Most years the NFL regular season has seen underdogs win more than their fair share of games. This year, however, favorites own a 129-118 edge against the spread entering the playoffs.
Often the attitude among serious handicappers is that dogs are the "sharp" play while favorites are the "square" play. It’s a bad idea to get locked into any kind of "rule" based plays with the NFL constantly evolving. Therefore historical results may not continue to be indicative of how things will fare.
It’s also a bad idea to believe that the regular season will reflect events of the postseason. There are any number of reasons to treat the two differently, but here are a few of the more commonly held beliefs:
1. The playoffs are "must win" games and motivation is not an issue. During the regular season, teams are vulnerable to high and low spots in the schedule.
2. Home field advantage becomes more meaningful.
3. New trick plays used.
4. Officiating changes occur in the playoffs.
5. Sustaining (or stopping on defense) long drives becomes more crucial.
6. "Clutch" performers and "chokers" emerge with added pressure.
7. Execution, coaching, and turnovers gain in importance.
8. More scoring and wider winning margins.
It is reasonable to conclude that there are some changes in the way postseason games are played. Being more methodical in approaching these games is wise. Overall, the home sides playing off a bye week are 28-18 (61 percent over the past 11 years).
A case can be made that the extra time is a benefit, but teams with a bye are presumably among the best the NFL has to offer and have the muscle to cover the number when laying significant points.
Another area of interest concerns teams posting upsets in the Wild Card round. Upstart dogs have gone just 4-11 ATS (27 percent) in the second round. Meanwhile teams off at least a 10-point win in the Wild Card round are a disappointing 7-16 (30 percent).
The strongest plays have been home sides that already beat the opponent twice in the regular season (division rivals) or have not seen the other team all year!
In general, teams that earn home field advantage are no guarantee of success when on the road against the "big boys" the following week!
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