(EDITOR’S NOTE: Odds to win the Super Bowl for the 12 NFL playoff teams c/o LVH: Patriots 7-1; 49ers 7-1; Broncos 5-2; Packers 16-1; Seahawks 2-1; Saints 25-1; Bengals 16-1; Chargers 40-1; Colts 25-1; Panthers 10-1; Eagles 25-1; Chiefs 30-1)
It’s why we love and bet the game. The adrenaline from the drama is hard to beat and is what keeps us coming back for more.
Week 17 delivered plenty of drama in what were effectively playoff games for one or both teams.
The “truest” playoff games were Green Bay at Chicago and Philadelphia at Dallas. In both the winner would clinch a Division title and advance to a home Wild Card game while the loser would be eliminated.
Both games lived up to billing as each was decided in the final minute.
Philadelphia’s 24-22 win earned the Eagles the NFC East Title and the NFC’s No. 3 seed. For Dallas it was a third straight season ending loss that denied the Cowboys a spot in the Playoffs. Dallas owner Jerry Jones apparently wants to mimic the Buffalo Bills, sort of, and give coach Jason Garrett a chance to make it 4 for 4 by announcing Garrett will be back as coach next season.
Although not an elimination game for both teams, San Diego needed a win to earn a Wild Card after both Baltimore and Miami lost earlier on Sunday. As a result of those losses the point spread was adjusted, sending the Chargers off as 14½ point favorites over visiting Kansas City. Prior to the start of the early games the Chargers were favored by 9½ points.
The Chargers never led but got a couple of fortunate breaks in the final minute of regulation when KC kicker Ryan Succop missed what would have been the game winning FG. As was later confirmed by the League Office, the officials missed calling a penalty on the Chargers for their defensive formation on the failed attempt. The game went to overtime and the Chargers ultimately prevailed, earning the AFC’s sixth seed. The Chiefs were already locked into the fifth seed and rested numerous starters.
And so the regular season has ended with 20 teams beginning to prepare for the upcoming college draft. Four have earned Byes into the Divisional round of the playoffs with Seattle the top seed in the NFC and Denver No. 1 in the AFC. Carolina is seeded second in the NFC as is New England in the AFC.
The final tally for the regular season shows that John Q Public had an excellent season at the betting windows backing NFL Home Favorites. At 88-68-5, ATS backers of home favorites profited by almost a net unit per week.
Home Underdogs were just 42-40-2 ATS but Home Pick ‘ems were just 2-6 ATS. With 10 UNDERS and just 6 OVERS in the final week the result for the full season show the OVER with a 130-120-6 edge. The average total points per game of 46.8 was record setting with Denver also setting a team record for points, 606, surpassing the total set by the 2007 New England Patriots. That was the nearly perfect season for the Patriots who lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, denying them a 19-0 record.
Will the same fate await the Broncos insofar as failing to win the Super Bowl is concerned? We’ll know the answer in just over one month.
If you think the Super Bowl will match up the top offensive teams in the NFL then you might be looking at Denver facing Philadelphia. The Broncos ranked number 1 both in terms of total offense and yards per play offense. The Eagles ranked number two in both.
If defense is your preference you might take a chance with Cincinnati coming out of the AFC. The Bengals ranked third in total defense and No. 2 in yards per play defense. What makes this significant is the dropoff to the other AFC playoff teams.
The other five ranked from 19 (Denver) to 26 (New England) in total defense and from number 16 (Denver) to 31 (San Diego) in yards per play defense.
It’s much tighter in the NFC where four of the six playoff teams rank in the top five in total defense (Seattle 1, Carolina 2, New Orleans 4, San Francisco 5) and in the top 10 in yards per play defense.
Of course there are many more factors to consider when attempting to forecast the Super Bowl winner and teams change over the course of the full season. It is worth noting that the last three Super Bowl winners each played in the Wild Card round with two of the three winning home games.
Three of the four Wild Card games are rematches of games played during the regular season. Interestingly, in all three cases the team that hosted the regular season meeting is on the road for the rematch and two of the three travelers lost the regular season meeting played on its home field.
