NFL Playoffs - 3rd Meeting

The New Orleans Saints’ showdown against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Wildcard game will mark the third time these opponents have met this season, the other two meetings occurring during the regular season.

I decided now was a great time to take a look at how these third division matchups have fared over the years. I’ve broken down several different circumstances that could play a role in the outcome of the game and listed the SU, ATS and total records for the Wild Card, Divisional and Championship rounds of the playoffs.  Our data comes from playoff matchups starting in the 2002 season, when the NFL’s current divisions were formed and the modern playoff format began.

These are rare circumstances, meaning our sample size is incredibly small.  That is something that makes these results unreliable at best.  What is compelling about them is that they come in unique enough situations where we can hope to find consistent patterns.  With that being said, be sure to use caution when using these results as part of your NFL playoffs handicapping strategy.

 

Home Favorites

RoundATS WinsATS LossesATS Win %
Wildcard3537.5%
Divisional1420.0%
Championship20100.0%
Overall6940.0%

Home favorites in this situation do not fair well early on, going just 4-9 against the spread in the Wildcard and Divisional rounds, however, when these teams meet in the conference championship game, the favorite has won both times.  This may be a strong enough link to consider taking road underdogs when these situations do come about.

Home Underdogs

RoundATS WinsATS LossesATS Win %
Wildcard1150.0%
Divisional
Championship010.0%
Overall1233.3%

Since home teams in the playoffs are almost always going to be the favorites, there simply aren’t many games to look at in this subset.  Overall home underdogs are just 1-2 since 2002, definitely not anything worth following blindly.

Won Both Regular Season Matchups

RoundATS WinsATS LossesATS Win %
Wildcard2250.0%
Divisional010.0%
Championship10100.0%
Overall3350.0%

Here we look at the results against the spread for teams that won both games in the regular season.  You might think that either 1) it is hard to beat at team three times in the same season or 2) the team that has won must have a distinct advantage.  Both or neither of those seem to be true as there is a perfect 3-3 split on teams in this situation during the modern version of the NFL playoff schedule.

Team Who Won Most Recent Meeting

RoundATS WinsATS LossesATS Win %
Wildcard2820.0%
Divisional3260.0%
Championship2166.7%
Overall71138.9%

If we only look at teams that won the most recent meeting, we find that oddsmakers tend to over-inflate the point spread, particularly in the Wild Card round.  While it only happens once every few years, fading teams in this situation has resulted in and 8-2 (80%) win rate against the spread.  Again, we are only talking about a 10-game sample size, but that is a winning percentage we can not ignore.

 

Road Teams Who Lost Previous Matchup at Home

RoundATS WinsATS LossesATS Win %
Wildcard60100.0%
Divisional1325.0%
Championship010.0%
Overall7463.6%

Teams who lost the previous matchup at home have struggled to win the game outright, but have had decent success against the spread. Not a big surprise here, as you would expect a team who lost at home to struggle to beat that same team on the road. The strong ATS record for teams in this spot is likely due to the road team being undervalued after losing the previous matchup at home.