When making your NFL Divisional Round bets, make sure you look at all of the stats.
I opened the playoffs by going 1-1, correctly picking the Indianapolis victory over Houston and missing on the Chargers win over Baltimore. This week, I’m giving you three bets.
First, some background. One of the key stats in Handicapping the NFL playoffs over the years is yards per pass differential. There are times when just looking at that one stat can give you the advantage you need in your betting. Let’s take a quick look at some history and I’m certain you will wish you had followed yards per pass differential at that time. Below are some great matchups that perhaps took many by surprise. I have listed both teams and their yards per pass differential going into the matchup.
Super Bowl 48: SEATTLE +2.4 (yppd) vs DENVER +1.1
Final Score: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
Denver was the favorite in this game despite having the much lower yards per pass differential. Nearly 70 percent of the betting public was riding Denver. Oops.
2005 Divisional Round: Pittsburgh (+1.9) @ Indianapolis (+1.6)
Final Score: Steelers 21, Colts 18
The betting public never saw that game coming as the Colts opened around 8-point favorite. But the Steelers, led by Roethlisberger’s 8.9 yards per attempt that season, were finally healthy and rolling at the end of the season.
1996 Playoffs: Broncos (+0.8) vs Jaguars (+0.7)
Final Score: Jaguars 30, Broncos 27
What appeared to be a complete mismatch — Denver opened as a12-point favorite — turned out to be a dead-even matchup with the Jags pulling out the win. Yards per pass differential gave us the hint that this game would be tight.
Super Bowl XXIV: 49ers (+3.0) vs Denver +(0.7)
Final Score: 49ers 55 Denver 10
The blowout was confirmed by yards per pass differential. One of the great differentials between two teams of all time. Denver never stood a chance.
The reason for the importance of yards per pass differential is very simple. In the NFL, the team that can best stretch the field and restricts the opposition from stretching the field is the side you typically want to be on. Yards per pass differential tells you what team is best at doing just that.
So with that being said, let’s keep things simple this week. Additionally, some people have questioned whether to use the season-long numbers when some teams — the Rams, Chiefs and Saints are examples — struggle at the end of the season. I’ve found in the divisional round over the years that a full season of stats matter more. Perhaps it’s because the home team gets a much needed bye after wearing down a bit by end of season. Plus, they have opportunity to self scout themselves.
Here are the matchups and their differentials. We’re holding off on the Eagles matchup because of Nick Foles.
SATURDAY DIVISIONAL ROUND
Kansas City Chiefs (+1.6) vs. Indianapolis Colts (+0.1)
Pick: Chiefs -5
Los Angeles Rams (+0.8) vs. Dallas Cowboys (-0.4)
Pick: Rams -7
SUNDAY DIVISIONAL ROUND
New England Patriots (+0.9) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (+1.2)
Pick: Chargers +4.5