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Stuckey: NFL Playoff Betting Trends You Should Be Aware of Ahead of the Divisional Round

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Pictured: Jimmy Garoppolo. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Super Bowl is obviously the Super Bowl but for my money, the divisional round is the best NFL weekend of the season. Four games between eight of the best teams in the NFL fighting for a ticket to Championship Sunday.

I’m not a huge trends bettor but do think it’s valuable to at least be aware of some, specifically those pertaining to quarterback experience, playoff underdogs, the historical value of the bye week overall and notable coaching angles.

Unless otherwise noted, all quoted trends date back to the start of the 2003 season in our Bet Labs database.


Bet either the Vikings or 49ers moneyline at PointsBet and if your team scores the first touchdown, you’ll get paid out as if your wager won, no matter the final result. NJ only.


Is the Bye Week Overvalued?

In the regular season, teams coming off of a bye have gone 277-250-15 (52.6%) ATS for a 2.5% ROI, covering by an average margin of 0.5 points.

However, in the divisional round, teams that benefited from the bye have gone just 27-36-1 (42.9%) ATS for a subpar -16.8% ROI. Those 64 teams have failed to cover by an average margin on -1.17 points.

The numbers get even worse for favorites, which have gone just 24-36-1 (40%) for a -22.1% ROI, failing to cover by 1.75 points per game. Furthermore, teams laying at least a touchdown — which applies to Baltimore, Kansas City and San Francisco this weekend — are 12-20-1 (37.5%) for a -26.3% ROI, coming up short on average by -3.38 points.

It’s not the largest sample size in the world but it appears the bye week is slightly overvalued ahead of the divisional round. My advice is don’t simply bet on a team just because they had a bye ahead of the divisional round. Remember that home-field advantage has been diminishing over time as well.

Also relevant to the Vikings, Texans and Titans….all underdogs of seven or more points in the postseason have gone 36-24-1 (60%) since 2003.

The Vikings are in the toughest spot of the weekend, having to travel to San Francisco for a game on Saturday after playing on Sunday. This hasn’t happened often but the teams in this situation are just 4-5 ATS in this situation since 2003. It’s a meaningless sample, but still interesting nonetheless.

Coaching Matters

While the bye has been overvalued in general for divisional weekend, that doesn’t mean specific coaches don’t get more value out of the extra time off. And of the four coaches at the helm of teams that had byes this season, two are among the top three most-profitable post-bye coaches since 2003 (119 coaches).

  1. Mike McCarthy 10-2-1
  2. John Harbaugh 9-3 (6-2 at home)
  3. Andy Reid 11-6 (6-3 at home)

*Kyle Shanahan is 1-2 ATS and Matt Lafleur is 0-1 after a bye

Andy Reid and his staff will also benefit from having extra time to prepare for an opponent they already faced this season in the Houston Texans. It’s worth noting that teams with same-season revenge have gone 55-39-5 ATS (58.5%) in the postseason over the past 20 years.

Like Father, Like Son? Kyle Shanahan is only 5-11-1 ATS as a favorite during his short coaching tenure. That’s not a significant sample size but Mike Shanahan is the least profitable coach as a favorite in our database. For what it’s worth, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer has a respectable 24-16 ATS record as an underdog, including 17-12 as a road underdog.


FanDuel is boosting the odds on the 49ers, Ravens, Chiefs and Packers all to win this weekend from +206 to +250. Bet now — PA, NJ, IN and WV only.


Under Pressure

As you may have heard countless times leading up to Wild Card Weekend, quarterbacks making their first postseason start have not fared well against the spread historically. After a 1-2 weekend, they are now 15-32 SU and 13-33-1 ATS since 2002. Unders have also cashed at an over 60% clip in these spots.

That trend will only apply this weekend to Jimmy G, who is making his first postseason start as a 7-point home favorite over the Vikings in Santa Clara. First-time starting quarterbacks as home favorites are just 7-14 SU and 4-17 ATS since 2002.

In the other NFC matchup, Russ vs. Rodgers should be an absolute treat. And from a trend perspective, something has to give in Green Bay.

  • Russell Wilson is 22-9-2 ATS as a dog, covering by more than 5 points per game
  • Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers has been a covering machine at home, going 53-30-3 ATS. He’s the second-most profitable quarterback (out of 219) in our database, trailing only Tom Brady, and is covering the spread by over a field goal per game.
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