Here’s a preview of all four that will trim the playoff field from the Dynamic Dozen to Excited Eight.
Chiefs +2½ at Colts (46½): Kansas City lost at home to Indianapolis just two weeks ago, 23-7, as 7½-point home favorites in Week 16. The Chiefs actually scored on its first possession to take a 7 to 0 lead and then the Colts took over the game.
Kansas City started the season 9-0 but did so against a schedule so soft that only one of those nine wins came against a team that made the Playoffs. That win was at Philadelphia in Week 3, 26-16, against an Eagles team that was still undeveloped as it was transitioning from the team coached last season by current KC coach Andy Reid to the one that went 7-1 down the stretch under rookie head coach Chip Kelly.
Kansas City went 2-5 in its final 7 games with the two wins against non-Playoff teams and all five losses to teams in the Playoff field. Indianapolis is in the Playoffs for a second straight season but whereas they were a suspect qualifier last season there are no doubts about the Colts’ credentials this season.
After a midseason slump Indianapolis is playing well and has adjusted to offense to compensate for the loss to injury of WR Reggie Wayne. And the defense has improved over the second half of the season. The Colts allowed just 20 points in its last three games, all wins. Kansas City’s defense did the reverse, slumping late after an early start. In Andrew Luck the Colts have the better QB although the Chief’s Alex Smith is not given the credit he deserves for managing the KC offense and limiting mistakes.
While this game should be closer than their meeting two weeks ago the result should be the same. COLTS/UNDER.
Saints +2½ at Eagles (55): New Orleans was considered a S Saints QB Drew Brees has a substantial edge over the Eagles’ Nick Foles but Foles has excellent numbers and does not make mistakes. The road could again be rough for the Saints depending on the weather conditions which could well include temperatures at or below the freezing point. That would work to the benefit of the team better able to run the football and that edge belongs to the hosts.
Philadelphia led the NFL in averaging 160 ypg per game. The Saints averaged just 92 rushing yards. The Eagles are improving and at a FG or less are worth backing, especially given New Orleans road woes over the second half of the season and the lack of a fast outdoor surface. EAGLES/UNDER.
Chargers +7 at Bengals (46½): Congrats to San Diego for making the Playoffs albeit with some good fortune and officiating blunders that likely kept Kansas City from winning in regulation. Their task is tougher this week as they face a Bengals team that was a perfect 8-0 both SU and ATS at home with 6 wins by double digits. Only one of those wins came against a team that made the Playoffs (Indianapolis).
San Diego was just 4-4 on the road but three of the wins were at Playoff bound Philadelphia, Kansas City and Denver. Those last two road wins – against Division rivals – were in the Chargers two most recent road games. The win at Denver was the Broncos’ lone home loss and came in their home finale. Cincinnati has the better defense but San Diego has the better QB which combine to make for an intriguing handicap, both as to the Side and the Total. CHARGERS/OVER.
49ers -2½ at Packers (49): These teams opened the season in San Francisco with the 49ers winning 34-28 in a very entertaining game that saw neither team lead by more than 7 points as the teams traded scores. The only team to scored twice in succession was San Francisco with a late fourth quarter touchdown and FG to overcome a 28-24 deficit. The passing game was dominant as the teams combined for just 153 rushing yards while passing for a combined 726. San Francisco has won 6 straight and 11 of 13.
Green Bay was 5-2 before QB Aaron Rodgers was injured and missed essentially 8 full games. After going 0-4-1 SU the Pack won 2 straight before losing at home to Pittsburgh prior to Rodgers’ return at Chicago in Week 17’s effective Playoff game in which they won the NFC North Title on that dramatic fourth down TD pass in the final minute. Even with Rodgers missing half the season the Packers still had the NFL’s third ranked total offense. The 49ers were fifth in total defense and third in scoring defense. The 49ers won both meetings last season including knocking Green Bay out of the Playoffs. Their last three meetings have all produced at least 52 points. PACKERS/OVER.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]