had to go back there in the Divisional Round. They ultimately lost that game 26-20 in overtime, but were able to have a better showing in the rematch and cover the spread.
Titans at Chiefs
Winning in each of the first two rounds of the postseason, the Titans have now notched a 9-3 record since changing over to Ryan Tannehill. They’ve gone 8-3-1 against the spread in those games.
This week, the Titans find themselves in a unique situation. Having played on the road in Week 17, the Titans are now in a spot where they are forced to play four consecutive road games without a bye week. Since the NFL expansion, a playoff team has been in this spot just four times. Those previous teams were the 2015 Steelers, 2013 49ers, 2009 Ravens, and the 2005 Panthers. In the fourth consecutive road game, all four lost outright, going 1-3 against the spread.
The Chiefs enter this game as hot as the Titans, winning seven straight games since that Week 10 loss to Tennessee while going 6-0-1 against the spread over that stretch. They had been playing games that skewed towards the under over that winning streak, but each of their past two games has gone over the game total. Under Andy Reid, Kansas City has a 36-23-1 record towards the under at home, but that mark is 8-8-1 at home with Patrick Mahomes as his starting quarterback.
Packers at 49ers
Last week we highlighted the Packers pristine home splits with Aaron Rodgers under center as a trend to support Green Bay last weekend. After that win and cover, the Packers and Rodgers are now 51-32-2 (60.0%) against the spread at home. On the road, things even out more evenly with the Packers going 45-42-1 (51.1%) against the spread. In the postseason, the Packers and Rodgers have a 6-5 record on the road, but have a 8-3 record against the spread in those games.
The 49ers have been a bit of a bugaboo for Rodgers. In nine career starts against San Francisco, the Packers under Rodgers have a 4-5 record against the 49ers, while going 2-5-2 against the spread in those games. That includes an 0-2 mark (0-1-1 ATS) in the postseason.
Under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers haven’t been a stellar bet as favorites in totality. Under Shanahan, the 49ers are 6-12-1 (33.3%) against the spread as favorites, with a 5-6-1 mark this season in those games. On the positive end of that record is that they were 4-1 against the spread this season as a favorite against playoff teams, including that Week 12 win over the Packers. Overall, the 49ers are 5-1 against the spread versus playoff teams this season.
Green Bay also had a 4-2 record heads up against playoff teams, going 4-2 against the spread in those contests. They were an underdog in just two of those games, splitting 1-1 both heads up and against the line, with the trump card going to the 49ers heads up as mentioned earlier.