No guarantee for home team in NFL playoffs

Jan 13, 2009 5:03 PM
Feist Facts by Jim Feist |

During the NFL conference championship games that kick off this weekend, history shows that the two remaining teams in both the NFC and AFC are often on fairly equal footing, both straight up and against the spread.

Since 1992, the home team has won just 18 of 38 NFL title games straight up, and the visiting team is 18-14 against the spread. Going 18-14 straight up is a slight edge for the home teams, though far from dominant.

There have been road underdogs that not only got the money, but won the game and advanced to the Super Bowl. Last year both road teams covered. The Patriots topped San Diego, 21-12, but failed to cover, while the +7 underdog road Giants won at Green Bay, 23-20.

Smaller dogs have won in the conference championship games, as well. When Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl, they won 27-10 at Philadelphia as a 4-point road dog. In fact, coming into this weekend, the dogs are 12-6 ATS the last nine years in the NFL title games. The NFC has seen the dog go 7-3 ATS the last 10 years.

In mid-January, you rarely find a team that has glaring weaknesses or ranking at the bottom of the NFL in some offensive or defensive category. It’s difficult for teams with major weaknesses to make the playoffs in the first place.

The cream rises, which is what competition is all about.

Recent history finds that favorites are 21-9 straight up in league championship games and 17-15 ATS the last 15 years. The total is 18-14 over during that time.

Oddly, there have been more blowouts by the underdog than the favorite. The NY Giants rolled 41-0 in 2001 over Minnesota as a 2-point home dog. In January of 2000, Tennessee ripped the Jaguars 33-14 as a 7-point road dog.

Several big favorites have struggled, as well. The Rams were a 13-point favorite over Tampa Bay in 2000, yet needed a late TD to survive, 11-6.

Before you jump on the live dogs, remember favorites had a nice run of their own from 1993-97 going 8-2 ATS in the NFL title games.

This is why looking at trends and angles must be approached with great caution.

Dogs were 7-5 ATS for five straight years in conference championship games, before the favorites went 2-0 ATS last January.