The First Round Bye In The NFL Playoffs
Question: It's just common sense to believe that a first round bye in the NFL playoffs is a good thing, right? The extra week off to prepare, coupled with friendly confines has to be an advantage both for the team AND for bettors.
Or is this "tried and true" handicapping angle just "smoke and mirrors"?
Let's take a look over the last five years to find out:
2008 Opponent/Result Divisional Round SU ATS
Tennessee Titans L 10-13 vs Baltimore 3 pt fav L L
Pittsburgh Steelers W 35-24 vs San Diego 6.5 pt fav W W
New York Giants L 11-23 vs Philadelphia 4 pt fav L L
Carolina Panthers L 13-33 vs Arizona 10 pt fav L L
Indianapolis Colts W 20-3 vs Baltimore 6.5 pt fav W W
San Diego Chargers L 14-17 vs NY Jets 7.5 pt fav L L
New Orleans Saints W 45-14 vs Arizona 7 pt fav W W
Minnesota Vikings W 34-3 vs Dallas 2.5 pt fav W W
New England Patriots L 21-28 vs NY Jets 9.5 pt fav L L
Pittsburgh Steelers W 31-24 vs Baltimore 3.5 pt fav W W
Atlanta Falcons L 21-48 vs Green Bay 1 pt fav L L
Chicago Bears W 35-24 vs Seattle 10 pt fav W W
New England Patriots W 45-10 vs Denver 14 pt fav W W
Baltimore Ravens W 20-13 vs Houston 7.5 pt fav W L
Green Bay Packers L 20-37 vs NY Giants 8 pt fav L L
San Francisco 49ers W 36-32 vs New Orleans 3.5 pt dog W W
Denver Broncos L 38-35 vs Baltimore 9 pt fav L L
New England Patriots W 41-28 vs Houston 9.5 pt fav W W
Atlanta Falcons W 30-28 vs Seattle 1 pt fav W W
San Francisco 49ers W 45-31 vs Green Bay 3 pt fav W W
Totals: 12 SU W's/8 SU L's 11 ATS W's/9 ATS L's
Conclusion: Don't believe the hype!
Over the last five years, attaining a first round bye is not as advantageous as we've collectively been led to believe, especially for the bettor.
(It's interesting to note: if a team that's earned a first-round bye loses SU, it also loses ATS. And if it wins SU, it also wins ATS. The only time in the last five years that this trend was broken was in 2011 when the Baltimore Ravens beat the Houston Texans 20-13 SU, but failed to cover the 7.5 point spread.)
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1* Washington (8:15 ET): The Nationals shut out the Royals in yday's series opener, winning 2-0. With Tanner Roark on the bump tonight, I feel that they come in highly undervalued as KC has now lost six of its last seven overall. Roark's team start record might only be 2-3, but he has a 2.03 ERA and 1.194 WHIP, so he's pitched effectively. Tonight, I expect him to pitch well again, only this time pick up the victory.
Roark was the very definition of a "hard luck" loser his last time out as he didn't allow a single run over seven innings (only two hits), yet the team ultimately came up short in Philadelphia, losing 3-0. Interestingly, the Nats haven't lost since. Roark also allowed no runs on two hits the start before his last, only this time he added 15 K's and the Nats did win that one, 3-0. On the season, there have been three times when Roark has gone at least seven innings w/o giving up a single run.
As for Kansas City, they've now been shut out three times in the last four games, so Roark is the last guy they want to see here. Also, the Royals will be sending the struggling Chris Young (6.14 ERA) to the hill. Young has allowed at least one home run in every start this season. The Nats are now 10-3 on the road and a perfect 4-0 vs. the American League. They're simply "too tough" for the Royals to handle right now. 1* Washington