We went three for three last week using the wild-card focus statistic. Entering the week, divisional rivals matched up in the Wild Card round were going over their closing total at a 66.66% rate since 2016. Now, those matchups go over the total 77.77% of the time by an average of 10.61 points per game. The totals now average 55.44 points per game.
The NFC East has three of the four remaining NFC teams after the Giants’ upset victory. We see why coaching matters so much in this league. Potential Coach of the Year Brian Daboll has turned around his team without drastically overhauling the roster he inherited. Same talent, but vastly different results.
Jacksonville’s Doug Pederson was down four scores at one point, due in part to Trevor Lawrence’s four interceptions. Pederson didn’t panic and guided his young quarterback gently to the victory against Brandon Staley’s Chargers. It was the third-largest comeback in playoff history.
Lawrence became only the second player to throw four interceptions and win a playoff game (Russell Wilson – 2014 vs. Packers) and only the second player to throw for four touchdowns and four interceptions in a playoff game (Ben Roethlisberger – 2021 vs. Browns).
Home field matters more in the playoffs. Since 2016, home teams in the divisional round win at a 66.66% rate, cover the spread at a 54.2% rate and score 27.67 points per game. Compare that to the regular season numbers: 54.8% win rate, 48.7% cover rate and 23.67 points per game. Those differences are significant.
Betting Stats to Know
The Jaguars (+8.5) are on the road against the Chiefs. Arrowhead Stadium will be chilly and loud, a bad combination for a young, Florida-based QB. Kansas City has played a home game in the divisional round four times since they drafted Patrick Mahomes. They are 4-0 straight up and 3-1 against the spread (ATS). They have averaged 36.5 points per game. The safest way to play this is in a six-point teaser, making Kansas City -2.5. But this is playoff football, so my inclinations are over 51.5 and Chiefs -8.5.
The Giants (+7.5) visit Philadelphia hoping to score another upset en route to a Cinderella-esque 2007-style Super Bowl run. Philadelphia was a juggernaut on offense and defense, but a combination of Jalen Hurts’ injury and the defense showing some wear has me uncertain about the spread. The Eagles’ defense is ranked eighth in points allowed but is only ranked 21st since Week 10. I think the Giants can keep this close, if not score an outright upset. The total is 48.5. I will bet Giants +7.5 and the under.
So far, the “rematch” of the year is Bills vs. Bengals. While the first game didn’t count, the Bills didn’t start off that well. After nearly being upset by the Dolphins’ backup’s backup quarterback last week, consider me nervous. The Bengals didn’t shine against the Ravens’ backup, either. Now the Bills are at home. Orchard Park will be rocking. There will be the inevitable appearance of Damar Hamlin. You can already feel the emotions welling up. I live three hours from Buffalo, but I wouldn’t be shocked to hear the crowd from my house.
Yet, this biased Bills fan still envisions a close game. I don’t need to artificially create an angle to root for, but if I were so inclined to bet my team, it would be on the Bills’ moneyline. The rational part of me (the part with the betting accounts) will be on Bengals +4.5. It’s too many points for an excellent team.
Finally, the Cowboys (+4) visit the 49ers. Dak Prescott and company traveled to Tampa and smashed old man Tom Brady last week. But San Francisco is a different beast. Brock Purdy might be half of Brady’s age, with no rings, but Mr. Irrelevant has small-sample-size swag. This year, Purdy — who is a backup’s backup — became the only quarterback in his first career start to win against Brady. Purdy also took over the game against the Seahawks last week, throwing for over 300 yards, three touchdowns and running in another score.
Due to the prowess of these defenses, I think this week’s game will go under the 46.5 total, and the 49ers will prevail by at least four points. Think back to the coaching discussion at the top. Mike McCarthy is not in the upper echelon of head coaches. Kyle Shanahan is.
DFS Stats to Know
Mahomes should tear up the Jaguars’ defense, which ranks 32nd in EPA vs. TEs and 31st vs. slot WRs since Week 10. Travis Kelce is due for an eruption, and I will lock him into all of my lineups. Christian Kirk is my preferred correlation option, with the Chiefs’ defense ranking 14th in EPA vs. slot WRs since Week 10. The Chiefs’ defense has been excellent, allowing more than 30 points only once this season.
The Giants should keep things in ground-and-pound mode with Saquon Barkley. That strategy would allow New York to play keep-away from Hurts. Speaking of Hurts, he is viable at QB, and the best way for him to attack the Giants is via TE, so fire up Dallas Goedert if you don’t have the salary cap space for Kelce.
Buffalo will be passing and then some, so I do like Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Gabe Davis is also a good option if you think the Bengals will key in on Diggs. On the Cincinnati side, Joe Burrow and Tyler Boyd make great plays against Buffalo’s 32nd-ranked slot WR defense. We saw his touchdown in Week 16, which was erased by the game being canceled.
The Cowboys will want to stick to the aerial attack since the 49ers are first in rush defense EPA since Week 10. Ceedee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and Michael Gallup are the plays. San Francisco will also do well to keep throwing since Dallas is fourth vs. the rush since Week 10. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are my picks since the Cowboys’ defense has been ranked first vs. TEs since Week 10.
(Data courtesy of SIS and TruMedia Networks)