WC ‘dog wins guarantee nothing

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The NFL’s first “Super Wild Card Weekend” was a resounding success, except for fans and players of Chicago, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tennessee and Washington, the losers of the six games.

As detailed last week, of the 12 Wild Card games played between 2017 and 2019, underdogs won eight of them outright and went 11-1 ATS. The 12 games produced 10 Unders and just two Overs.

While not quite as dramatic this season, underdogs won twice outright and went 4-2 ATS. Two games clearly stayed Under (by 18 and 20.5 points). Three games clearly went Over (by 8, 9.5 and 38 points). Only Buffalo’s 27-24 win over Indianapolis could have gone either way as the total dropped from 51.5 to 50.5 over the 24 hours leading to kickoff. The game fell 51 and could have been ‘middled.’

Fifty-one has long been a ‘key’ number for NFL totals. During the 2020 regular season 11 games produced exactly 51 total points. That’s 4.3%, slightly higher than the historical rate. The Colts/Bills game was also the only game decided by fewer than 7 points (3). The other five were decided by from 7 to 12 points).

With underdogs enjoying success in the Wild Card round, the natural question is how these teams that sprung upsets in their next game, in the Divisional round?

If you’re a fan of the Cleveland Browns or the L.A. Rams, who pulled the upsets this past weekend, the results are not encouraging. Under the format used from 1990 through last season, 45 teams won Wild Card games outright as underdogs. Only eight won the following week with 37 having their Super Bowl dreams end. The ATS results were somewhat better but not even close to profitable as those Wild Card upset winners were just 16-29 ATS for 35.6% winners and a net loss of 15.9 units on a flat bet basis.

If that profile holds up this week, it is more likely that neither the Browns nor Rams will cover than that both will cover and less than 50/50 that even one will cover. But games start off 0-0 and both the Browns and Rams are getting a TD or more.

Saturday

Rams at Packers, Total 46: The two best players in this game are Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers and Rams DT Aaron Donald. Injured in the Seattle win, Donald is expected to play. The next best player may be Rams CB Jalen Ramsey. LA has the NFL’s top ranked defense in points, total yards and yards per play allowed.

Green Bay has top-five rankings in the offensive counterparts, including leading the NFL in scoring (31.8 ppg). Both teams have top-10 rushing offenses which suggests both will be able to establish a running attack and be capable of taking time off the clock when holding a second half lead.

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Rams QB Jared Goff and his surgically repaired thumb had to replace backup starter John Wolford when the latter suffered a neck injury. Goff played well but was clearly not near 100 percent, creating an even greater gap at the position between the teams.

LA’s defense is good enough to force Green Bay to settle for field goals. The Rams’ best chance of winning is in a slower-paced, low-scoring game. The Packers are also capable of winning such a game. They’ve held nine foes to 21 points or less, including in four of their last five games, all wins, allowing 24 in the fifth. UNDER

Ravens +2 at Bills: Both teams exorcized playoff demons last week with their wins, each was in a competitive game.

Baltimore overcame a 10-0 first quarter deficit to forge a halftime tie and was very efficient in holding Tennessee to just 209 total yards (including 51 rushing) while gaining 401. Buffalo was outgained 472-397 but led the rest of its game after taking a 14-10 lead just before halftime. Buffalo won its seventh straight but had its ATS winning streak snapped at eight. Baltimore has won six straight and has covered its last seven.

Baltimore’s won the last three meetings with the Bills since 2016 by 7, 44 and 6 points, holding ­Buffalo to 160, 153 and 209 total net yards. Bills QB Josh Allen played in the last two meetings. With a huge rushing edge, solid defensive edges against both the run and the pass and a strong kicking game Baltimore can win again on the road. RAVENS

Sunday

Browns at Chiefs, Total 56: Could Cleveland have a letdown after the big Wild Card win over Pittsburgh? It’s hard to duplicate such an effort, especially given the Browns’ lack of prior playoff experience.

The Browns do have a solid edge in the running game. The passing game strongly favors the Chiefs, who rank first with 304 passing yards per game. Cleveland ranks 25th vs. the pass. If Cleveland can establish the run with RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt it would keep the potent Kansas City offense on the sidelines while chewing up clock.

K.C. is below average against the run. With a pair of quality backs, each should be fresh in the second half which would be a Cleveland edge if the game is still competitive.

Kansas City is on a 1-7 ATS run with the lone cover by a half-point. After averaging 31.6 points in the first eight games, they averaged just 27.5 in their second eight. Combined, 19 of the teams’ 33 games produced less than 55 total points with 13 producing more and one landing exactly on 55. UNDER

Buccaneers at Saints -3: This is their third meeting this season. New Orleans won the first two – the first in Tom Brady’s Tampa debut in Week 1 at home and 38-3 at Tampa in mid-season. Tampa had a slight edge in the stats in the first game but New Orleans had a dominant edge in the rematch.

Conventional wisdom says it’s tough to beat an NFL time three times in one season. But conventional wisdom is wrong. Since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger, this situation has occurred 21 times and 14 of the 21 completed the sweep.

Much focus will be on the QB matchup between a pair of certain Hall of Famers – Tampa’s Brady and the Saints’ Drew Brees. Both teams have potent offenses. Tampa has the better passing game and New Orleans the better ground attack.

Both teams are identical in turnovers lost and recovered. New Orleans has won five straight, 7 of 9 and 15 of the last 19 meetings with Tampa Bay, going 12-7 ATS. SAINTS

Last week: 5-1

Season: 47-57-1

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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